ASANAS-MEANING AND BENEFITS
Two word Asana implies a seat, a posture performed steadily and with ease. It means a posture in which one can remain steady, calm, quiet and comfortable, physically and mentally for a certain time whether seated or otherwise. An Asana represents a position in which one can keep still for a long time without effort. There are lakhs of Asanas given by ancient Indian Rishis. Many people wrongly consider Asanas as gymnastic exercises or body building techniques. If the gymnastic exercise constitute yogasanas then every circus clown and acrobat would call himself a Yoga. The purpose of Yogasana is integrated development of the personality i.e. physical, mental and spiritual, whereas physical exercise or gymnastic exercise have only physical effect on the muscles and bones. Physical exercises are performed quickly and with lot of fast breathing. No doubt, the acrobatic or gymnastic exercises develop large muscles or flexibility, but very large muscles require more nutrition and greater supply of blood which put greater strain on heart and respiratory systems. After doing these exercises, a person may feel very healthy, but as he grows old, the bodily functions slow down and the problems of stiffness and rheumatism occur. The over-developed muscles become flabby. Gymnastic exercises and weight lifting do not provide the relaxation which is necessary after doing physical exercises. Yogasanas are performed very slowly, steadily and comfortably, with ease and deep concentration. Yogasanas are effective and useful for both internal and external system of body. With the help of Yogasanas, the nervous system, endocrinal glands, internal organs as well as the muscles function properly. Asanas have physical and psychosmatic effect. They can be done by all, young and old, men and women. Yogasanas are simple posture which keep the internal and external organs of the body strong and healthy. Since body is the means to duty; wealth,pleasure and salvation, it would always be protected with all one heart by the technique of yoga.
Benefits of Yogasanas
- Regular practice of Asanas is highly beneficial for the purification of veins and nerves, and promotion of sound mind and soul and body. Asanas are of three types. Those which are associated with concentration and meditation, such as Siddasana, Swastikasana, Padamasana, Siddhayoniasana, Sukhasana and baddhayoniasana. The second type of Asanas are meant for the healthy growth of internal and external organs of the body such as Sarvangasana, Bhujangasana, Chakrasana, Shalbhbasana, Shirshasana, Garbhasana, Mayurasana, Paschimotasana, etc. The third type of Asanas are meant for rest and relaxation. Such as Shavasana, Advasana, Jyestikasana, Makarasana, Matsyakridasana. The asanas should be learnt from a Guru or a person who has thorough knowledge of the subject. The proper technique is very essential. The body is a kind of horse to take you to your destination. This horse is to be properly fed, regularly exercised and well looked after. We remember the moral story how the soldier lost the battle; because the horse of the soldier fell, the horse fell because his shoe fell; the shoe fell because the nail of the shoe fell. This is how for want of the care of the smaller part of our body, the whole body can be affected.
- Yogasana help in mental, physical and spiritual development. There is no age or sex bar in doing Asanas. The regular practice of Asanas proves the main systems namely, digestive system, circulatory system, nervous system namely, digestive system, circulatory system, nervous system and respiratory system. The endocrine system is also controlled and regulated by Asanas.
- Asanas make the body supple and flexible, and are able to adjust themselves to changes of environment. Asanas keep the physical body healthy and free from disease.
- The regular practice of Asanas increase the power of concentration, equilibrium and vitality.
- The spinal cord is termed as tree of life. The branches and leaves are the remifications of the nervous system which spread to the near and distant parts of the body. The functioning of the nervous system depends upon the spinal cord. With the advancements of age, the vertebrae and joints become stiff or rigid, particularly when no exercise is done. Yogasanas keep the spinal cord supply and flexible.
- Asanas help in the awakening of all dormant powers. The bending and stretching of the asanas, the proper functioning of the abdominal muscles, the purification of the blood resulting from the expansion of lungs, toning up of the muscles, flexibility of the spine all give vigour and vitality to the mind and body.
- The waste matter accumulated in our body is eliminated by Yogasanas. As the age of a person increases several organs of the body are weaken or even damaged. The consequent accumulation of chalk-like cholesterol or other impurities in the muscles, the veins and arteries harden and narrow thus making the circulation of blood slow and irregular. Some disease are, therefore, caused by improper elimination of waste matter, such as urine and stool from the body. Yogasanas increase the resistance power of the body and keep it free from disease.
- Asanas and Pranayama help in purifying the blood in different blood, vessels. When the body becomes clean and flexible, ability of doing any activity is also increase.
- Asanas rejuvenate, tone up the different glands of the body. These healthy glands produce required secretion which help proper growth of the body, making it neither too fat nor too lean.
- Physical ailments and disease like arthritis, abdominal disorders, diabetes, respiratory troubles, high blood pressure, migraine can be prevented and cured by Asanas
- Asanas in themselves may not give spiritual realization, but they are a ladder of the spiritual path. Asanas help to awaken the psychic faculties. Asanas are considered as forms of meditation and psychic purification.
- People doing mental work can increase their thinking power and can have calm and clear mind by doing certain specific Asanas. People doing manual work can relieve their tensions and strains by Asanas, particularly the relaxation postures.
