100 Days of Yoga, Day 14

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September 4, 2012 by blogmasterjdeam

The Guest HouseThis being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

 
~ Rumi ~

III. Asanas (Body postures)

       Asana is the practice of physical postures. It is the most commonly known aspect of yoga for those unfamiliar with the other seven limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. The practice of moving the body into postures has widespread benefits; of these the most underlying are improved health, strength, balance and flexibility. On a deeper level the practice of asana, which means “staying” or “abiding” in Sanskrit, is used as a tool to calm the mind and move into the inner essence of being. The challenge of poses offers the practitioner the opportunity to explore and control all aspects of their emotions, concentration, intent, faith, and unity between the physical and the ethereal body. Indeed, using asanas to challenge and open the physical body acts as a binding agent to bring one in harmony with all the unseen elements of their being, the forces that shape our lives through our responses to the physical world. Asana then becomes a way of exploring our mental attitudes and strengthening our will as we learn to release and move into the state of grace that comes from creating balance between our material world and spiritual experience.

As one practices asana it fosters a quieting of the mind, thus it becomes both a preparation for meditation and a meditation sufficient in and of itself. Releasing to the flow and inner strength that one develops brings about a profound grounding spirituality in the body. The physicality of the yoga postures becomes a vehicle to expand the consciousness that pervades our every aspect of our body. The key to fostering this expansion of awareness and consciousness begins with the control of breath, the fourth limb – Pranayama. Patanjali suggests that the asana and the pranayama practices will bring about the desired state of health; the control of breath and bodily posture will harmonize the flow of energy in the organism, thus creating a fertile field for the evolution of the spirit. “This down-to-earth, flesh-and-bones practice is simply one of the most direct and expedient ways to meet yourself. … This limb of yoga practice reattaches us to our body. In reattaching ourselves to our bodies we reattach ourselves to the responsibility of living a life guided by the undeniable wisdom of our body.”viii To this B.K.S. Iyengar adds: “The needs of the body are the needs of the divine spirit which lives through the body. The yogi does not look heaven-ward to find God for he know that He is within.”i  ~ William J. D. Duran

 

Before we get to Pratyahara, let’s talk more about Asana.  Mr. Duran provides an excellent explanation of why we do asana.  I am of the Iyengar school, which dictates poses are held for quite a long time.  This method is different from a vinyasa flow, which has one moving quickly from pose to pose.  Vinyasa can even be considered aerobic.  But consider the focus, strength and mindfulness required to actually hold one pose for, say, three minutes.  In doing the poses more slowly, one has an opportunity to really explore where, for example, our bodies may be holding, gripping, not breathing.  When we move quickly through a series of poses we are missing this opportunity.  All asana, of course, has its place.  My method is Iyengar.  If you are trying the poses, you may wish to experiment with different types of asana until you find a good fit for you.

PRANAYAMA:  By now, I think, I’ve made the daily breathing practice part of my life.  It is automatically coming into my brain whenever I feel the least bit anxious, irritated, nervous, apprehensive — not content.  While I like to experiment with different forms of breath control I still find the deep inhales and exhales to be the most beneficial.  Have you been able to incorporate breath control into your day?  If so, can you feel a difference in the way you handle stress?

ASANA:  I really want to get the Wheel pose down, but I am still far, far away from it.  While holding myself in compassion, today I will encompass the following poses, after I warm up my body — especially my back:

Cat/Cow

Cobra

Bridge

Locust

Fish

I will then add an inversion and turn it into a plow pose. Then onto a supine twist.  As always, I will end with Sivasana.

YOURS ON THE PATH TO CONTENTMENT, Chris

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