Asana the foundation of all yogic techniques

Prior to me taking a three-year research break from teaching the Intensive Level 3 at 8 Limbs we had a lot of students that practised asana every morning, five to six days per week no matter what. This virtue seems to have somewhat gone out the window apart from a few students. Asana forms the foundations from which the higher yogic techniques rise and if those foundations are not strong they will not carry the higher limbs.

Patanjali, the ancient sage that compiled the Yoga Sutra, said in sutra I.14 that yoga will only then carry you to inner and spiritual freedom if you practice it a. for a long time, b. with devotion and c. uninterrupted. I will comment on a and b briefly and then elaborate on c., our subject today.

To practice for a long time means to practice for the rest of ones life. The master T. Krishnamacharya practised until he was 100 years old. Why would you stop something that makes you internally more and more rich and your life more and more rewarding. Be in it for the long haul.

To practice with devotion means to surrender the benefit of the practice to your chosen form of the divine and also to practise with the intention of benefiting all beings particularly those who need it most. This avoids that one practises out of egotistical tendencies such as getting an advantage over others.

To practice uninterruptedly means to practise daily and without taking holidays. When your alarm clock goes never ask your mind whether it wants to practice yoga. It never does. Yoga leads to freedom from your mind, which has bullied and dominated you so long without any challenge. Suddenly comes yoga with the promise that it will show you the spirit within and that the mind will become your servant. Do you think the mind will like it? Of course not. The mind wants to be your boss. Don’t listen to it. Get up, have a shower, go to the studio, start your practice (or at home if you are established). Do not start thinking before you get to the end of your standing postures and by then you anyway just listen to your breath and not to your mind.

If you do not practise daily you are likely to develop a yoyo practise, not a yoga practise. Yoyo means up and down, yoga means smooth sailing on an even keel. If you practise only every 48 or even 72 hours your muscles become to soft and you have too much excess energy. You are likely to overdo it and get sore. If you practise again after only 24 hours, the residual stiffness in your muscles and energy expenditure from your previous practise will generate a protective shield. By the way, another protective shield is created by the fact that you practise every morning. It means that you will have to go to bed relatively early and that is good so. You may have noticed that whenever you get up to no good, its after sunrise. Be in bed and sound asleep and you will avoid most problems in live. (:

There are additional benefits in doing ones daily practise early in the morning such as at sunrise is the maximum time of prana (life force) in the air, early morning practice will give you the ideal balance between kapha, vata and pitta (the three humours of Ayurveda) and the early morning from 4.30am onwards is brahmi muhurta, the divine time. It’s the most auspicious time for yoga practice because the mind and the world are still silent.

Also do not take holidays from yoga. If you have holidays, great. Spend more time on practising. From observing students for a long time I have gleaned that they often loose the benefit that they have gained over a long time simply by taking a few weeks off. Keep practising. In order to gain inner freedom you need a body that is fully backed in the fire of asana (posture).

A daily asana practice will also perfectly align your spine making it fit for the ascent of kundalini (life force). For kundalini-rousing you need a lithe body, light and strong like the body of a racehorse. Asana will give you this body but you need to learn to sustain your practise in the face of adversity. Do not be a good-whether yogi. Practise daily regardless of which ball life throws at you. No more excuses! This life is precious! Use it!

About Gregor Maehle

Gregor Maehle started his yogic practices over 38 years ago. For almost two decades he yearly travelled to India where he studied with various yogic and tantric masters. Gregor spent 14 months in Mysore, India, and in 1997 was authorized to teach Ashtanga Yoga by K. Pattabhi Jois. Since then he has branched out into research of the anatomical alignment of postures and the higher limbs of Yoga. He obtained his anatomical knowledge through a Health Practitioner degree and has also studied History, Philosophy and Comparative Religion.

Gregor lived many years as a recluse, studying Sanskrit, yogic scripture and practising yogic techniques. He has published a series of textbooks on all major aspects of yoga. His mission is to re-integrate ashtanga vinyasa practice into the larger framework of Patanjali’s eight-limbed yoga in the spirit of T. Krishnamacharya. He offers trainings, retreats and workshops worldwide.

Posted in Asana.

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