Prashant Iyengar has published a series of educational sessions online. These talks are a great resource to guide exploration in your asana practice.
In this lesson, we learn that asanas are not merely postures and how each asana has a specific effect on the body, the breath and the mind; asanas bring about the interactions between the body, mind and breath; and how each of these three act on the other, work on the other; they interact with each other and assist each other. The body position has an effect on the mind and breath while the the breath and mind can also be used to address the body.So, we can specifically address the body, the mind or the breath. Mindful profound inhalations and exhalations can have a different effect; The breath can also be confined to specific areas like the head, the chest or the abdomen pelvic. So one can imagine the profound knowledge that one can get through the practice of yoga. The latter part of the lesson speaks about the immunity aspect which cannot be gained overnight but how the head and abdomen play a role in it.
Yoga is a subject about education about oneself. it is a mirror for understanding oneself. We are supposed to be knowers of the ksetra [field] which is our sarira [very loosely translated as body]. The body in this case is not what the anatomists and physiologists study. It includes the gross [sthula], sukshma [subtle] and karana [causal]. Yoga is a pursuit to know our embodiment which has several layers from the annamaya, pranamaya, monamaya, vijnanamaya and finally the anandamaya. On the grosser plane, our embodiment is the body, mind and breath. We have to study how they interact, interplay and interface with each other. He then guides us practically in an asana on how to have a profound interaction between the body, mind and breath so that we no longer DO yoga but yoga happens on us!
The third lesson in this series talks about how one evolves from doing a posture to a yogasana. A posture only involves body culture but in a yogasana, the breath and mind are involved. It is no longer about doing yoga but the interactions, associations between body,, mind and breath in an asana – you become a witness – that brings one closer to the core of yoga. So asana is NOT a posture – although that is a lose translation.
For the full series of Prashant’s classes see the Iyengar Yoga YouTube page >