There is so much more to yoga than just exercise. To practice Navasana simply to get a flatter tummy is much like waiting at the airport for your ship to come in. You’ve missed the boat.
At the heart of Patanjali's teachings are the eight limbs of Yoga. These are Patanjali's suggestions for living a better life through yoga.
ASANA – The third limb of Yoga (Postures or Poses)
Through the practice of asana, we learn the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate – which assist us along the path of yoga to achieve Samadhi - enlightenment.
The practice of moving the body into postures has many physical benefits; of these the most underlying are improved health, strength, balance and flexibility. On a deeper level the practice of asana, which means "staying" or "abiding" in Sanskrit, is used as a tool to calm the mind and move into the inner essence of being.
The challenge of poses offers the practitioner the opportunity to explore and control all aspects of their emotions, concentration, intent, faith, and unity between the physical and the ethereal body. Asana then becomes a way of exploring our mental attitudes and strengthening our will as we learn to release and move into the state of grace that comes from creating balance between our material world and spiritual experience.
Most people come to yoga for the exercise, and end up staying for the release. As you learn to love your body, and thus yourself, through the practice you become more in tune with who you are and what you are all about. Personally, that has happened for me. I took to the yoga mat after a hiatus to calm my mind and still thoughts of things I could not control. Three years later, almost to this day I’m here learning how to pass on the self love and self acceptance a simple morning practice has evolved to.
Asana - yoga poses are, in essence, Yoga exercises creating strength and endurance, improving circulation and energy flow, cleansing organs and other systems, and expanding muscles and joints. With all these benefits of the Yoga poses, we should not lose sight of the original intent of Yoga.
Yoga exercises evolved thousands of years ago from the need to create a healthy body in order to move more readily to the state of oneness and realization. When the body is cluttered with stress, tension, and disease, this clouds the mind and the ability to connect with the inner self. The physical freedom attained from the Yoga exercises increases one's ability to sit with silence and joyful observation.
Stirra Sukham Asanam – May my connection to the earth be steady and joyful (Patanjali 2.46)
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Strengthens the immune system
The human being is a perfect combination of body, mind and spirit. An irregularity at the physical level affects the mental plane. In the same way, any restlessness present in the mind can manifest itself as a disease in the body. Yoga postures not only massage the different organs of the body, but also strengthen the muscular system. In addition, breathing techniques and pranayamas help release stress, which results in an improvement in the immune system, scientifically proven.