“It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.”
Yoga has become increasingly popular in the West, which is wonderful because yoga offers so many benefits to anyone willing to try it out.
Yoga has a rich and nuanced history; it is much more than a system of poses to stretch and strengthen the body, although that is one of its greatest benefits. Yoga exercises have been developed over time to produce specific healing effects on the body that, when sequenced properly, can facilitate profound change. Yoga programs can be developed to help with arthritis, osteoporosis, rehab of injuries, depression, and on and on. In fact, there is a specific yoga sequence for pretty much anything you can think of.
This third installment of our exploration of the eightfold path of yoga as outlined by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras (written sometime between the second and fourth centuries) dives into the poses or movement of yoga known as Asana.
Asana has a myriad of benefits. As a chiropractic physician, I notice that patients who practice asana regularly heal quicker, neurological organization is simpler to achieve, they hold adjustments better, and therefore don’t need to see me as often! Other benefits include less stiffness, stronger muscles, better ability to breathe fully, better sleep, better athletic performance, being less injury prone, having more mental stability, more energy, and less stress related problems. Asana also trains the mind to focus.
“Steadiness and ease within the pose,” that is our goal in asana, as Patanjali wrote (translated from “Sthira Sukham Asanam”) in his Yoga Sutras. As we focus on the breath and relax into a pose – no matter how vigorous – we become able to sustain the position with ease. What an amazing training for all facets of life!
The simple key is to link breath with movement. In fact, this is what makes yoga unique from other exercise and stretching protocols. When we become able to consciously focus on connecting the breath and movement together, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system. In our stressed out, modern world we need to activate this relaxation branch of our autonomic nervous system and asana practice is an amazing way to do so.
It only takes a modest commitment to gain these benefits and just a little bit everyday has an incredible way of compounding value. In fact, a 15 minute asana practice daily is way more beneficial than a one-hour practice once a week.
I hope that you are inspired to develop a daily Asana practice and that it improves your health and overall quality of life.