The third limb of yoga is Asana. Of the eight limbs of yoga the Asana practice is by far the most popular worldwide, however it wasn’t developed as a workout routine so we could look good and burn off some extra calories. An Asana practice is a means to promote, heal, and maintain physical and mental health. Our physical bodies are the vehicles with which we function in this world as we travel on our inward spiritual journeys. The Asanas help us develop control of our bodies by improving strength and flexibility, which helps us develop inner balance, and by opening up energy centers and channels (chakras, nadis), which leads to higher awareness. Through an Asana practice we can develop sound bodies so that we can also develop sound minds.
Originally there were 8,400,000 Asanas. Luckily we don’t have to master nor do we have to learn that many in order to develop self-awareness of our bodies, and in turn of our minds and souls. Asana, which means “seat”, was a practice developed so we could sit in one seat for a long period of time in silence…for meditation. An Asana practice is about developing wholeness and self-awareness of the body and the mind, of the interconnectedness of the body and mind, and of the body and mind’s interconnectedness to the Self and the Divine.
Those who aspire to the state of yoga should seek the Self in inner solitude through meditation. With body and mind controlled they should constantly practice one-pointedness, free from expectations and attachment to material possessions.
– Shri Krishna, Bhagavad Gita 6:10
Self-awareness is the opposite of self-consciousness. When you are self-aware, you are fully within yourself, not outside yourself looking in. You are aware of what you are doing without ego and pride…Watch yourself from the inside. It is full of silence.
– B.K.S. Iyengar