Ásanas ( or what are commonly refered to as yoga exercises) are calm, quiet and easy postures which are held with proper inhalation and exhalation. They exercise the nerves, tissues, glands and organs of the human body. While practising ásanas one enjoys physical comfort and mental composure.
The word ásana itself means “a position in which one feels comfortable”. No forcing should be exercised with ásanas rather one should practice ásanas comfortably without pushing hard beyond one’s limit.
The regular practice of ásanas keeps the body healthy and cures many diseases, sharpens the mind and control the different emotions.
There are strong connection between the body and the mind. While the ásanas are physical postures they control the body and mind to great extent.
Our gland secrete hormones and these hormones peferom different physical and mental functions. Any defect in these hormonal secretions disturbs their related different physical functions and creates imblances in many different emotions.
Ásanas gently massage and exercise these gland helping to regulate their hormonal secretions bringing balance into their physical and mental functioning. This is one of the most distinguishable effect of ásanas from any other kind of exercies as the effect of ásanas is deeper than only affecting the muscles and the joints, much deeper; exercising the nerves, glands and organs.
Here are some of the benifits of regular practice of ásanas:
1- Increase the flexibility of the body.
2- Make the skin smooth and shiny.
3- Rectify glandular defects and balance hormonal secretions in order to control different emotions.
4- Keep the organs and glands healthy and young.
5- Cure from depression, hopelessness, melancholia and many other psychic disorders.
6- Cure from insomnia.
7- Increase memory.
8- Cure from many different diseases.
9- Balance the body and mind.
10- Withdraw the mind from undesirable thinking.
11- Increase mental sharpness and concentration.
12- Increase will power.
13- Prepare the mind for subtler and higher sádhaná [spiritual practices].
14- Slow down aging and increase longivity.
Yogis in ancient times upon living in nature noticed that animals upon holding certain postures they become strong in certain qualities. Yogis on trying to immitate these posture they discovered ásanas which by holding them in certain way they managed to cultivate some of those qualities those animals were strong in. For example by immitating the peacock the peacock (mayúra) ásana was discovered which by practicing it regulary one can develop as strong digestion as the peacock and one can overcome fear from public performance ( It is very natural for peacocks to display and show off their beauty).
Ásanas have been devloping over thousands of years and there are more than 50000 of which many repeat each other in different form. In Ananda Marga Rajadhiraja yoga there 42 ásanas. From these 42 ásanas there are few basic ones that can be practised by a person. The rest of the ásanas are prescribed based on special and personal physical and mental health requirements.
So as long as there no specific situations when spific ásanas need to be prescribed, a person can enjoy the benifits of ásanas by practising only these basic ásanas.
There are 3 basic ásanas for women and 4 basic ásanas for men ( due to some difference in hormonal system between women and men). The 3 basic women ásanas require no spicific diet while the 4 basic ásanas for men require a specific diet which is sentient sattvic vegetarian.
For men who are not following sentient sattvic diet the 3 basic women ásanas are prescribed.
To attain maximum benifit of ásanas the secret is not in performing very sophisticated and challenging ásanas rather is in the regular practice however the ásanas might appear to be simple. The challenge is not by holding very difficult ásanas but in practising simple ásanas very regularly, on daily basis.
Here is the list of these three basic ásanas that can be practised by anyone regardless of following the yogic diet.
1- Yogásana or yogamudrá (yoga posture):
Sit in bhojanásana. Pass both hands backward and grip the left wrist with the right hand. Then bring the forehead and the nose into contact with the floor, breathing out during the process. Maintain this state for eight seconds and then rise up, breathing in. Practise eight times.
2- Bhújauṋgásana (snake posture):
Lie down on your chest. Supporting the weight on the palms, raise the chest, directing your head backward. Look at the ceiling. Breathe in while rising, and after having risen, hold your breath for eight seconds. Come down to original position while breathing out. Practise eight times.
3- diirgha prańáma (long bowing posture):
Kneel down, and holding the palms together, extend the arms upward, keeping them close to the ears. Then bend forward in a posture of bowing down, touching the floor with the tip of the nose and the forehead. The buttocks must continue to touch the heels. While bending down breathe out and stay in a state of complete exhalation for eight seconds. Then rise up, breathing in. Practise eight times.
To assimilate maximum effect of the ásanas one is advised to directly after practising ásanas to do self-massage from top to toe, directly on the skin. This helps in reabsorbing any skin sercretions back into the skin and to allow the hormonal and lymphatic circulation and prana to flow over the whole body. This also allows the practitioner to come regularly in contact with one’s own body.
After self-massage relaxation in Shavásana (corpse posture) is done by lying quietly on the back like a corpse, keeping the arms away from the chest, on the floor, in a perfectly relaxed condition. It is practised for any period between 2-10 minutes.
After Shavásana one should not come in contact with water ( drinking, washing, etc) for at least 10 minutes. This is not to avoid any sort of self-harm but to assimilate maximum benifits of the ásanas. Avoiding water for 10 minutes at least after Shavásana allow the the hormonal and lymphatic circulation and prana to flow uninterruptedly.
Ásanas are very special exercies and there are certain restrictions with them(some of them mentioned earlier)
1- Stomach should be empty before ásanas or you haven’t eaten for at least 3 hours.
2- No smoke or sharp smell in the room when practising ásanas, including insence, newly painted rooms, etc.
3- Half bath or full bath before ásanas.
4- Short nails.
5- Practising on a blanket or a mat, instead of the bare ground, to prevent catching a cold or losing any secretions that the body secrets during ásanas .
6- There should be no current of wind in the room, as otherwise you could easily catch cold, while keeping fresh air in the room is necessary.
7- A practitioner should follow sentient sattvic diet, except if practising only the three basic ásanas.
8- Air should be flowing freely from the left nostril or both of the nostrils. If the left nostril is blocked then only the three basic ásanas should be practised. ( The three basic ásanas requires no restriction of diet or nostrils).
9- After ásanas self-massage should be done, followed by relaxation in the Shavásana, and for ten minutes after that one should not come in touch with water.
10- Directly after ásanas one should avoid doing free-hand exercices like running and other sport. It is not prohibited to practice any other kind of sport if you are a yoga practitioner, but not directly after ásanas.
Besides ásanas there is one powerful yoga dance called Kaoshiki with amazing benifits for the body and remarkably uplifting effect on the mind. It strengthens the mind and allows self-expression. It is called the dance for the expansion of the mind.
The word itself ”Kaoshiki” is derived from the sanskrit word ”kosha” which means ”layer of the mind”. This dance has been given this particular name as it allows to open up the layers of the mind. It strengthen the mind and brings control over the different emotions, not by supressing them but by strengthen them and balancing them, so that emotions become an asset when they are in balance instead of a liabelity when they are out of balance. This dance can cure from many psychic disorders such as depression, melancholia, hopelessness, fear, hysteria and creates many happy hormones. On other hand and on physical level it is great remedy for many liver and pancreas disorders, great remedy for female reproductvie disorders and it exercises the whole glands controling their hormonal secretions. It exercies the spine, neck, joints, waist, promotes flexiblity and cures arthritis, gout and rheumatism. It increases longevity and increases the capacity to work until 75-80 years of age. It removes wrinkles, lethargy and adds charm and shine to the face and skin.
After having learned the dance below is a song that can add more fun for your kaoshiki dance!