Yog and Yogasana

Anyone who has studied with Prashant knows how often he likes to remind us that we are all technocrats and “gymmies”.  Today he acknowledged that the preliminaries are important, and that the Yogasana culture is a beginning. How do you prepare for a pose? Lift here, stretch here, rotate this – however, to prepare for Yog requires a conditioning. “What is the difference between Yog and Yogasana” He prompted. Using the analogy of salt and chili, he asked, what would happen if you put a whole cup of salt into your food? Or too much chili? It does not take much to flavor the practice. “Look at your mind.



Sometimes the mind wants to do, but the body does not. The mind is stronger, the mind can coerce the body. And when the breath is cultivated, it integrates both.” Just a little at a time; do not expect to get it all. “Do not be greedy, it takes time. A little yog in your yoga” he counseled us. The preparation is important, he told us. Look at how we use the body for the body, and the body for the breath, how we open the chest, pin the shoulder blades, etc. Sometime we use the body for the mind, we go upside down to quiet the mind; and we use the breath for the body and the breath for the mind. He reminded us of how we feel after backbends, and after forward extensions. The body can create a dynamic change in consciousness.

But the mind is much stronger. He explained that Sthira sukham asanam (Yoga Sutras 2.46) does not mean to take a stable and sweet posture, as we all quote from the Yoga Sutras. We have completely misunderstood this. “Asana” literally means to take a seat. Here, he says, it is the mind that should assume a stable and calm seat. That is why there are no references to many different postures in the Yoga Sutras, as it is the mind that should become composed and calm. Then, Prayatna saithilya ananta samapattibhyam (2.47), Perfection in asana is reached only when effort ceases, instilling infinite poise and allowing the finite vehicle, the body, to merge in the seer (BKS Iyengar, Light on the Yoga Sutras) effort ceases, and the mind remains at rest. This is a Savasana mind, where one is no longer disturbed by likes and dislikes, attraction and aversion. As it is said in the Bhagavad Gita; Yoga is evenness of mind. We should cultivate the breath and mind to be expansive.

So how do we do that, you might ask? The breath is the key that integrates and connects everything. Build upon the basic poses, but do not be too rigid in your thinking. Begin with a deep exhalation, Uddiyana kriya. This we practiced in Adho Mukha Svanasana, Rope Sirsasana, Utthita Trikonasana, and Virabhadrsana 2. You can use the breath like arms and legs, the breath reaching into the body/mind; cultivate this language, this vocabulary. “Be studious as you practice, you must address the bones, joints, muscles, but do not just be doing. Yog is the culture of connectivity”, a community of inter-actions, it is a collaboration that you must study. Sometimes you take the breath for the tailbone, or the pelvic floor, or the knees, he told us. And he reminded us to not be too rigid. When practicing Trikonasana, it is all right to bend the knees a little to facilitate the Uddiyana kriya, then straighten the legs from there. Sometimes we should inhale more and more, and sometimes exhale.

At this point he did mention that over time our ability to practice the fancy poses that we see in photographs on the walls of the Institute will diminish. Where will we turn then? Better to understand now, for there are so many more horizons within.

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2 Responses to Yog and Yogasana

  1. Angie Woyar says:

    Thank-you for sharing your experiences. It helps to keep the rest of us present in our practice as well. Makes some of us wish we were still in India:-) Keep posting!

  2. Vicky Seff says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. I especially love Prashant’s take on asana, that it should be stable and calm seat 🙂

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