We arrive this week at the third limb of yoga, the Asanas, the postures. Phew, a limb that is easy to pronounce and easy (?) to understand. Maybe. The word Asana translates from Sanskrit as posture, “as” which means “to stay” or “be established in a particular position”. In Patanjali’s practice, there were likely only 5 positions, all involving sitting. Later texts, still ancient, added more. At that time, the goal of the asanas was to master the body to sit still for meditation.
While the asanas are an important part of our practice, when we practice yoga in totality, we are working to unify mind, body and breath. While many of us begin a yoga practice for the physical (body) work, we are kept interested by the mind, body, breath connection. In Heart of Yoga, Desikachar reminds us that an asana should have two important qualities: sthira and sukha. “Sthira is steadiness and alertness, Sukha refers to the ability to remain comfortable in a posture”. You may have heard me call these the “strength and ease” in a posture.
I refer to Heart of Yoga regularly in my practice. I was excited to find the link to the following excerpt from this book which describes some of Desikachar’s thoughts on an asana practice.
Our Practice – Gomukhasana – Cow Face Pose
As mentioned above, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras lists 5 seated poses. One of the other three primary ancient yoga texts, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, lists 15 poses, also all seated. In reviewing the list, the only one that I can determine that we still practice regularly, is cow face.
I like cow face as it stretches the hips, and shoulders as well as the triceps, chest, and ankles (when you add in the arms). The following article in Yoga Journal gives step by step instructions on how to do it.
Meditating – On our Yoga Practice
Keeping in mind the totality of a yoga practice, that it involves not only the asanas but the whole mind, body breath connection.
“Exercises are like prose, whereas yoga is the poetry of movements. Once you understand the grammar of yoga; you can write your poetry of movements.” – Amit Ray
Amit Ray is an Indian author, yogi, and spiritual guide. He has written several books on meditation and other spiritual topics. He was one of the pioneers in proposing compassionate artificial intelligence.
Note: photo from early March wild flowers blooming in Utah on Antelope Island.
Nurturing with Food – Potato Leek Pancakes
This recipe is easy (according to Peter, it is his recipe) and delicious (that part I can vouch for). The pancakes are crispy and as good as any fried version I have ever had. In the attached, Pete mentions that he serves them to me with vegan sour cream or applesauce; to be clear, it is sour cream. I like apple sauce, but on my potato pancakes it is sour cream all the way!
Link to recipe:
See you on the mat!