JOIN ME JULY 6-AUGUST 10 for my ONLINE SUMMER COURSE: ASANA SKILL BUILDING TECHNIQUES AND PHILOSOPHY OF THE HATHA YOGA PRADIPIKA.
In Ashtanga yoga when we stay in a pose for a prolonged length of time we call it being in “the state of the asana”. We single out the fact of holding a position and give it a name because our practice also includes doing many transition poses that we don’t hold. You might even say that half of our practice is doing momentary transition poses and the other half is holding poses and being in the state of the asana.
Also it is true that to be in a pose is to be in a state of body and mind. To be in the state of the asana is not an ordinary way of being in your body or using your mind. It is an exceptional, heightened state of being where, through pure effort and intently focusing your mind, you work to become saturated with vitality, awareness and dynamism. You expend the energy that is necessary to achieve the state of the asana to train yourself to become more skillful in being here now.
One main part of practicing is to continually wonder about how to be in your pose when you are staying there, what to think about, what is the goal(s), what to do with your body, when to be effortful and when to relax?
In this podcast I answer these questions and I discuss the concept of action in the state of the asana and give tips on how to come to a more subtle understanding of yoga through creating actions throughout the body when you are in a pose. I also talk about how the famous yoga sutra 2-46 ( Stira (Steady) Sukham (Agreeable) Asana (Posture)) provides you with two essential qualities to seek and to manifest when you are in the state of the asana.
One main pursuit when staying in your pose is to attempt to apply actions to all the various parts of you throughout your entire body.
Definition of action:
The fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an end
Activity, work, effort, exertion, a thing done, a deed, an act, gesture
-MANY WORDS TO DESCRIBE STHIRA AND SUKHA
I would venture to say that steady and agreeable are the two most common words use to describe these two known yoga terms. But there many alternative words that are worth coming to know in order to develop your ability to manifest these qualities in your pose.
Definition of Sthira:
Constant, dependable, fixed, stable, hard, undoubted
Resolute, calm, steady, trustworthy
Not wavering or tottering
Lasting, strong, still, settled, motionless
Durable, firm, compact, unfluctuating, certain, solid
Earth, stubbornness, resistance
Definition of Sukham:
Pleasant, comfy, joy, delight, felicity, happiness, pleasure
Gentle, comfortable, ease, snugness, convenient
Running swiftly or easily
In my practice I also equate Stira and Sukha with the elemental forces of Earth (Stira) and Space or Ether (Sukha). Then I work to come alive in the state of the asana by attempting to manifest these elemental forces inside my body. I begin with a gross, physical, and literal idea of the element and then work with increasingly subtle interpretations of earth and space. I use the definitions of the following words to go from gross to subtle in my thinking about manifesting the elements of earth and space in order to realize the full potential of being in the state of the asana.
In the dictionary Earth is defined as:
the world, the land surface upon which we walk and live and strike our stance to arrive in the state of the asana
In the dictionary Space is defined as: a continuous area or expanse which is free, available or unoccupied. Room, expanse, extent, capacity, area, volume, scope
The dimensions of height, depth, and width within which all things move
I contemplate these literal definitions to remember that my posture is taking place upon the land surface that is our home and my body is also situated in space. I contemplate the extent or the expanse of space that surrounds me in my pose.
-BHUMI IS A SANSKRIT WORD THAT DESCRIBES EARTH AND AKASHA DESCRIBES SPACE.
Definition of Bhumi:
Floor, ground, land, earth, base of a geometrical figure, floor of a house,
Examples of earth inside the body: feet, legs, hands, arms in contact with ground and these parts of you (your appendages) serving as the foundation of each pose. Transforming your legs and arms into levers—long, strong instruments (like a staff, rod, crowbar et) that help you gain leverage to support and activate your spine in your pose. Pelvic floor is the earth center of the body. Activating your center with breathing and bandhas is a way to manifest the element earth and the quality of stira when you are in the state of the asana.
Definition of Akasha :
Vacuity, ether, sky, atmosphere, free or open space, heaven, bird, produced in the sky, view, spacious, extensive, aerial
Examples of space inside the body—the microcosm—the space inside the body from the boundary of skin inward to the marrow of the bones—use awareness to seal off your body in order to create an inner world and then you become absorbed what takes place the space occupied by the sealed container. Abdominal cavity—where uddhyana bandha takes places as ‘flying up’ gesture that transforms the hollows, empties, clears out the adominal cavity. Palate—where Khecari Mudra (Space Maker) hollows, empties, cleanses, makes spacious and expansive your palate. Orienting your pose from the view or perspective of your awakened palate is how you manifest the element of space and the quality of sukha in the state of the asana.
Lastly I use earth and space as qualities to bring me into awareness and communion with the central axis (Shushumna Nadi) of my body. Muladhara is the root chakra located at the origin of the middle axis and Khecari is the mudra that is located at the upper end of the axis in the palate area. Working with these concepts is a great way to move from gross to subtle in working to manifest the qualities of stira and sukham to enhance being in the state of the asana.
Definition of Mula:
Original, basis, base, root, (directory), origin, source, beginning, firmly, fixed, foundation
Definition of Dhara:
Keeping, carrying, sustaining, containing, preserving, possessing, holding, supporting, bearing,
Definition of Khecari:
Kha= cavity of the body, hollow, cavern
Cari=Moving, walking or wandering about, doing, practicing, proceeding, acting, living, resembling, coming near, roams, spy.