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What is Yoga Asana

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          What is Yoga Asana
Regardless of what particular school or type
of yoga we practice, it is unlikely that
many of us are really practicing yoga.
Rather we are more likely to focus on only
1 of the 8 limbs of yoga - yoga asana.
Yoga asana are the physical positions and
postures of yoga that started were really
only starting to develop in importance with
the development of Hatha Yoga. While exact
dates are not well established, yoga has
existed for a lot longer than the practice
of modern asana.
These asana have been developed over more
than 1500 years to promote physical health
as part of a greater Hatha yoga practice.
Each asana is carefully designed to focus on
particular areas of the body. The specific
effects of an asana include:

Building strength in specific muscle groups
Stretching specific soft tissues including
muscles, ligament and tendons Opening
specific joints Developing balance and
concentration Massaging and stimulating
internal organs Individually these effects
can have significant benefits, but by
combining individual asana into a carefully
developed and balanced routine the Hatha
yoga practitioner can develop their entire
physical body, internal organ function and
mental clarity.
How do yoga asana work
Although yoga and asana are not considered
to be scientific by western definitions, the
practice of asana is considered by yoga
masters to be very carefully developed and
refined based on several well-developed
underlying principles and health objectives.
Gravity
One of the key principles of asana is that
of gravity. Asana use gravity in a variety
of ways, the most important being in
developing strength. By resisting body
weight on arms or legs the asana can develop
upper body or leg strength and muscle tone
in the same way a weightlifter would in a
gym. With yoga asana the weight being
resisted varies only with our own body
weight, and each pose can only apply the
same amount of body weight meaning that all
muscles are developed proportionately so
long as each pose is held for an equivalent
amount of time. After we can easily hold
our body weight in a particular pose,
holding the pose for longer builds
additional strength and stamina.
Blood flow and nutrients
Blood flow to specific areas of the body
brings many health benefits. By working
specific muscles, soft tissue and joints,
the body brings additional blood flow
providing the needed oxygen. This
additional blood also brings needed
nutrition to those areas, which is essential
for general health as well as the speedy
recovery from injury and damage. The key
way to bring blood to these areas is
through stretching. In addition to the
increased blood flow, stretching loosens and
relaxes soft tissue such as muscles,
ligaments and tendons and opens joints, all
of which helps to relieve tension and
pressure on nerves in these areas.
Deep breathing
During the practice of asana, we are
encouraged to control our breath with long
deep inhalations and exhalations. In some
poses it is even encouraged to still the
breath with the lungs full or the lungs
empty for periods of 20 seconds to 1
minute. The first benefit of this
controlled breathing is to bring our focus
and consciousness to the present, to our
current actions. By being able to control
this focus, we can improve our
concentration. Secondly by breathing in
this controlled way, we improve the
efficiency of our respiratory system,
bringing more oxygen to the body and to the
organs, muscles and soft tissue being worked
on.
Central nervous system and internal organs
Although yoga texts don't tend to describe
yoga in the terms used by modern medicine,
many of the concepts are analogous to
medical structures. With nerves represented
as Nadis or energy channels and the Chakras
representing key glands. The purpose of
asana is to rejuvenate the whole body by
conditioning these individual systems to
make sure they are working optimally.
One of the key focuses of asana is in on
the central nervous system, which comprises
the spine and brain. In yoga this could be
referred to as the Nadis and crown Chakra.
The Central Nervous System is one of the
most critical structures in the human body,
controlling all movement and thought and
passing the control signals to all the
nerves throughout the body. Clearly if the
function of this core control channel is
impeded, it can have an effect on the
function of the whole body. One of the
plainest examples of this is through back
pain and sciatica. Through the misalignment
of, or damage to, the spinal disks or
vertebrae that protect the spinal cord and
root nerves, those same nerves can be
pinched or irritated which can lead to
intense pain and numbness in the back, as
well as referred pain and numbness in the
legs or feet. While the causes of damage
to the spine can be many and varied, poor
posture is a key cause of back pain. Asana
for the spine help to bring the fluids that
contain the nutrient required to repair the
damaged soft tissues and can b effective in
healing back problems. However these asana
are not always sufficient since poor posture
and back pain can also be cause by other
elements such as tight hamstring muscles in
the back of the legs or gluteus and
piriformis muscle groups in the buttocks.
Therefore a holistic approach is required to
correct the back injury.
Other key systems that asana are designed to
address is the glandular and lymphatic
systems, particularly the endocrine system.
The endocrine glands, which include the
thymus, thyroid, pituitary pineal,
hypothalamus, adrenal and sex glands release
their secretions directly into the blood
stream. The secretions made by these glands
have an enormously profound effect on the
body's health function controlling
everything from height and weight to
metabolism and emotions. Asana are designed
to stimulate these glands in a variety of
ways from increasing blood flow to those in
the brain (hypothalamus, pituitary and
pineal) or thyroid in the neck to gently
massage and stimulate through bends and
twists of the abdomen.
The next key systems that asana stimulate
are the internal organs and digestive
systems. Both of these systems are critical
to taking in nutrition and expelling waste
and toxins from the body, and are
particularly important for good health.
Asana improve the functioning of these
systems through stimulation and gentle
massage provided by abdominal bends and
twist as well as movement of the hips and
legs.

								
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