Asana is a masculine word that refers to the single postures during the physical part of Yoga. During an hour practice, for example, one reaches many asanas.
Commonly, to make it easier and quicker, when we say asana, we mean the physical practice, however the word itself doesn’t mean that but the single posture.
All names of the poses end with -asana, for example Danurasana or Parsvakonasana.
In these days asana and the physical part is the most popular side of yoga, and the more challenging the better.
It is very common that Asanas have Sanskrit names which normally describe the pose, but in English these are often animal names or objects that aren’t necessarily the exact translation.
Officially there are 84 asanas in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, however only 15 are described and mentioned.
Whilst for Patanjali, the Father of Yoga, the asana part is just one eighth of Yoga itself and he only dedicates few lines to it in his world known book, Yoga Sutras. He says the poses need to be comfortable and motionless, so very different to what yoga is today.
So from where do we have all these fancy and different poses nowadays?
Only recently Yoga became so dynamic and creative, probably thanks to Krishnamacharya and his influence. Nowadays, society demands that Yoga classes are more and more calories burning and the audience is younger and younger.
Furthermore, our Ego desires to see how capable we are, asanas need to be so advanced just because we feel so much powerful afterwards. But this is so wrong for me, as I explain in the coming lines. Our ego should not determine our level of practice.
I started yoga many years ago and then had a break when I gave birth to my baby.
My body had never been extremely flexible nor I had a background where I had to work with it, like dancers or gymnasts, therefore all what I achieve daily is the result of practice.
I was a common girl who loved working out, but never thought of doing out of yoga my job.
When I did my teacher training I was hooked- I didn’t know what would come out, if that would result in being my forever job or not, but I loved it and what gave me the strength and motivation was that I didn’t have to compare myself to the others. Plus, asana is only a tiny part we transmit to our students.
The reality is that I don’t have to be a superhero and do the most challenging poses in order to become a teacher, because that isn’t what yoga is about.
I had to learn to stop compare myself with others, stop pretending to bring my foot behind my head or grab my toes behind my back in back bendings. This is something not necessary to be classified “a good yoga teacher”
Surely I know the right alignments and how the pose should be, but me being not able to fully execute it doesn’t make out of me a bad person.
Plus, yoga teaches exactly this more than anything else: don’t compare yourself to someone on Instagram or your journey and your body to someone else next to you in the studio. Don’t let your ego dominate your emotions and feelings, we aren’t less capable just because we don’t reach a certain asana. We are so good at the rest.
Finally, it teaches to let go and not to get attached. Attachment is dangerous, attachment to a result, attachment to an idea or a pose. All these things aren’t necessary to feel happy and complete.
Asanas are good for the body because the vital energy, Prana, needs to flow inside. If we have a strong and flexible body, this happens easier.
Also, as Yoga is so complete and cares so much about mind and soul, we also have to have an healthy physical body to be able to be healthy in the other two parts. I find it very correct; but again, it doesn’t mean we have to achieve the challenging asanas in order to be classified a “good” Yogi. Safety is priority and we need to look after our body, which is our forever home. Therefore, it is also important to avoid to overdo, overstretch, over bend, overtwist if we do it in a way that we will regret in the future.