- In modern times, people have a number of conveniences at their disposal to give physical comforts and sensual enjoyments. Modern men wants luxurious, unnatural and wrong way of living. He takes sleeping pills and other drugs to get peace and rest. But he gets lot of physical, mental and emotional tension. By doing Asanas modern man will be able to free himself from ailments which appear due to unnatural or wrong way of living. Our young men and women have turned to the use of drugs, LSD, charas, hashish, heroin, and other tranquilisers. Yoga in totality including Asanas, is the only remedy for those people to find new meaning of life.
Asanas and Concentration
In the science of Yoga, concentration occupies very important place. Without sound mental attitudes or concentration, our efforts will prove futile. During each Asana, it is important to know where to concentrate. The mode and centre of concentration varies from Asana to Asanas and from the beginner to the expert. The beginner should concentrate upon the correct technique of an Asana until he is able to practise that Asana with automatic ease. This stage can be covered in a few days or weeks depending upon the technique of the Asana. After the technique comes the actual performance of the Asana. When a practitioner becomes adept in doing certain Asanas, minimum number of muscles is used and least amount of energy and concentration are involved. During this stage, the face, the mouth and the tongue should be relaxed. Once the adept is table to do a certain Asana in a relaxed and automatic ease, then he must concentrate on breathing. Whether he is breathing smoothly and normally without any strain. Normal breathing must continue naturally and rhythmically. If it is stopped, the diaphragm gets blocked and congested. After this stage, the practitioner will not get any jerky or hasty movement and his smooth performance will continue from the beginning. Asanas practised in correct, slow and smooth manner lead automatically to concentration. Since different muscles are involved in different Asanas, the concentration is maintained between the mind and the movements. Finally, the adept should concentrate on the Asanas strategic points ofaction. Each Asana produces assessed effects upon some part of the body. For example, the thyroid region is affected by Sarvangasanas; and the solar plexus by Dhanurasana. This is the point on which the adept will concentrate. The positive effect of an Asana is diluted when there is lack of proper concentration at the proper part of the body. In doing certain Asanas, evil thought and diluted concentration can produce negative effects. In order to get desired effects hom Asanas it is essential to know why, how and where to concentrate. Some people turn to Yogasanas by chance and not by choice. This type of mental attitude cannot help is concentration which is required in every human activity.
Observance of Some Basic Rules
In order to get maximum benefits of Asanas, it is necessary to perform them properly at the proper place and time. Some students and non-students say that they have been doing Asanas regularly but they do not find any radical change in their health. It has been observed that most of the people do not do Asanas regularly and correctly. Sometimes their postures are wrong, sometimes concentration is lacking, sometimes in order to learn new Asanas of advanced group, they give jerks and jolts to their body, and mostly they do not observe the rules. Asanas performed wrong or immediately after meals can do more harm than good to the practitioner. The following rules should be strictly adhered to before performing Asanas :
- Use a soft folded carpet or blanket for doing Asanas, Do your Asanas in a well-ventilated, calm, clean and peaceful room. The air in the room should be fresh so that you can freely breathe fresh oxygen. A good smooth lawn or garden or any open surrounding is preferable. Whatever be the space available, the space should be pleasant and airy, free from mosquites, flies, ants, rats, dirty or smoky air and chocked stuff.
- Before doing Asanas, the bladder and intestines should be empty. If you have problem of constipation, drink two or three glasses of slightly salted water and then practise Tadasana, Kati Chakrasana, Bhujangasana. These Asanas should relieve your constipation. These Asanas should be followed by Pawanmuktasana. Avoid using laxative drugs
- One should not do Asanas until three or four hours have elapsed after food. However the best time is between 4 and 6 A.M, According to Hindu scriptures this period is known as Brahmamuhurta. It is the time most conducive for the higher practices of yoga. The atmosphere is pure, calm and quiet. The stomach and the intestines are in restful state.
- Asanas should be done after Pranayama and Shavasana should be done last of all.
- Concentration is of utmost importance in Asana. One thing at a time is wise saying. While doing Asanas talking should be avoided. Your attention and concentration should be on your breath and on the particular organ or part of the body which is affected by a particular Asana.
- Yogasana is non-violent activity. You should never give strain to your body while doing Asanas. Beginners may find their bones rigid and muscles stiff, but after regular practice the will become supple, and the body will also be flexible.
- While doing Asanas, breathing should be done through nostrils keeping the mouth and eyes shut. In Simhasana, the breathing is done by mouth. Movement in Asanas and the respiration should be coordinated. Generally, while doing Asanas, people do not take care of breath control.
- Asanas should be done slowly and steadily with full awareness of the body. If you feel pain or strain, anywhere, then immediately stop and relax in Shavasana.
- Relaxation during and after Asana session is very essential. Shavasana must be done during and after the session. Relax your body as much as possible.
- During Asanas, it is better to wear minimum loose, light and comfortable clothes according to season. Ornaments, wrist watch, necklace, rings,spectacles should be removed before doing Asanas.
- A Yoga practitioner should pay proper attention to food which gives energy, vitality and vigour. There are no special dieting rules for doing Asanas. It is better to eat light food easily digestible. Light food keeps the body light and active. One should avoid eating food which cause acidity or gas in the digestive system.