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Yoga Asana

The science of human physicality

Preparing and celebrating the body as a temple

Yoga asanas (Hatha Yoga) are the physical exercises or the physicality of Yoga and they are taught world wide for many purposes. For some it's about health and fitness, for others it's about health recovery and a greater sense of ease in body and mind.

While asana can be any exercise or body position performed consciously that has a positive purpose and supports life, asana is about experiencing the distinction that we are not our bodies and that in fact our bodies are complex technological mechanisms.

Through yoga practises including asana, one comes to view one's body as a vehicle in which to experience life. As such, this vehicle can be tuned up and made to perform more efficiently and effectively.

In effect yoga asanas help to cleanse,  restore and finely tune one's body so that intelligence may more ably function. 

As yoga asanas have varying levels of difficulty, please take all reasonable health and safety precautions and by accessing these pages and attempting any exercises represented here, you do so at your own risk and responsibility.

General Considerations for Practice

  • Do not practice within two hours of eating a light meal, or four hours after a heavy meal.
  • Take a warm or cool shower depending on your climate an hour before practise.
  • The place of practice should be warm but not hot (18-250), comfortable and free from draughts which can cause a chill/cold or flu. Excess heat can damage the central nervous system meaning 'hot yoga' can be dangerous.
  • Until comfortable in yoga poses (asnans) do not hold poses for more that 20-30 seconds.
  • Breathing along with the beating of our heart, is one of the most important activities in our life as without breath we die. In yoga, the breath should always be soft, smooth and rhythmic - inhalations and exhalations of equal duration. The breath should always flow in and out through the nose, unless it is blocked or if performing special breathing exercises during pranayama.
  • To avoid injuries, relax into poses and do not force the body beyond its capacity.
  • Women should not wear bras or tight clothing as this is bad for ones breasts. Let them move.

    While the ideal is to be naked to facilitate an unbiased physical awareness, avoid wearing clothing which is too tight.  Any clothing, which leaves marks/lines on the skin is considered to be too tight, women especially have to take care if wearing a bra that it is not too tight  as some exercises performed while wearing a bra will cause the breasts to sag. When not wearing a bra, the tissues that support the breasts are more correctly exercised, and therefore prevent the breasts from falling down with age.

  • Back aches and various physical weaknesses may come to the fore during your yoga practice. If this happens, try remedial programs or consult your teacher assistance.
    Any discomfort in the posture should only be temporary, persistent pain as a sign of incorrect practice or a physical problem that needs attention.

Asanas are divided into

  1. Standing poses
    These are strengthening exercises that make you work your entire body and also on an energetic level connect the practitioner with the earth, so they are very grounding.
  2. Forward bends
    These are designed to stretch the back of the body from the heels to the head but they are also introspective, so anyone who is depressed should not spend to much time on these poses.
  3. Twists
    The in between poses - These serve to neutralize and balance body energy as well as to increase overall flexibility.
  4. Back Bends
    These open the front torso and are generally invigorating and good for digestion.
  5. Inversions
    Hand stand, head stand and shoulder stand - these are advanced techniques that should not be attempted until many of the above postures have been mastered.

Yoga asana's when combined in series serve not only strengthen the body, they are a meditative process to integrate body and mind providing a sense of wholeness and balance.

Many people consider the asana as a static point which one arrives at which it is a very common mistake. In nature, nothing is static, everything is in a state of flux of movement and any asana which is not active and dynamic will not be as effective. So every time you practice, look or think of the asana as something living, alive and growing, and you grow with that.

The perfection of any asana comes when a point of balance or poise is reached within the pose, the body opened to its maximum limits. Therefore, it is not so much flexibility in terms of being able to do difficult poses, but to attain the posture to the best of one's ability without compromising the core structural principals. Not everyone will sit in padmasana, or place their hand on the floor in trikonasana, but the yoga or unity of the pose is attainable by all no matter how inflexible they are.

Dhanurasana, an advanced back bend

Like all of life, there is no end and you will discover that as you enter into an asana, there are many points of adjustment as you work towards the perfection of that pose. Within the context of learning there are hundreds of adjustments and as you integrate your practice, you will discover that many of these adjustments are common to all poses.

Common elements include a foundation, a structure and a purpose and as you work into each asana the objective is to enliven every cell in your entire body. As you look at the images, and think, how can that person improve that posture and how would I give instruction. You can comment on the page, in your blog or notebook.

Asana must also be served and directed by an acutely active intelligence which is balanced by the ethics and philosophy of yoga.

Historically there are said to be either the 84 Classic Yoga Asana's taught by Lord Shiva as mentioned in some classic texts on yoga. Some of these asana's are considered highly important in the yogic canon: texts that do mention the 84 frequently single out the first four as necessary or vital to attain yogic perfection. However, a complete list of Shiva's asana's remains as yet unverified. A modern spin is that there are 108 asanas and that each asana has 108 adjustment points.

Please note that this asana section is a general guide and not full instruction on how to do each pose, you will find the basic descriptions in Light on Yoga.

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