The Hathayogic system of Asana has at its basis two profound ideas which bring with them many effective implications. The first is that of control by physical immobility, the second is that of power by immobility. The first object of the immobility of the Asana is to get rid of the restlessness imposed on the body and to force it to hold the Pranic energy instead of dissipating and squandering it. The experience in the practice of Asana is not that of a cessation and diminution of energy by inertia, but of a great increase, inpouring, circulation of force.
We are at one of these “Hours of God’, when the old bases get shaken, and there is a great confusion; but it is a wonderful opportunity for those who want to leap forward, the possibility of progress is exceptional.
Will you not be of those who take advantage of it? Let your body be prepared through physical education for this great change!
My blessings to all.
The practice of asanas forms part of the very ancient science of Hathayoga and consists of a number of poses which, apart from their yogic or psychological value, promote health, organic vigour and physical fitness. That this, system has stood the test of time to the present day indicates that it possesses some exceptional merit. In the introduction to his Synthesis [Yoga Sri Aurobindo says, ‘The chief processes of Hathayoga are asana and pranayama. By its numerous Asanas or fixed postures it first cures the body of that restlessness which is a sign of its inability to contain without working them off in action and movement the vital forces poured into it from the universal Life-Ocean, gives to it an extraordinary health, force and suppleness and seeks to liberate it from the habits by which it is subjected to ordinary physical Nature and kept within the narrow bounds of her normal operations.... By various subsidiary but elaborate processes the Hathayogin next contrives to keep the body free from all impurities and the nervous system unclogged for those exercises of respiration which are his most important instruments.’ [SABCL vol. 20, p.29]
Asanas are divided broadly into two groups — one, the meditative poses, for psychological development and the other for physical health and fitness. In this paper we’ shall mention the latter.
It must be explained at the outset that asanas should not be confused with contortionism of boneless acrobatic feats of the circus type. Though asanas of the advanced variety are difficult to perform, the simple poses can be practised by anybody with very beneficial results. But it is very important to note that like all other sciences, it should be studied and practised under an expert or else it can be dangerous and result in more harm than good.
In the body, it is the blood which most influences the glands and vital organs and maintains their efficiency by feeding them, repairing worn tissues and by carrying away the waste and toxins they produce.
In the modern system of physical exercise this is done by the action of the muscles and by giving progressive work to the heart and lungs. But in the system of asanas this is done by adopting such poses as would direct the blood to the particular gland or vital organ where it is required and so improve its efficiency and capacity.
There has long been a controversy as to which is the better system for the body and there is a tendency nowadays to decry the ancient system of asanas as outmoded and obsolete. But though asanas may not make one very strong physically or build big muscles, they give sound physical health and so condition the body in endurance and resistance to fatigue that they can give a good basis for the practice of all sorts of games, sports and other physical exercises. Moreover, their value in corrective and curative exercises is exceptional.
Hence in this age of synthesis, this ancient system should find its place side by side with the modern practice in any national scheme of physical education. And it is indeed now being introduced in many progressive institutions as part of physical training, at home and abroad.