When We Say Yoga in the West, We Really Mean Asana

Asana is the third limb of yoga, and it translates to comfortable seat, better known as a yoga pose. This is the thirteenth post in a series about the 8 Limbs of Yoga. If you’d like to read the others and an overview first, go here. I’ll wait.


Asana is essentially how we know yoga today in the West. The poses are the most recognizable part of the practice.

The picture above is a version of Dancer Pose, or Natarajasana. Sukhasana, or Easy Pose, is a comfortable cross-legged sitting pose that many use for meditation. And every other pose in the practice of yoga has a Sanskrit name that ends in asana — Trikonasana (Triangle), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), Virabhadrasana (Warrior) ...

Asana practice was a vehicle for something deeper as yoga developed thousands of years ago. Yogi sages practiced asana to prepare their bodies for long sessions of meditation (sitting practice) in order to achieve higher states of consciousness — the subsequent limbs that will be described in the posts that follow.

Today, asana is the yoga we primarily identify with, yet its only one small part of a larger ‘system.’

Asana practice can take many forms — literally and figuratively. There are many types of physical practices: Vinyasa, Hatha, EmbodiYoga, Baptiste, Viniyoga, Hot, Power, Restorative, Yin, and countless others.

The beauty of yoga and these forms, in my opinion, is that it meets us exactly where we are. Hot and Power yogas heat the body and give us exceptional work outs. Yin works on our deeper physical structures and gives our bodies greater form, fluidity and flexibility. EmbodiYoga infuses embryology, somatics and body-mind centering for a deeper-felt sense of self. Restorative allows us to rest in a more profound state than sleep could ever provide.

Asana also changes for and with us over time. As young yogis we may be drawn to complex poses that take work (and years of practice) to achieve, whereas yogis who’ve matured in their practice may be drawn to the simplicity and grace of the first poses they learned, they may not practice asana at all — or very little. Like life, living a yoga lifestyle is a process. There is no right or wrong.

Applying the eight limbs can help us understand why we do what we do. It can help us to unite all parts of ourselves. It can ignite transformation and it can invite us into deeper states of consciousness.


Thanks for reading! Connect with me at my personal site, on the 19, where you can find links to Yoga Prayers, my new book that will be released in late 2018. Namaste.