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Relationship between Yoga and Āsana

What we know about the birth of Yoga and Āsana and whether they began together

The birth of Yoga is traced to northern India over 5,000 years ago. However, some historians state that this practice has existed for over 12,000 years in highly advanced societies, which existence is strongly being considered by main archeology and history investigators of today’s time. You can read more about in Graham Hancock‘s books, or watch Ancient Civilization documentary.

Regardless of when the birth of Yoga took place, what we can say is that Yoga, in its practical point of view, is a spiritual practice that uses several practical techniques which are said to prepare the body for a greater source of “energy” or knowledge, which will transcend the human to a highly conscious and free state, exceeding physical and mental limitation. The explanation of Yoga can differ according to the culture, historical context, and school system, but it is very common to all the practice of āsana.

Āsana was first mentioned in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (400 B.C.), but there are statues and figures representing this physical practice that predate this book. One of the earliest examples of Yoga in sculpture comes from the Pashupati seal with the Pashupati Shiva sitting in the familiar padmāsana (leg crossed position) surrounded by animals. It is more than 4,000 years old. There isn’t specific evidence that links āsana with the birth of Yoga, but due to this seal we can state that their relationship is at least 4,000 years old and affirm that the practice of āsana is a very important aspect in traditional Yoga.

So what is Āsana?

Āsana is the physical practice in Yoga. In most forms of Yoga, it is the main technique practiced. It is, definitely,  the most common one. It has undergone  many transformations and many diverse forms exist now.

But what is the ultimate goal of this practice? How is it linked to Yoga?

We can state, by the first description of āsana in the Yoga Sutra, that the purpose of āsana is to prepare the body and mind for states of union through meditation. Āsana was basically used to harvest the physical condition to be able to sit down for long periods of time and create states of mental stability and focus to obtain these states of union. And considering its meaning, we can find specific evidence of this factor because the word āsana literally means “sitting down”.

Today we see Āsana being used for many other reasons. Sometimes the spiritual context is discharged and is only used for its physical and organical benefits. This is beautiful because it shows that we live in times of freedom and that we do not have to fit into specific categories or belief systems to practice Yoga or Āsana The reasons may differ, but in the end, the result will always be positive for the body and mind.

If you want to learn more about the modern-day practice of āsana check out the article Āsana today.


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