Yoga Sutra 2.46: Sthira Sukham Asanam
Asanam – just one of eight limbs of what the west has deemed Yoga. I’ve been deeply effected by the fact that every single class here that I teach, somebody comes to me and either says, “my friend was too scared to come,” or, “I’m not bendy, I can’t really do yoga well but I will try….” And the thing is, is that these are all westerners that have come to say this in class. If you ask an indian what asanam is, they look at you like you are crazy. Surely, I am glad that the US has found a new exercise regimen, but at the cost of a sacred eight limbed practice, and the cost of the peoples minds who think they are not good enough if they are not achieving this exercise ‘correctly.’
In my opinion, yoga has been almost completely lost, because, the person who can barely do downward facing dog, but is practicing with a focused mind and is working towards a goal is doing yoga more than the person next to them doing a crazy handstand variation while in lotus to prove they can and then leave the class the same person. It is a moving meditation, for whatever body you are in. A chance to look deep within the physiology of the body and mind to explore what’s happening for you.
Not sugar coating it, this idea that you have to be bendy, or that you are not as good at yoga as the person next to you doing a handstand makes me want to scream
To save the world a long rant, I will just say this;
The point of asana is to find a comfortable seated position, in order to meditate and calm the mind without disturbance of the mind from the body being tight, stiff, poisened. The point of asana is to cleanse, detox, strengthen, and lengthen the body so that we can lead a happy fulfilling life, and achieve greater things with good health, maybe Samadhi some day, the connection to the universe where there is no duality and your mind is free.
Yoga sutra 2.46 actually defines Asana as “A comfortable seated position.” That’s it. That is the purpose of asana, and the eight other limbs of Astanga Yoga.
So please, please, I beg with all of my heart, know that yoga is a journey that anyone can begin, at any age, at any stage, and it never ends. It is not complete when you achieve the splits or put your legs behind your head… sure you may look cool, but that alone does not bring you true joy and peace.