Asana is rooted in "asa" which means to take a seat, to become, to establish, to dissolve, to be grounded, to be firm, to be easy and to be comfortable.
Patanjali Yoga Sutra states, Asana is that which has two basic qualities: sthira (still, stable, rooted) and sukha (effortless, easy, comfortable). Once such a seat is established with absolute effortlessness, one must focus the mind to the infinite. This helps transcend the dualities that are experienced.
It is a seat for the mind in the body.
It is not a pose, performance or physical position. Let us understand its scope. The entire foundation of the state of Yoga is based on allowing the mind to take a seat.
11 steps to do the abhyasa (practice) of an asana so that one may become that which one is practicing.
Sankalpa/ Firm resolve: Gather the mind in the whole body with the clear intention to be firmly yet effortlessly seated in the asana.
Shitali Karana/Act of relaxing: Relax the mind which is in the whole body
Prana Anushasana/Preparing the breath: Merge the mind with the breath bringing it to the midline
Avahana/Invocation: Have a vision of the asana that you choose to practice. This allows the pranic body to be established in the asana
Udgati/ Uprising: Gently go into the asana
Make required adjustments to be still
Scan the whole body for tense areas and consciously relax them
Allow the pleasantness to pervade the space occupied by the body
Become a witness to the changes in breath, body temperature, emotions and thought waves and stay relaxed throughout these waves
Try not to over write body's natural response with induced breathing. Let the mind, breath and body do its job and re-calibrate
Sign of Vata: If you feel dryness, stiffness, cold, light headed, confused, throbbing pains/aches take them as signs of Vata imbalance and focus on exhale.
Signs of Pitta: If you feel burning, anger, over heated, redness, sharp pains/aches, take them as signs of Pitta imbalance and focus on breathing in through the mouth (Shitali Prananayama) to bring cooling
Signs of Kapha: If you feel heavy, dull, sleepy, drowsy, stagnant, stuffy, dull ache/pain, take them as signs of Kapha imbalance and practice agin-sara/ kapalbhatti while in asana to break/mobilize the stagnant kapha.
Adhogati/ Downward flow: Gently come out of the asana physically. Make sure you take the same time to come out as you took to go in
Shamana/Pacification: Be an observer to your state of mind if it has shifted to rajas, tamas or sattva
Vrutanta/ Mental journaling:If you witness rajasic or tamasic tendencies, make sure your next practice is one that brings you to sattva and next time when you do the abhyasa (practice) to be in this asana, maintain samatvam (inner harmony) even if the breath is shaky
Smriti/ Recollection: Collect the pearls of experience as reflection, self inquiry and insights
Ishwar Pranidhana/ Surrender: Surrender and say "Idam na mama", it is not mine and let the experience burn into nothingness
Asana means to become that you which you are going to practice. It is not make believe, it is not mimicking, it is not performance, rigidity, adamancy, challenge or an accomplishment.
It is simply any body position in which mind takes a seat, expands and then is redirected towards a specific point which then triggers the extraction of the samskaras, vikrutis, vikalpas, negative thoughts and emotions held there. This helps in peeling the layer of blockages and enter into anandamaya kosha.
Indu Arora is a Master Teacher, Yoga and Ayurvedic Therapist. I am humbled and grateful to her for her powerful teachings.