Chapter 2: Stability – The physical body (Asana)
The yogi knows that the physical body is not only the temple for our soul but the means by which we embark on the inward journey towards the core. It is the physical body that allows to discover the aspect of ourselves that is the most concrete and accessible to all of us. It is here the Yogasana and Pranayama practice allow us to understand our body with ever greater insight and through the body to understand our mind and reach our soul.
2.1 The true nature of health
Most people ask from their body that it does not trouble them. They feel that they are healthy when they are not suffering from illness or pain, not aware of the imbalances that exist in their bodies and minds which will ultimately lead to diseases.
Yoga has a three fold impact on health. It keeps healthy people healthy, it inhibits or stops the development of diseases and it aids recovery from illness. Diseases are not just on a physical level but are also considered to be anything that disturbs your spiritual life and practice as well.
Health begins with firmness in body, deepens to emotional stability, then leads to intellectual clarity, wisdom and finally the unveiling of the soul. Physical health is not a commodity to be bargained for. Nor can it be swallowed in the form of drugs and pills. It has to be earned through sweat. During the practice of yogasana one experience a three level quest: 1) the external quest which brings firmness of body, 2) the internal quest which brings steadiness of intelligence and 3) the inner most quest which brings benevolence of spirit.
The body will prove to be an obstacle unless we transcend its limitations. The key to unlock our potential are the qualities of purity and sensitivity. Purity or simply cleanliness is not just on a moral level it also allows or permits to become sensitive. Sensitivity on the other hand is not weakness or vulnerability , it is more clarity of perception. Impurity or rigidity of body/mind creates a hard shell around us which cut us off in both ways; nourishment can not enter and toxic waste can not leave the body. The practice of asana will generate strength and flexibility which will allow us to keep our inner balance, control ourself and adopt to the ever changing character of nature.
Patanjali Ch2,46 gives us a basic definition on how we should practice asana in a way that leads to health and purity: “Sthira sukham asanam“. This can be translated as; “Asana is perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit.”