Differentiating Asanas from Yoga

In celebration of International Women’s Day, I #ChooseToChallenge those who keep on mistaking yoga as any of the following: stretching, a headstand, a person who is calm and cool.

You are correct in everything except for one, they may represent yoga but there is more to stretching (passive and active), a headstand (or any complicated inversions and asanas out there) or a person who is calm and cool (have you heard about introspection?).

If you haven’t watched my videos on Common Misconceptions About Yoga then check out the links above. These videos support as mentioned in the websites, Yoga International, Wellness Living and Feel Better, Be Happy.

So to clarify, an asana is any of the poses or postures that you see on the social media. Now, the asana is just one limb of yoga as mentioned by Patanjali (2.29) in Yoga Sutras.

Let me break it down for you:

  1. Yoga is stretching. I call out ‘fitness gurus’ changing names for their jargon. While it is easier to understand and holding these “exercises” there post-workout or as part of cooling down, holding it for several breaths or staying for 1 to 2 minutes is the Hatha discipline. Hatha is a Sanskrit term meaning the sun and the moon, or the force and the ease or the yin and the yang. So Hatha Yoga is about breathing in to poses for a long time helping the yogi in peeling off the True Self (purusha).
  2. Yoga is about headstands. An asana (poses) is what I mentioned before, one of the eight limbs (ashta – eight, anga – limbs) of yoga. A headstand does not equate to an enlightened nor a successful yogi, it is just a yogi who specializes in sirsasana (Sirsa – head, asana – pose). While it is commendable for a yogi or any practitioner to do a headstand, there is no bearing of a yogi that could not. Like someone may take a picture of someone posing the headstand for a couple of seconds (#forthegram) but holding it there for 10 to 24 breaths or even more is a different meditation altogether of yoga.
  3. Yoga is a person who is calm and cool. Believe me, as a yogi and as a hyper sensitive person, I cannot contain myself especially with individuals who have the guts to rationalize the inequalities in society. That is perpetuating the broken system and staying in the side of privilege. While we enjoy being silent for minutes or maybe hours, we do not really clear our minds but we just acknowledge the thoughts and do not linger.

If this is not yet clear to you at this point that an asana is just a pose and is not solely yoga. I would like to add that as a yoga teacher, I am compelled to reach out to those beginners of these “It doesn’t mean…, you are not practicing yoga.”

  1. It doesn’t mean you cannot hold a pose (asana), you are not practicing yoga. It means you are trying.
  2. It doesn’t mean you cannot quiet your mind, you are not practicing yoga. You will arrive to staying grounded and being present with your thoughts and letting them go.
  3. It doesn’t mean you can stay on a crow pose (kakasana or bakasana) makes you an automatically a better yogi, you are just good with your crow pose.
  4. It doesn’t mean you are overweight or even underweight that you can no longer do yoga, there are flexible practitioners regardless how heavy or light they are.
  5. It doesn’t mean you are not wearing clothes for yoga, you are not practicing yoga. You are a beginner, embrace being lost!
  6. It doesn’t mean you are contemplating and as if you are dancing in every pose, you are not practicing yoga. You are, you are just more expressive and in touch of your emotions. Keep doing you!
  7. It doesn’t mean you do not know the Yoga Sutras that you are not a certified yogi. Even the most experienced, seasoned or those studying the philosophy may still need revisit their understanding of yoga that is why there is the Yamas and Niyamas.
  8. It doesn’t mean you cannot rest in the corpse pose or savasana, you are not practicing yoga. Maybe you have parts in your body that need to be addressed by a therapist or a physician.
  9. It doesn’t mean you are not sweaty, you are not practicing yoga. Maybe you have not reached your peak to create that internal heat in your body along the movements.
  10. Finally, it doesn’t mean you cannot afford a membership, you are not practicing yoga. There is Youtube to help!

Stay foolish and stay kind. Be still, or flow.

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