Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Blackberries, Asana and the Eight Limbs of an Ashtanga Practice

I began a walk through the Yoga Sutras about a year ago with this post: Yoga Sutra 1.1: Yoga Begins Now.

The walk slowed to a winding sort of stroll with lots of stopping to look around along the way. I've found that as I read each next sutra, it's nice to let it drift on the wind a bit and see where it settles before I say anything about it here.

Recently, I seem to be running into lots of conversations, posts and articles on the value (or not) of asana practice.

The Yoga Sutras have this to say in 2.29:
"Moral injunctions (yama), fixed observances (niyama), posture (asana), regulation of breath (pranayama), internalization of the senses towards their source (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and absorption of consciousness in the self (samadhi), are the eight constituents of yoga."

When I look at the way my practices unfold each morning, I think each of the limbs is so entangled in the others that there cannot really be a separation of asana from the rest. The eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga look in my mental image, more like wild blackberry shrubs complete with thorns and tasty looking fruit, than the graceful, tidy tree often depicted.

Asana, as I understand it at this moment, is a way of placing the body with attention that makes space for the other limbs. At one point in my day or in the evolution of my practice, asansa may look like the primary series. At another, it may look like whatever posture my body needs to adopt to meet the needs of a moment.

I think if I define yoga asana as moving with attention (or sitting...or standing...), then yoga asana can become something that quietly follows me off the mat in the morning and provides needed steadiness and ease during the rest of my day.

...and perhaps with enough time and practice, I'll navigate the tangled brambles that are the eight limbs and just be left with fruit...

No comments:

Post a Comment