Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda

Insights and Inspirations - Yoga Asanas

January 12, 2019

Why do students of yoga practice yoga asanas at all? What are yoga asanas and why are they yoga asanas? We are not looking for eternal youth or physical immortality - these things are not possible. The nature of all created things is change, decay, and death. No-one is going to change that.    In two scriptures, The Bhagavad Gita as well as The Yoga Sutra, it is made very clear that yoga is practiced in all its aspects for self-purification. When we talk of 'purification' we only imply the removal of what does not belong. What 'I' want to be, is pollution!

    If you go on contemplating the phrase: 'to keep these as they are meant to be', you suddenly realize that 'I' don't know what they are meant to be, and therefore there is no desire to make them this or that. The first and most mischievous element is removed. 'I' don't want to be this or that; 'I' must only ensure that these should be as they are meant to be.

    When there is no anxiety to be this or that, to appear youthful or old, every bit of 'dirt' shows up. Then there is a signal which says 'something needs to be cleaned'. Following that signal it is possible to bring about a purification of that aspect of my being. But in order to be able to do that, one must learn to communicate with the body.

    The system of yoga asanas is a very delicate and beautiful system, and one has to enter into the beauty of it. They do not exercise the body at all as gymnastics do. 'Asana' means posture and is described in The Yoga Sutra as 'comfortable, steady.' If you are unstable, jumping up and down, or if there is discomfort, strain or pain, then the attention is distracted. Whereas if it is not uncomfortable, you can observe what goes on within, and this observation has the power to focus one's attention on the inner workings of the body.

    For the first time you discover that every time a new posture is practiced, a whole intelligence system rearranges everything for its sake. Even if there seems to be a little discomfort to begin with, it melts away as you hold the posture. If it is done that way, then every yoga asana becomes a new discovery.

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