Updated: Jun 4, 2019
The third ‘limb’ of the 8 limbed path is Asana and is the one which is the most familiar to us.
Yoga is the study of balance, and balance is the aim of all living creatures: it is our home. ~Rolf Gates
STHIRA – SUKHAM – ĀSANAM
Posture should be steady and comfortable.
can mean “firm, compact, strong, steadfast, static, resolute, and courageous”; from the root stha,which means “to stand, to be firm, to take a stand.”
means “happy, good, joyful, delightful, easy, agreeable, gentle, mild, and virtuous.” The literal meaning is “good space,” from the root words su(good) and kha(space). The term originally described the kind of smooth ride one would experience in a cart or a chariot whose axle holes were well centered in the wheels. This image implies that the production of sukha is a dynamic process.
stems from the root as,which suggests “the act of sitting down, abiding, dwelling, inhabiting, being present.” The emphasis here is being grounded in and committed to whatever you are doing when you are doing it.
The limb that is the most accessible to our western minds and we strive to become accomplished within them. However, the asanas are a means to prepare the body to be able to sit in meditation for long periods of time. In the yogic view, the body is a temple of spirit, the care of which is an important stage of our spiritual growth. Through the practice of asanas, we develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate, both of which are necessary not only for meditation but also to keep us physically comfortable in everyday situations, allowing us to be resolute, courageous and composed as we move through our lives.
This is achieved by the dual effect of asana practice on body and mind. In a disciplined yoga practice, postures coordinated with the breath release muscular tension that exists deep in the body. This in turn initiates a process that turns the fight-or-flight system off and the relaxation response on. A dramatic effect on the body is established. The heartbeat slows, respiration decreases, blood pressure decreases. It is within this state that the body seizes this chance to turn on the healing mechanisms.
THE 5 ELEMENTS
In most systems of asana practice there are 5 major elements, forward bends, twists, balancing, backbends and inversions that strengthen and heal the body in a variety of ways.
(See the book link below - Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff for detailed images showing the muscles that are used within the postures).
Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and anxiety. Stimulates the liver and kidney. Stretches the hamstrings and calves. Strengthens the thighs. Improves digestion. Helps relieve headache and insomnia
Massages abdominal organs, including the liver and kidneys. Stretches the shoulders. Stimulates the brain . Relieves mild backache and hip pain . Strengthens and stretches the spine.
Strengthens the legs and ankles . Stretches the backs of the legs . Improves sense of balance.
Stretches the chest and lungs . Strengthens the arms and wrists, legs, buttocks, abdomen, and spine. Stimulates the thyroid and pituitary . Increases energy and counteracts depression. Therapeutic for asthma, back pain, infertility, and osteoporosis.
Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression . Stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands . Strengthens the arms, legs, and spine. Strengthens the lungs Tones the abdominal organs. Improves digestion . Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause . Therapeutic for asthma, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis.
Petri Raisanen, one of the world's most popular yoga teachers offers the complete guide to to the yoga poses (asana), breathing techniques and philosophy of Ashtanga yoga. The most physical and dynamic form of yoga, Ashtanga combines an impressive sequence of yoga poses with special breathing techniques to heat the body internally and allow safe stretching of the muscles. Ashtanga's enthusiasts point to the powerful impact of the practice on their overall health and well-being: regular practice tones and strengthens the muscles, cleanses the body of toxins, calms the mind and increases concentration. Each of the yoga poses in the Primary Series is presented both separately and as part of complete practice. The reader will gain a deep knowledge of the multidimensional philosophy of Ashtanga yoga and how it relates to everyday life. This is a clearly and simply written guide, packed full of knowledge and insight, that will delight beginners, advanced students and yoga teachers alike.
The best selling anatomy guide for yoga is now updated, expanded, and better than ever! With more asanas, vinyasas, full color anatomical illustrations, and indepth information, the second edition of Yoga Anatomy provides you with a deeper understanding of the structures and principles underlying each movement and of yoga itself. From breathing to inversions to standing poses, see how specific muscles respond to the movements of the joints; how alterations of a pose can enhance or reduce effectiveness; and how the spine, breathing, and body position are all fundamentally linked. Whether you are just beginning your journey or have been practicing yoga for years, Yoga Anatomy will be an invaluable resource one that allows you to see each movement in an entirely new light. With Yoga Anatomy, Second Edition, authors Leslie Kaminoff and Amy Matthews, both internationally recognized experts and teachers in anatomy, breathing, and bodywork, have created the ultimate reference for yoga practitioners, instructors, and enthusiasts alike.