Yoga, if we go back to the sutras of Patanjali, he mainly talks about meditation. Asana (pose or posture) is spoken of but only in relation to sitting. The main point of yoga as we may all know by its translation as “union,” is to unify one’s self to God or Brahman or spirit through meditation; but mainly concentration meditation. This is also known as Raja Yoga, the yoga of mind development. So where does the asana come in? You see, the mind is very tricky and if we try to control it too fast then we may have detrimental side effects. Also as a new aspirant of yoga they may not be able to sit for the long hours of meditation required. Which in the sutras of Patanjali he talks about meditating until one reaches Samadhi and then holding that Samadhi for 5 hours.
Just for your knowledge, meditation is when you can hold a single thought form without wavering, Samadhi is when observer and observed become one. So that which you are observing you become, there is no more you. Now if we can do this with say, something like Brahman then we can “unify” ourselves with it. Also once we can harness the power of the mind there is so much more we can do. But for now we are talking about the asana.
Asanas, just imagine you are new to yoga and you have a weak and stiff body that is off center, out of alignment and a weak mind that never stops thinking or is full of worry. How are you going to sit for any time without pain? But most importantly, if you do awaken the latent energy in the body, “kundalini” when your body is not ready for it, this can be detrimental. Think of it like chi flow, if there are blockages then pain or illness results. Kundalini, when activated is much stronger so we need to be prepared. So what do we do then? We do yoga! We stretch and strengthen the body into perfect alignment so that we can endure long hours of meditation and have an unhindered flow of energy through the body. But just this alone is great for having a healthy body.
In the Hatha Pradapika it talks about asana yoga as being the first half of the journey, along with cleansing the body and the mind. The cleansing will help expedite the opening of the body. Through asana yoga we are able to not only increase flexibility and strengthen the body into proper alignment, we are strengthening the mind as well. We don’t just do a stretch or pose; we are focusing on our breath, alignment, our bodies, letting go of tension, etc. This in itself is a meditation.
Seriously though, who today has the time for long hours of meditation or enlightenment. All we may get is a couple hours a day for exercise. So why not make the best of it. Yoga is an all encompassing art form and what we really need to continue to live strong and healthy is to be flexible, well aligned, connected with the breath and have a sharp, focused mind. And to think, this is only the beginning of what is possible with yoga.