At this point, most of you have probably heard the word "asana," in the studio or in a yoga class. Pronounced AAH·suh·nuh with emphasis on the first syllable, this Sanskrit word translates to mean pose, posture, or seat. In the entirety of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali there are 196 sutras and only 3 of them talk about asana.
While I was in my teacher training, we broke down a lot of names for yoga poses. You may have noticed that when teachers say the names of yoga poses in Sanskrit they always end with the word "asana."
Here are a few examples of common asanas you may have heard of:
They all have "asana," at the end of the word. So, you know half of the meaning of every yoga asana in Sanskrit! Now, let's explore the beginnings -
• "Tada" = Mountain; "Asana" = Pose; "Tadasana" = Mountain Pose
• "Vira" = Warrior/Hero; "Bhadra" = Virtuous/Auspicious; "Asana" = Pose; "Virabhadrasana" = Warrior Pose
• "Mala" = Garland; "Asana" = Pose; "Malasana" = Garland Pose
Then, there are even more layers to these beautiful words. Many asana names are rooted in ancient myths or stori
• "Trikonasana" = Three Angle Pose/Triangle Pose; The triangle represents the three parts of the Cosmic Self - Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; Shiva, the transformer. It can also represent the mind, body and spirit or the three gunas.
• "Dandasana" = Staff Pose; "Danda, a staff, represents power and authority within Indian spiritual culture. Danda also refers to the spinal column physically and energetically as the axis of the subtle body. As we rest in the power and authority of our true being, our entire chakra system is aligned and balanced."
We don't all have to be Sanskrit scholars to see the beauty in the language and allow it to inspire us while we practice! The next time you're in class, notice what asanas are really resonating for you. Then, take some time to learn about their mythology, their meanings. You might find some resonance and deeper meaning in your asana practice!
In the Western yoga world, there is a big focus on the physical practice of yoga. This isn't a bad thing. This is what led me to the mat and since then I have discovered and continue to explore the depths of this practice. This path called to me in the language that I could understand - movement with my body. For most of my life I have been a dancer - training with Milwaukee Ballet, majoring in dance in high school, dancing professionally at Walt Disney World. The universe called me to this path, to my yoga practice, and it has forever changed me. When I first started practicing yoga in Florida, I practiced at a hot yoga studio that had a sauna in the room. The room reflected the muggy heat in Orlando, but to a more extreme level. These classes were always vinyasa style - linking movement from asana to asana with the breath. I really loved that feeling of sweating it out, pushing myself into shapes my body had never taken before. I loved that when I left the studio and walked into the Orlando sunshine it almost felt cool outside in comparison to the temperature of the studio and the temperature of my skin. When I moved back to Wisconsin 6 years ago I continued my hot yoga practice. It made me feel grounded. It made me feel accomplished. It made me feel connected to my body in ways that I could rarely access at the time. In time, as I completed my yoga teacher training, as I've explored the many different styles of yoga asana classes and explored beyond my favorite hot yoga studios, I have felt a softening. My practice now is more inward gazing - incorporating the Yamas and Niyamas, as well as constant affirmations of self love. There is ease in my movement as I intuitively move my body into shapes. I spend a lot more time moving slowly and evaluating the asana from the ground up as I shift deeper into my physical, emotional, spiritual practices. I spend a lot more time in stillness than in motion. Truly, my relationship with asana has evolved. Much in the way that dance evolved for me when I was young from a way to move into a way to be free.
Here are a few ways to incorporate asana: • Take some yoga asana classes! We've got a full schedule and are adding more classes soon! • Notice which asanas are resonating for you. Notice which asanas challenge more than your physical body - which asanas are challenging your mind and spirit? • Look up the stories and meanings behind asanas as you feel called to. Get curious! • Check in with your asana as often as you can. Sitting at your work desk what does your pose look/feel like? Driving your car what does your position look/feel like? Walking your dogs what does your posture look/feel like?
Ram Dass famously said, "We're all the just walking each other home." Thanks for walking your path beside me. Thanks so much for sharing this practice with me. Thanks for continuing to show up - you are an inspiration. Kiara Flowers
REFERENCES: Living the Sutras by Kelly DiNardo and Amy Pearce-Hayden Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin Bryant The Yogi Assignment by Kino MacGregor The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi Yoga Toolbox - Joseph and Lilian LePage