Purpose of doing asana

Notes from Sharath Conference, Mysore


यथा तृले रविः प्रत्यारेत्प्र्‌।
तृतीय
गस्थित योगी विकारसं हरेीत्युपनित्‌।।

yathā tṛtīyakāle tu raviḥ pratyāharetprabhām
tṛtīyaṅgasthito yogī vikāraṁ manasaṁ haredītyupaniṣat।। 

Similar to the Sun taking his rays inwards at the third period of dusk, the yogi who is the third limb would control his mind. Yoga Chudamani Upanishad.

Sharath explained it this way: At sunrise the sun is bright, at noon, it is harsh, but at sunset it has withdraw all of its power so it becomes calm. Yogi is who becomes stable in asana practice and removes the disorders of the mind, so he becomes calm.

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Most of us start our yoga journey through asana. Asana is the foundation for our spiritual journey, but we need to be careful because yoga has become too physical that it has become dangerous. So we need to understand what asana means.

Yoga is like the sun, everyone can take energy from it, but if we are not careful we burn ourselves. If we look with binoculars directly at the sun we become blind. Yoga has a system. If we follow a linage and do it properly something good will happen, if not, it can be harmful.

Yoga must come through a linage. Nobody owns it. 

The third limb of yoga, asana, must be practiced following a method, evam parampara-preaptam, guru-shishya parampara. This means that a teacher is the one who will guide you through this journey. There are no books that explain the proper method. In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, there are only three sutras that mention asana, but they do not explain how to practice.

Sthirasukhamāsanam 2.46
Prayatnaśaithilyānatasamāpattibhyām 2.47

Tatō dvandvānabhighātaḥ 2.48

By practicing properly we calm the mind, we connect our body, mind and breath. As they become stable, nothing disturbs us. Once you practice ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness) will come, and there will be no conflicts within you.

Once you do a proper practice, changes occur within yourself. This is very important. Your mind and body opens and gets broader, so you are not stuck, so you are able to let go. Anger, attachment, jealousy, selfishness, fear will cease of arising. You will be free of everything.

Yoga is funny; sometimes you never know what yoga is. Yoga is what you realize within you. Is like the taste of masala dosa.

When you practice and become more focus, when you get rid of all delusions, that means yoga is happening within you.

Asanas will come and go that doesn’t matter, but prayatna (effort) must be always there, as the real knowledge is within us. So a proper practice will bring calm and stability, there would be no vikarate (disorders of the mind because of no proper understanding), our minds will become more focus, clearer and the other limbs will become more approachable. This is purpose of doing asana.

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Sanskrit version of the Upanishads verses quoted by Sharath where taken from: http://www.vedarahasya.net/yogachudamani.htm