Raja Yoga Part – 8: Effects of Asana

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Our Animal Friend (Credit: Wikipedia)

We had been discussing asana, the third step of Astanga Yoga. Naturally, when we try to put our body into some new pose, we encounter resistance or mind wanders. How to overcome these?  Let us learn from the authority and our great teacher, Shri Patanjali Maharishi. He says:

Prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam | – Yoga Sutras 2.47

By relaxing natural resistance by effort and uniting with the Universal Self (one can establish in asana).

So, beautifully put!  We need to exert some relaxed effort to bring the body into the right pose. Otherwise, the body goes into wrong pose by itself.  What should we be thinking while practicing asana? We need to dwell in the Universal self.

How? Just like the divine serpent Adishesha. It is believed that Adishesha holds the mother Earth by his thousand hoods. Although, he has so many hoods, he focuses on rightly balancing the mother Earth with complete stability.  We need to align our mind with Ultimate Reality thinking that we are like Adisesha: stable and focused.

Now comes our eternal question: what are the benefits of asana?  Well, let us take a step back and ask: is this a relevant question? The ultimate benefit is real yoga. This is, after all, just another step in that direction.  Why discuss any benefit? Actually, Maharishi tells us about the effect of establishing in a step. Not about any benefit per se! That is alright. Let us move on!

Maharishi graces a sutra on the effects of practicing asana:

Tato dwandwa anabhighatah | – Yoga Sutras 2.48

Then, dualities will be eliminated (by the practice of asana).

Asana practice eliminates dualities of body like hot-cold and of the mind like pain-pleasure.  This helps us in focusing on the Ultimate. How? The dualities result in a thought process like this: “This is good. Let me have more”, “This is bad let me avoid this and find a better one”, etc.

This process instigates us to do other dual things i.e. good and bad, putting us back in birth and death cycle. So, dualities are harmful and must be avoided. The Ultimate Reality is above and beyond all these dualities and we need to focus only on it. So, establishing in asana, helps to achieve this.

That is all for now! Let us continue our discussion further.

Next post: Raja Yoga- Part 9 on Pranayama. Read on!

Karomi yadyat sakalam parasmai narayanayeti samarpayami |

“Whatever I do is for Shri Narayana(Lord Vishnu)” with this feeling,  I offer everything to him.

Om Namah Shivaya ||

– Kalidas

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