By Michael Ortiz, LTY trainee 2016
When looking at the 8-limbed approach of Astanga Yoga, the 1st limb we reach after the moral and ethical code (yama/niyama) is Asana. Although the Asana practice is but briefly mentioned in the Yoga Sutras and even at that it is referring more to the seated posture for meditation, for me this is one of the most important limbs. I say this because without it, I would have never started working so vigilantly on the other 7 limbs and would have never discovered or begun to experience the philosophy, which is yoga. I started doing yoga because I was a runner and I felt it might be able to help me in a couple of ways. I felt it could help me stretch and strengthen my muscles and would help me mentally when I was on long runs. Both were true, but I got so much more that I anticipated. This being said it is the “physical or asana” portion of the practice that drew me in and kept me coming back for the first couple of years. The more I practiced, the more I started connecting my body with my breath, then my mind and the yoga started penetrating deeper within me. By the end of my 2nd year practicing yoga, I stopped running completely because it was taking time away from me doing yoga and I felt it was becoming an impediment to me progressing in my asana practice. Running is very tough on the body over time and it gives you very tight hips, which is counterintuitive to the yoga practice. Slowly over time the asana practice has helped me to heal the damage that running and my former lifestyle in general has done to my body. I also started to really notice a correlation between the food I was putting in my body and the way I felt during my asana practice. Overtime this has completely changed the way that I eat and has made me so much more mindful about what I am putting into my body.
I decided to take a teacher training in order to learn more and go deeper into my asana practice and to my surprise I was introduced to the vast philosophy of yoga and was immediately captivated. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn and this only deepened my asana practice, and gave it real meaning. It turned this physical practice, which I already loved into this moving meditation or spiritual experience. The physical practice is still such an important part of my life and daily sadhana, but instead of just being exercise that keeps me in shape it grounds me and connects me to the divine. Over 5 years in now I feel like I have grown so much, but realize I am just beginning to scratch the surface of what is a lifelong journey and practice. This is why I feel the asana practice is so important, because without it I feel I wouldn’t be the person I am today.
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