“Yoga is an art and the asanas are a poetic expression of that art – symbols which can unlock the truth and lead us toward the Light.”
The most common reason students give for taking a yoga asana class is that they are seeking relief from some musculoskeletal problem, or they want to learn how to relax. Few people express an interest in the spiritual aspects – in the beginning. However, those who stay with the practice inevitably begin to make certain discoveries. First they often do feel better physically. They begin to breathe and move more freely. Their state of mind changes, their concentration improves, and they become more alert, more fully alive. And then something else begins to emerge: the sense that while this is a very desirable state of affairs, there is something more. The student begins to get glimpses of an aspect of self beyond the physical, mental, emotional levels – a glimpse of the truth about this entity called “myself.”
Each asana affords certain physical, physiological, and psychological benefits. Beyond this there also lies a mystical or spiritual meaning. Each asana creates a certain meditative state of mind. But why these positions? Why these names?
One reason for these postures is that they are anatomically correct, and when properly practiced utilize the full and natural range of movement of the human body. They promote efficient functioning of the internal organs, balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, and create an optimum state of health and well-being for each individual to fulfill their own destiny.
The asanas are also symbols. When one practices, they make a symbolic gesture with their body, mind, and breath, and their individual experience builds a bridge between these aspects of themselves and the source of energy which creates and sustains them.
One group of asanas is named after animals, some are geometric structures, some are universal symbols; many arise from ancient myths. Yoga is an art and the asanas are a poetic expression of that art – symbols which can unlock the truth and lead us toward the Light. – Shirley Deventry French