Hatha Yoga Asanas - Is Yoga About Physical Postures?
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – The Obstacles on the Yoga Path
Most of the people start doing yoga with a physical practice which is called asana (posture). In the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, a book 2500 years old, all that was related to yoga is compiled in 196 sutras. What a quiet unbalanced fact that nowadays 99% of the yoga practice is only physical and only 1% of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are talking about Asanas!
The main practice is actually at the mental level!!! Controlling the movement of the body and the breath is one step but the control of the mind, Citta, is a step forward. In the second sutra of the First Chapter, Patanjali talks about “Yoga Citta Vrtti Nirodha”. Citta Vrttis are the disturbances of the Mind/Consciousness and Nirodha means the eradication of it.
What are the disturbances and how to eradicate it? The answer is a step on the path of liberation.
When you go inside, you start to understand very clearly what starts to make all the disturbances. Disturbances create suffering and come from a fivefold source: Avidya, Asmita, Raaga, Dvesa and Abhinivesa.
Avidya - the ignorance is the foremost and is the source in which others grow. Avidya makes us see impure as pure, pain as pleasure and sensual pleasures as spiritual.
Asmita - the egoism, is how we built up our personality, which image we are projecting to everyone. Selecting what we want to show and how we want to show it, Facebook is a great tool to develop Asmita. Even in yoga, how many people put a label with “their name yoga”… Asmita grows then and expands!
Abhinivesa - fear, is what stops us going deeper in the knowledge of the self. Not knowing what we will get, we have the fear of dropping everything.
The two last, Raaga - the desire and Dvesa - the aversion, are of the same nature. They both connect with attachment and this is what leads our society today. Desire is an attachment to sensual pleasure and aversion, attachment to not experiencing pain/discomfort (upon our likes/dislikes). Either we are wishing it or rejecting it we make the attachment grow. As soon as we fulfill it, another one arise and so on. And if it remains as a wish, it multiplies and gets bigger. We are running after our attachment and this is an endless quest. There are no boundaries and no end to it. Attachment grows and becomes as big as a river.
The practice gives us the strength to push it back, to go upstream until we reach the source!
Now what is this practice? What can help us to have the control of these disturbances and not be the slave of them?
Pantajali gives us the path in his Yoga Sutras. He explains that to overcome suffering there is the eight fold path which is also known as Eight-Fold Path - Ashtanga Yoga (but not the one from Mysore!):
Yama or how to act in society with others. Eg, being non-violent
Niyama or how to behave with ourselves. Eg, maintaining the cleanliness
Asana or how to do poses steady without effort
Pranayama or how to regulate the movement of the breath
Pratyahara or how to withdraw the senses
Dharana or how to concentrate
Dhyana or how to meditate which is the result of Dharana
And Samadhi which is attained when Dhyana is successful!
By following this, we destroy the potential in the mind for wrong action. Instead the right action takes place and puts us on the path to realization.
Controlling the disturbances can be done only when we are really relaxing.
We can also make a good use of the asanas itself. Releasing the disturbances come when you let it go. The pose which work best are the forward bent. Poses like the Halasana/Karna Pidasana or the Virasana Bending Forward are great poses to teach us how to drop it. That is why the eight-fold are limbs and not steps. We can work on different limbs at the same time.
Disturbances in the mind can be seen as knots. We can decide either to get stuck on them or to open them and grow… The choice is ours and we don’t need to be a yogi to follow this path. It is not an easy path but we can do our best… with a strong will and a clear intention!
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre