I am noticing a trend. People say yoga when what they really mean is asana. I read an article recently about whether or not yoga is good or bad for your hips joints. The entire article, written by a physical therapist, was about yoga postures. It did not mention the other aspects of yoga, like breathwork, meditation, self inquiry, study, the yamas and the niyamas. Yet, it was asking the question “Is yoga good for you?”. It only referred to yoga poses. The article itself was informative and I appreciated the anatomical knowledge it applied to hip opening postures in yoga. However, it would be more accurate to use the description yoga asanas or yoga postures rather than yoga.
Yoga is the practice of stilling the mind. Yoga asana refers to the physical postures that we practice with the body. The aim of the asanas is to keep the body healthy and strong so that one can sit for long periods in meditation practice and have the energy required to work toward self realization. This requires being able to reflect on your experience and actions in order to know what is true and what is untrue. What is serving you and the world and what is getting in the way? These are mental practices, which any body, whether in a yoga posture or not, can practice. Yoga becomes less inclusive when it is defined by the use of the physical body alone. This narrow definition also ignores the long, rich history of yoga, which for thousands of years did not include asana practice as we know it now.
Asana is a powerful practice that encourages mental discipline, focus, non-attachment, compassion and steadiness. It is valuable. In fact, I do it daily and teach it too. However, we have a responsibility to honor the tradition and history of yoga which is so much bigger than an asana class. I encourage you to notice how you define the term yoga. When you say the word yoga, what are you referring to? Do you mean yoga postures or do you mean yoga? I know many yogis in the world and some of them do asana, but lots of them don’t.
written by Emily Garrett