Take Your Seat

asana, hatha yoga

Asana and Yoga

Huge confusion persists in Yoga-world and its close environs. The main confusion has been making the term ‘yoga’ synonymous with ‘asana.’ Asana is part of yoga, but a fairly small part; traditionally about 2%. The West has reversed the emphasis.

Asana comes from the Sanskrit root -ās / sit. The sitting practices of dhyāna /meditation are the true core of yoga.

If you visit a Hindi speaking house, you will be invited to take an āsan, a seat. While the primary definition of -ās is sit, the secondary definition is apply oneself or be present as in abasya/ practice.

Hatha Yoga

The definition of asana as applied to the postures in Hatha Yoga is more a cultural idiom than a definition drawn from the root. This idiom refers to the macro postures and practices as preparatory for sitting. Properly understood, all Hatha Yoga, including asana, is preparatory for the dhyāna/meditation of Raja-Yoga and the first two verses of the Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā state that unequivocally.

A recent New York Times article alleging asana induced injury misses on two points: 1) properly understood, yoga-asana is NOT about fitness as understood in the West (however, all fitness activities produce injuries); the Sanskrit term for exercise is vyāyāma; such exercise may superficially look like asana, but is completely different, (2) a movement process that results in injury could not be yogic despite superficial similarities in appearance.

Hatha Yoga is NOT to be confused with circus contortion – I know this having taught asana in a circus college that had a contortionist. After the third session, she said, “This (asana) is totally different from what I do in the ring.”

One Comment on “Take Your Seat

  1. Namaste dear soul ,
    That is exactly what I was talking about in class !
    I really wanted to say once again . A huge thank you for your stunning book on the sutras which save me digging in to my six versions from various perspectives ! 2.49 .once asana has been mastered ..pranayama can commence …this is not the mastery of chakrasasna ..or those postures that canonly be achieved by the flexible ..but a comfortable firm stable upright position ..an asana that can be achieved by all .and then onwards to pranayama .
    Thank you .
    Ps were you not goi g to write up versions of the Gita ?
    Love and light

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