Previously, I wrote about the two first limbs of Raja Yoga. We already know what they represent. Today I will explain a little about the third limb of Raja Yoga- The Asana.
The Sanskrit word "asana" means a body pose or a positin that a body can take. Any pose that a body can take, a pose that has no official record or a name is also an asana. This means we all can create our own asanas, simple or difficult ones, and still it will be an effectual asana - a body pose.
The asanas that have a name and a specific form have been systematized in the form of Hatha Yoga poses, given a certain Sanskrit name, and are being taught all over the world as such.
Hatha Yoga is the most common name new yoga students learn, and in fact, Hatha Yoga means the physical practice that one can exercise on the mat, but it is not the whole Yoga, it is its third limb. This means we, the yoga practitioners, need to be more careful when we say we practice Yoga, or yogasana?
Hatha yoga, the physical aspect of Yoga, takes a form of Ashtanga, Prana Vashya, Shivananda, Vinyasa Krama, Jivamukti, Synergy, Yin Yoga, and many more... It is all the same Hatha Yoga that has been systematized in a form of different sequences, and given a name, so that it can be recognizable by their practitioners. All the different yoga styles are all Hatha Yoga that took this or that yoga pose and put it in this or that sequence and gave a name to it, and sometimes even a whole new philosophy to it.
The best part of it all is that we can try all the sequences and pick one that resonates with us the most and stick to it. We can even pick more than one and see how it works for our body. For example Ashtanga will invigorate the body, Prana Vashya will help with the overall body flexibility, Shivananda will teach the basics, and give strong foundation, Vinyasa Krama will show how to move with grace, Yin Yoga will stretch and relax the muscles.
Hatha Yoga is there, as the third limb of Yoga, to make our body strong and flexible so that our mind also takes a strong, but flexible form and focus more on the positive, rather than dwell in the negative side of itself. The human mind is a dualistic creature and therefore needs to be tamed, and placed in a positive frame to serve us, not make our life more difficult.
The Asana practice helps us out as a trampoline into the meditation practice, that is ultimately described in Yoga philosophy as the one that brings us closer to the divine. Asana practice is vital for the body to be able to sit in one position for a long period of time and focus on the breath's observation.
It is very hard to talk about such a deep subject as Hatha Yoga in a short article, and If you have any questions related to this post, please post a comment below. Enjoy your yogasana practice! It is a divine practice indeed, and one that brings only positive results!
Lots of yoga!