The Yoga postures or the asanas are to be held and are to be performed slowly and meditatively. The word itself "asana" means stable position. While performing Yoga postures one should carefully understand and respect the following three stages:
The real work of an asana is done while we hold the position. Once we are able to relax in a pose, we can adjust the position to achieve a greater stretch. In the performance of the asanas one should always respect the limits of own body.
Specific indications are given in regards to the way one should breathe and concentrate the mind while in an asana. Performing body postures without the appropriate mind setting, breathing techniques and awareness is just doing physical exercise.
Their benefits come from a correct execution, but also from awareness and a conscious breathing process that opens the gates owards higher levels of consciousness.
Asanas are keeping the body in a state of health restoring the inner balance. These gentile movements not only work on all the various systems of the body (creating suppleness in the spine and joints, and toning the muscles, glands and internal organs) but also have profound effects spiritually, freeing us from fears and helping us to instill confidence and serenity. At the end of a yoga session, one will feel relaxed and full of energy - quite unlike after other forms of physical exercises.
Although extremely important on the path towards Yoga, through their more subtle effects on the prana, the senses and the mind, asanas should not be equaled to Yoga; they are in fact only a fraction, or a limb of the Great Yoga system.
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