Yoga postures are not only a series of physical poses, they are also exercises in mental awareness. The yogi is deliberate in every movement, feeling and breathing into every muscle. Only through conscious awareness of one’s own body can tensions be felt and, once felt, they can be eliminated by a systematic yoga program. More is involved in asanas than just the promotion of physical health. Through yoga postures one can improve one’s mental outlook, achieve a more harmonious emotional life, and develop expanded awareness and consciousness. Yoga postures not only improve physical health and give stability to the emotional system, but they also create positive mental attitudes.
Asanas (yoga postures) promote the free flow of energy throughout the nervous system and assist in the elimination of toxins and poisons from the joints and other body parts, where these foreign elements tend otherwise to settle – sometimes permanently. These asanas exert beneficial pressure on various glands and internal organs, flushing and stimulating them. Even a small amount of practice can produce amazing improvements in one’s general health. For these reasons, yoga is growing in popularity in the west, and growing very rapidly. Asanas are well on their way to becoming a fad.
The asanas emphasize relaxation as well as making one aware of tension. A yoga pose is not “done” because the physical position has been assumed. It is the breathing and the holding of that pose that develops the physical strength and calms the system. One acts always from a center of poise and calmness of mental and physical relaxation. One must never strain or force into any pose.
Additionally, bodily postures are associated with certain mental attitudes. When one is discouraged, the body tends to stoop forward. When feeling stubborn, a person may jut his chin forward. Suppression of natural feelings can be indicated by holding in the upper part of the chest. Even the pattern of breathing is affected by one’s mental attitudes. Just as mental attitudes affect the body, so also can bodily postures affect the mind. Tense stomach muscles can induce mental anxiety, and a bent spine and slumped shoulders can induce moodiness. Yogis make use of these relationships, and by inducing physical relaxation create serenity in a worried mind. Working on oneself physically to influence the mind is a simple undertaking. For example, change the breathing pattern and one’s mental state may be changed as well.