Today is the first day of the A to Z challenge! For those of you who don't know, I've been working on obtaining my yoga teacher's certification for the past year and am just a little over a month from graduating with my RYT200. As such, I figure there's no better way to spend this month than teaching you folks some of what I've learned.
Today's post is about Asana- a word which (roughly) translated into English means "pose". If any of you have taken a yoga class and heard the instructor call out the poses in Sanskrit then you know that "Padmasana", for example, means "Lotus pose" wherein the first part of the word is the name (Padm for lotus in this case) and the second part is the category (asana meaning pose). So Malasana means squat (mal) pose (asana).
Malasana (Squat Pose)
Here in America, asana have become synonymous with yoga itself. If you tell someone you're going to a yoga class they're likely to say how great is is that you exercise (because that's what we've turned it into over here). But originally asana, and what we've come to think of them as, had nothing whatsoever to do with what yoga was.
Originally, the word asana described the place where one sat in order to meditate (the primary path to spiritual development). That's right folks, the yoga mat itself was asana. Over time, the term began to be used to describe the position in which one sat, as well. The first ever asana that we're aware of is a relaxed seated position with the instruction described as "to be seated in a position that is firm, but relaxed". (A.K.A. meditative pose)
Individuals pursuing spiritual development by sitting in a meditative asana for hours and hours found the usual side effects of such an endeavor: tingling and numbness in the body from holding still for so long. The other asana developed out of necessity as a ritual to be performed before sitting for meditation in order to increase circulation in the body so that one could more comfortably sit. Yes, you heard me, all the things we do now originally came out of a need to stretch.
Fast forward several thousand years and travel over a few continents and you have us Americans referring to the asana as if that's all that yoga is. Back in India where so many different kinds of yoga are still practiced you rarely see individuals doing asana because it's such a tiny portion of what yoga is (and of course we'll come back to that at Y).
I hope this was interesting for you all. Please come back tomorrow for B to learn more!