Yoga as an exercise?

by Nicola

In yoga today, we take a small part of the about 10.000 year old philosophy, and make something big out of it, the asana practice of yoga. Throughout the west this part is the most popular and it’s for many the first step into yoga.

In eastern culture “yoga asana” (yoga postures) was seen as an inferior practice, the focus was on the spiritual part and the yogic practitioners even neglected or denied the body, the exact opposite of what’s happening in the west.

In Purna Yoga we believe if we do yoga asana without the spiritual aspects of yoga we create more ego, and our world doesn’t need more egocentric people, right? But what do we need? Our world is in desperate need of more love and kindness and people who care for each other, no one can disagree with that.

In the east there was ignorance, denial of the body and the result is that there is no real evolution. What did the enlightened masters do by ignoring the body? They left, and the world stayed exactly the same as as it was. Leaving the karmic wheel was the objective of the yoga practitioner. Until Sri Aurobindo came and through his extraordinary experiences presented the idea that enlightenment happens through the body, therefore cultivating this body, is bringing light into IT, and enlightenment happens while we are here on earth. Good news, we are staying!!!😊

Today we need to bring the teachings of the east together with the trend of the west and allow yoga to recognize the complete version of a human being. Alignment-based asana is one of the four petals of Purna Yoga.

Our teacher Aadil Palkhivala has been studying with the master of asana, BKS Iyengar, since he was 7 years old. Aadil gave us sequences and alignment in the poses adapted to our lifestyle today, so that we walk through life with ease and joy, meaning pain free and open. Aligning your asana is aligning life. By bringing awareness into the body we catch if something is off, with this awareness we start to recognize ourselves beyond the body. So that we can go back to why we’re here and what our purpose is.

Besides that, asana has immense benefits on body and mind, to quote Aadil “Asana is totally unimportant, but it’s necessary”.

One of the greatest asana-sequences Aadil has developed is our Purna Yoga Hip Opening Series. Aadil understood that through moving the leg in all six different directions we gain greater mobility and by doing so relieving or preventing lower back issues and knee pain. Besides that, everything we find in the physical is reflecting the emotional body. When we don’t listen to the heart and our emotions, all the body can do is giving signals of pain so that it is heard. For example, tension or pain in the hips relate to suppression of emotions while the knees co-relate to fear.

In terms of alignment when doing poses which are practiced in most systems of yoga, there’s actually danger if not doing them right. Without clear knowledge of alignment, a teacher can do more harm than good. As good yoga teachers we need to know the benefits and effects of every pose we teach.

Here are only a few of the countless benefits of practicing asana: one becomes more grounded and better focused, the movements and postures stimulate the digestion and increase lung capacity, therefore the slower breathing lowers stress levels and creates a peace of mind. If you start practicing asana you increase your flexibility up to 35% after only 8 weeks. There are many more benefits in each pose and sequence and when done on a regular basis lead to a feeling of well-being in the overall self.

The practice of asana should not be done for the sake of it. Do it for the sake of evolution as this evolution happens inside ourselves to start with the body, through the mind, to feel the emotions and develop the spirit’s connection. Sri Aurobindo calls it “The Evolution of Consciousness”!

In the end it is through bringing the four petals together that the asana becomes a tool and not the purpose.

Even though most people come to meditation and a healthy lifestyle through yoga asana, for me it was the other way around. What was your catch?

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