Asanas & Physical Fitness
Asanas are different body postures which impart physical and physiological fitness to the body, if practiced under guidance of an accomplished teacher, on daily basis. Yoga literature describes eighty four types of basic asanas, however their number could be much more, on account of the application based combinations, suggested by different yoga teachers. Most of the asanas are typical postures, adopted by different animals or birds etc and are named accordingly.
Asanas are classified into three groups, depending on the body posture. Therefore we have asana-groups in standing, sitting and lying positions. To begin with, one may choose a set of asanas which suits most and then to approach more difficult asanas. Common asanas of sitting posture, recommended for pranayam and meditation practices are: Swastikasana, Siddhasana, Padmasana, Vajrasana, Samasana, Baddha-Padmasana, Saralasana, Veerasana and Gomukhasana. Practice of pranayam and meditation can be done in a comfortable sitting posture only and it needs active efforts and attention. These sitting postures are also necessary for the awakening of “Kundalini Power”, supposed to be situated in the base of spinal cord. Therefore to master at least few of the above asanas is mandatory, for a purposeful yoga practice.
Scriptures describe that- “Sthir sukhamasanam” i.e. a posture which imparts stability and comfort, even after prolonged sittings is called asana. If one becomes accomplished to maintain one of the above asana for three hours or more, at a stretch, It is called “asana-siddhi”, To sit in an appropriate posture, is a basic requirement for doing pranayam and meditation, which are very active, subtle and dynamic steps, in advance stages of yoga practice, through sitting for long hours. Therefore to attain required adaptability and strength, these asanas should be practiced under expert guidance, on daily basis.
For the practice of asanas, one should choose a quite, well ventilated and serene ambience. Dawn and Dusk (sunrise & sunset) are considered best times, for asana practice. Specially, one hour before sunrise, is highly recommended. One should be empty stomach for such practice i.e. must not have consumed any eatable, for the last three hours. One should sit on a soft ground or on a carpet with soft woollen cloth (blanket) etc to ensure comfortable sitting for long time. Mentally, one should have pleasing disposition with positive and inspiring thoughts, while sitting for yoga practice. A new practitioner may preferably focus on maintaining right posture and smooth flow of respiration, while practicing asana. It will help in withdrawing the attention, from unwanted thoughts.
It may be categorically stated that asanas should not be mistaken for, one of the routine fitness exercises. They are well engineered steps in the Journey of spiritual attainment for those, who have practically absorbed yamas and niyamas and are determined to achieve higher accomplishments in the field of spirituality. Knowledge and practice of asanas, equips a yoga practitioner with added strength for spiritual journey. It may therefore be appropriate for all those interested in yoga, to have a fresh look at this wonderful tool of spiritual health, in a more objective way.
By Dr Dipak Shukla