Defining the Purpose of Hatha Yoga Poses

Asana can be defined as a physical Yoga posture or position that is designed to help master the body and enhance the body’s functions. 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, we can not lose attention to the original purpose of the Yoga pose or Yoga exercise.

Yoga exercises evolved thousands of years ago from the need to create a healthy body, from which, one could move more readily towards a state of oneness and realization.  A more open, vital physical body allowed one to acquire more comfort in seated meditations for extended periods of time.  When the body is cluttered with stress, tension, and disease, this clouds the mind and one’s 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.

The practice of Hatha Yoga (Yoga exercises) can be easily moved into a state of Ego where one brings expectations and goals into the Yoga poses. Rather than connecting with the Inner Self, the practice of Yoga exercises moves one deeper into the physical reality of disillusion.

Western culture has easily turned Yoga exercises into another form of superficial workout routines and, rather than having a holistic connection, many people are moving to a place of obsession with the body and its’ achievements. Asana can be described as a physical state of the body such that the posture moves one into an existence of wholeness and steadiness allowing one to reflect inwards on the entire being.

This state of steadiness involves no goals, no future, and no analyzing – just observing the how the physical self receives vitality and openness while enabling the mind to explore clarity.  One can appreciate that health and wellness are derived by holistic progression – applying effort to the body and encouraging it to adapt.  Adaption, though, is an intention drawing energy from the future – wanting to have a certain level of flexibility or strength by a certain point of time.  Does this have relevance in the immediate practice?  Our bodies change from one day to the next.  Are we not better served to practice based on the body’s needs in that moment – tending to blockages and resistance specific to the life pattern of recent cycles?

A sub-layer of our Hatha practice is finding that balance of progression while savouring the present – learning to tune out the Ego who is asking us push past the muscle receptors cry to ease off and ‘just breathe’.  A beautiful way to retain holistic intentions within the practice is to continually breathe in awareness to the ultimate benefit of each pose – What is its’ purpose?  What are the proper alignment forms?  How does this serve the bigger picture in my physical and spiritual life?  Is the approach and intention I am proceeding with this pose taking me closer or farther away from those benefits?

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