This week we will review the eight limbs of yoga and then spend most of our time looking at the first sutra on asana (posture), Sutra 2.46. If you have a copy of the the sutras, I recommend that you bring it — it has been a long time since we looked at the yamas and niyamas, Sutras 2.30-2.45 and I think it will be helpful to run through them before turning to the third limb of yoga, asana.
Simply translated, Sutra 2.46 states that asana is a steady, comfortable posture. Some commentary suggests that asanas simply are the postures for prolonged seated mediation (Hartranft, Byrant). Other commentators suggest that the bending and stretching postures of Hatha Yoga (much of what we do in the West) are important means to achieving “asana.” (Carrera).
Below is a translation of Sutra 2.46 from B.K.S. Iyengar’s Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
Sthira sukham asanam
Sthira — firm, fixed, steady, steadfast, lasting
sukham — happiness, delight
asanam — postures, poses
Asana is perfect firmness of body, steadiness of intelligence and benevolence of spirit.
And here is some of Iyengar’s commentary:
Whatever asana is performed, it should be done with a feeling of firmness, steadiness and endurance in the body, goodwill in the intelligence of the head, and awareness and delight in the intelligence of the heart. This is how each asana should be understood, practiced and experienced. Performance of the asana should be nourishing and illuminative.
B.K.S. Iyengar presents asana as “not just the third of the eight limbs of yoga but also as a self-contained object of mediation that can itself bring about samadhi, the ultimate goal of yoga, if approached and undertaken correctly.” (Bryant, citing Iyengar’s Tree of Yoga).