On The Inquiry of Asana_ What is the Perfect Pose_

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					On The Inquiry of Asana: What is the Perfect Pose?


More and more people are coming to yoga classes and in response, yoga teachers are drawn
to making deeper inquiries and increasing our capacity for community service. An important
aspect of this cycle of teacher development is the ongoing inquiry into the nature of asana.


There are many puzzles that draw critical interest to yoga postures. For example, a majority of
us teachers over years of aspiration have experienced or sustained an injury while
experimenting with asana. Another example is that the content of a yoga class or even the
general ‘comprehension of what yoga is’ in our culture is eclipsed by the branch of asana. What
is our cultures ‘comprehension’ of yoga that draws us so quickly and forcefully to asana and to
the physical body?


Our culture is largely informed by a mechanistic world view which translates simply as clinging
to observable physical phenomenon. In this light the subtler and intimate realms of organically
flowing breath, the value of emotion, even the subtler intuitive and unitive forces can be easily
segregated, pinched out of consciousness and displaced instead by physical appearance,
performance, and bottom lines.


On The Inquiry of Asana: What is the Perfect Pose?

To be clear it is the imbalance that is the issue – that of the physically observable self
dominating our concerns. According to the National Institute of Mental Health eighty percent of
girls ages nine through eleven identify that managing their weight to avoid becoming big is a
concern. How did that happen? Is it any surprise when a newcomer to yoga and asana – left to
their own self-talk – becomes overwhelmed by their physical body as ‘embarrassing and
painful’? Is it any surprise that the eager among us sustain physical injury from yoga asana
which is identified by sports injury physicians as a growing trend linked to the surging popularity
of yoga.


An important element in ‘the inquiry of asana’ is to also understand that our collective culture
has specific predispositions in relating to the physical body. In this light it is our professional
responsibility as yoga teachers to be vigorously and compassionately address these
attachments as soon as we find them in the field of our studios.


In the ‘inquiry of asana’ the considered approach of Kripalu Yoga as an offering to our
communities offers a valuable and healing balance. Kripalu Yoga incorporates the tradition of
Hatha, defined as ‘sun-moon’ or ‘dynamic force’, and is willful, physically oriented in order to
challenge our connective tissue, strengthen and relax our bodies in order to holistically impact
and awaken to the depths of our being. It is the sun reflected on the full moon which illumines
the darkness or unconsciousness.


Kripalu Yoga also furthers the inquiry of practice by exploring the tradition of Raja also known
as the Classical or Ashtanga (eight limbed) based on the subtler and significantly older tradition
of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. In the system of Classical Yoga asana is important but it is also a
minority - only one of eight limbs. It is very interesting to note that asana is specifically preceded
by the yamas and niyamas which include the cultivation of ahimsa or non-harming and also
followed by breath inquiry, sense withdrawl and the distinctions of meditation. All of which takes

On The Inquiry of Asana: What is the Perfect Pose?

us beyond the surface mind and makes space for the healing intelligence of life force. As
teachers in our communities there is a clear need to make space for the broader and subtler
spectrum of human experience beyond the physical – made accessible through the tools of the
eight limbs.


On reading the Yoga Sutras in specific regard to asana Patanjali states that there are four
measures of the perfect posture namely comfort, steadiness, effortlessness and infinite. The
direct effect of ‘perfecting the posture’ according to Patanjali is that there arises a quality of
mind which has the capacity to heal. It is this magical quality of mind which was also highly
regarded and long sought after by the alchemists of the west. The alchemists refer to this
quality as a substance called the ‘philosophers stone’ which is an image based on a lodestone
or magnet – a substance capable of uniting the opposites in one body and thereby represent a
state of wholeness or healing. This is the measure of a perfect pose according to the Classical
Path – that it precipitates the healing intelligence within.


At the moment, we find that beneath the umbrella of Yoga there are unlimited possibilities to the
functionality and creative connections when it comes to framing and designing variations on the
theme of yoga in order to meet the diversity of needs in our communities. In the workshop ‘The
Four Measures of Asana’ we will be exploring in asana more depth and inquire together on how
to integrate this ancient and esteemed healing approach to ‘perfecting the pose’ and what that
means as yoga teachers and community servants.


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Description: Asana: "warm back" exercise - increase the power of the magic formula back. "Warm back" exercises can improve posture, keeping the spine flexible, the body becomes more flexible, more agile thinking.