The predisposal toward the physical practice of yoga posture (asana), though understandable as such, confines the practitioner to the ‘touch, sight, taste, smell, hearing’ driven aspect(s) of yoga. I have arrived at a position of deference with the way that yoga is presented and marketed to the masses. Asana is a springboard from which one can explore, experience, and befriend their own inner realms. The benefits of asana must not be used as a stand-alone aspect for the totality of yoga (practice).
Asana, as a stand-alone practice, confines the practitioner a position sense driven accomplishment. This sense of accomplishment is driven by the hormonally supported craving / reward system. You might be a junkie, according to J. Kip Matthews, Ph.D, a sport and exercise psychologist. When you exercise, your brain increases production of serotonin or norepinephrine (neurotransmitters). These send messages throughout your nervous system that reinforce a specific activity. There are studies that link low levels of serotonin and norepinephrine to depression. This is a much more solid link to feelings of post-workout euphoria. Thus, this feeling, this sensation becomes something that the individual wants to constantly experience. This confines one to the addictive satisfaction derived for sense gratification.
The marketing of modern yoga taps into and capitalizes on this neurotransmitter induced phenomenon. This allows Modern yoga to be presented as a practice where one strives for and can achieve liberation through the performance of asana. Advertisements and promotions are geared toward the tangibility of asana practice. Yoga is presented as an eminent, hipster practice that can reshape body and mind. It can, in fact, do just that. However, accomplishing some (aspect of an) asana does not provide a true connection to the individual’s (true) higher essence. It can only provide that sense of neurotransmitter supported accomplishment. Although there is so much more to yoga, if asana is the level that one wishes to achieve in their practice, then that is perfectly fine.
Yoga as exercise was presented to the west during the 1920’s The religious connotations were cast aside in order to bolster a more energetic and vital image of India, per se. The result was a predominantly physical discipline consisting mainly or entirely of postures (asana) derived from hatha yoga infused with western gymnastics. The medical benefits of these asana were promoted and the resultant ‘yoga format’ was taken up predominantly in the English-speaking world, particularly the United States and Britain.
Asana is a platform from which preparation for discerning and discovering higher inner realms. Asana is part of the eight fold path, third out of a total of eight. The eighth step being liberation. Asana is a preparatory segment, in lieu of progressing onward. The totality of yoga as a system can provide so much depth to self-unfolding, self-understanding. It is up to the individual to explore what the system of yoga has to offer. In my own grasp of the practice, I do not see it as interfering with other chosen paths. Indeed, the system of (East Indian) yoga springs into prominence from Jainism, Hinduism and Buddhism. There are even those who espouse a Kemetic system of practices that are connected to the origins of yoga. All have asana. All can elevate one beyond the ‘limitations’ of asana. Yoga, true yoga, develops the inner ability to surpass the physical
Asana is not yoga; it should not be taken as such. Asana is an exercise regimen. HIIT is an exercise regimen. Cross-Fit is an exercise regimen. Strength Training is an exercise regimen. Are they effective?? Yes. They can help the individual achieve physical goals. Can they be a stepping-stone to higher levels of inner awareness??? Yes. The individual may receive inspiration to go beyond the self-induced euphoria and seek deeper levels of self exploration. That the practice of asana is being presented as ‘yoga’ is disheartening to me, on a personal level. People flock to and participate in various flow yoga classes, beginner yoga classes and such. Yet few choose to explore the depths of the practice and, by proxy, they gloss over the recesses of their inner selves.
One can easily seek deeper levels of awareness when the doorway is presented on more consistent basis.
I am certified through the Temple of Kriya Yoga in Chicago, Illinois. I have taken classes from Ana Forrest and Andre Lappa . . . these systems influence my (personal) practice to this day. Before I became certified, I had established a meditation practice. The thought that there was much more to be garnered from yoga (and tai chi) came to mind as I began my journey. The certification just substantiated my innermost feelings about the practice. Ana focusses on accessing (one’s) inner states through sustained holds an deep breathing in asana. Andre focusses on using asana combinations and shifting them from left to right to bring about a deeper communication between the brain hemispheres. Meditation and various breath and internal practices are part of these systems.
The Trainers at Ab-Sutra Wellness and Fitness can assist you in discovering the deeper aspects of your yoga practice