Social significance of Asana practice
These days the yoga poses are often practiced by creating a healthy body that in turn creates healthy sense of well being, and general state of mind.
Less known, however, is an approach to the yoga poses that begins with meaningful thoughts and work upon the body.
This way of practicing has been described by Yoga master Heinz Grill, who has given the inner meaning of the various yoga poses, from which a new possibility has now arisen on the yoga path.
Asana practice is no longer just an isolated physical activity for oneself, but an opportunity to express meaningful thoughts through the physical body, which in-turn find their way outwardly into social life. This way of practice not only creates a sense of well-being in the individual self, but also promotes a sense of well being in others, because through this way of practice we become aware as to how we relate in life and also we develop an expression outwardly that is of benefit to others.
For example, in the Tree, we enter into a balancing position on one leg, and have the constant task to maintain an upright spine. How to maintain uprightness is indicated through the gesture of the pose. The hands come inwards towards the spine, and form a centring at the heart, in a calm, unified and centred way. With this movement we bring our attention inwards, we form a more centred sense of our self, and at the same time the spine grows more into an independent uprightness.
Through the practice of this asana not only do we strengthen the physical body into a better capacity to hold the spine upright, but through the inner activity we develop a capacity that serves our everyday life. We develop the strengthen to look upon the dualities we experience in life - ones that can so easily pull us off balance - and we learn to look as though from above towards the inside, and with this we free ourselves from emotional, distracting, dividing dramas, and find this place of right balance by coming inwards, in calmness towards a unification in the region of the heart. Asana practice requires specific thoughts, consciously experienced, in order to joyfully participate in the whole experience of the asana,
which expresses a beneficial relationship life outwards to others within a social context, and onto the forming of the physical body.
We can think of the specific thoughts connected to the asana as if they are like a shining sun, beaming from above, sending light and warmth to the earth below. Just as the sun remains above, in this higher place, so to the thoughts remain in a higher place, we don’t grab them and hold them captive, nor do we drift off with them in an airy way. But just as the flower opens to the sun and keeps its roots anchored in stillness in the earth, so we too learn to open to the thoughts, to receive them in a knowing perception, out of which we can express them outwardly.
To this endeavor Heinz Grill writes:
‘An asana, a bodily exercise, reveals the specific developed thoughts and feelings, and communicates these also towards the outer, because it is not so much a purely physical exercise, but rather a sensitive feeling exercise, in which the subtle-feelings more and more as creative forces and also as joyfully relating real forms of consciousness are experienced, and communicated through the expression.’ (Soul Dimension, 2010)
Looked at in this way asana practice is like a kind of communication with the specific thoughts connected to the various asana. This communication is:
with a thinking that pictures the thought,
with a subtle feeling capacity that sensitively senses the thought,
and with a will that participates with the thought.
As we practice in this way so we learn to express an enriched movement outwardly. Something new is left in the space of the exercise, which lifts up and warms the practitioner but also stays with them, it’s like a warm, light clothing that gives the possibility to joyful connect to others in a meaningful way. Asana practice isn’t an activity that closes off a person within themself, but is an activity of communication through opening outwards to a more sun-like meaningful thought, which radiates a light and warmth for others within the social context.
The specific thoughts connected to the various asana, have been described by Heinz Grill out of his spiritual insight. To this he writes:
‘These descriptions are not to be taken as mere information, nor as a kind of theology. They are lived protrayals of a reality which corresponds to the profound wisdoms of the cosmos and of world-creation.’ (Grill, H. 2003)
For the first time in the West these insights are described in his book the Soul Dimension of Yoga, and they give the possibility to connect with the asana in a way that cultivates a sunny yoga path that meets the idea of a ‘New feeling in yoga’ or a ‘New yoga will’.