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Why I Love Asana Study So Much




I absolutely love the study of human movement, and good thing, because I am essentially a movement professional. I study and work to improve movement in people, both in my speech therapy practice and my yoga/fitness practice. And why not love human movement? All matter is really in constant motion, and our movements connect us to the present reality. Movement is how we interact with the world. Think of your breath. So many incredible systems moving together, in concert, to provide to you with life-force from the exchange of gases in respiration. Also, smiling, crying, laughing, talking - all of these actions require movement of some type, and connect you to other people. Walking allows you to connect to the space around you. And so on and so on.


If you've been following my content, you are probably well aware that I, myself, am an avid yogi. I adopted a very consistent and present yoga practice into my life about 10 years ago. I fell in love instantly with the practice of yoga, and yoga instantly changed me for the better. Yoga really just translates to union, and that truly is what yoga is all about - union of your mind, body, breath, and spirit. Union with your unique, beautiful, infinitely good inner light. There are so many forms of yoga, some of which involve very little movement at all, and some of which focus more heavily on asana practice.


So what is asana practice? Asana (pronounced AHsuhnuh) in yoga translates to "seat," which really just means that a yoga asana is a pose, a shape you make with your body. There are several traditional asanas that have been around for a long time in the yoga world (e.g. warrior 2, tree pose, downdog, etc.), but truly any shape can be considered an asana. What makes it "asana study," or asana practice," is how you approach your perception of the shape your body is in. In asana study in yoga, the practitioner would theoretically be integrating, or connecting, his/her breath with awareness to the present moment (physically, emotionally, mentally), without self-judgment, but rather with curious, kind awareness and curiosity. That's really yoga too. Asana study, or practice, is about studying how different shapes, orientations, and positions of your body affect your present experience. Noticing how the shape affects your mood, comfort, and ability to endure challenge. And noticing how those variables and experiences change from one asana to the next, or from one moment to the next.


So Why Do I Love Asana Study So Much?

Asana study is one of my most favorite things to do, and one of my most favorite ways in which to move my body. I gain so much insight, on so many levels, from my asana practice. Asana study is really personal from one practitioner to another, as well as unique. And each person's perception of asana study might be different in some ways. The following list includes some of the reasons why I love asana study so much:


Connection to my inner light. Asana study, and really yoga in general, aims to help you connect to your authentic, pure, luminous nature. This luminous nature is what we bow to at the end of a yoga practice when the class seals their practice with a final "namaste." This light is within all of us, just waiting to be seen, fired up, and to burn brightly to light up the world. Asana study helps me to learn how to access my unique light from any shape or position I am in, relative to the earth. And this brings me back to myself.


Finding the perfect balance of steadiness and ease. Each yoga asana is an opportunity to reconcile the "just right" balance of being steady and firm in an asana while being gentle and at ease. This ratio, or balance, depends on the pose plus a ton of other factors within and outside of your body. Learning to find this balance from different shapes and perspectives helps me to cultivate this balance into my daily life. For instance, I can't just work all the time (although I have a tendency to do that sometimes in full transparency); I need to rest and recover. Also, dealing with interactions with others during the day also requires a certain balance of gentleness and firmness.


Find my optimal quantity of delicate-ness. Asana study can be physically demanding, depending on the poses practiced and how they are sequenced and integrated together. But, that doesn't mean that there isn't a level of softness, ease, and delicate-ness that can be cultivated in different shapes. When I am studying an asana, especially if I am lingering and holding poses for a while (several minutes, for example, as in more yin-yoga styles), this delicate-ness becomes even more important for me and my body. When I soften my body, mind, and breath, to really feel what the various shapes do to my body and mind, I can find a sense of calm and peace that is truly heavenly.


Always something new to learn and notice. My asana study is always evolving, growing, adapting. There are so many layers within any one human, including me, allowing me to go deeper and deeper into various asanas and their effect on me. Revisiting familiar poses allows me to find -something new and different each time I get in the pose. Even the challenging poses, the ones I sort of avoid but not all the time (umm... hello crow pose for me), are always filled with many lessons. There is truly an infinite well to what asana study can teach.


Finding my breath from any shape. Asana practice helps to teach me how to breathe and access my breath from nearly any shape - shapes that are challenging, fiery, gentle, crunched up, open, and on and on. The breath is like the bridge between the body and the mind. Connecting with my breath, feeling my breath, and understanding my breath connects me to me. The physical me to the spiritual me. But sometimes I lose my breath, my connection to it is disrupted for one reason or another. A good yogi friend of mine (Cambri Driskell) has said, "we might have forgotten the breath, but it never forgets us" and this wisdom has stuck with me for years. When a person finds their breath, they find themselves, and their beautiful, unique light. Being able to practice this level of mindfulness from a multitude of shapes and positions not only helps me go deeper into various asanas, it also helps me to better find my breath in various situations throughout my day, in my personal and professional life.



Learning how to be present. No judging (if possible, some days are sure harder than others when it comes to self-judgment). Honesty, with yourself especially. Curious awareness. A sense of openness. These are all important components to "being present," which is a term we are all used to hearing nowadays in pop culture trends. Being present means different things to different people for different reasons. For me, being present is about being as fully connected as I can with the current moment in time that I am in. Feeling, observing, noticing, and paying attention to stimuli from the present moment. For instance, noticing how I react from a sensory level to the different asanas - what feels hard? what feels yummy? what is not accessible? where can fire be felt? how does the fabric of what I'm wearing affect my movement and vice versa? what emotions am I feeling right here and now? Does this shape alter the emotions I feel? Where is my breath - am I connected to it, or have I lost it? And this list goes on and on. It's like a vacation for the mind, and for me, that is a definite gift because my bipolar/ADHD mind is always very active with a million thoughts.


The physical sensations. So far, I feel I have only mentioned mental, emotional, spiritual benefits of asana study, but there are definite physical benefits to the entire physical body. Asana study is amazing because all these different shapes stretch, strengthen, and build endurance and stability in the body's myofascia (i.e. the muscles and surrounding connective tissue, like ligaments and tendons). Flowing in and out of different shapes is great for the heart and lungs. Bending over and standing up along with rotational movements are great for the vestibular system (i.e. the inner ear balance system). The movements themselves along with the motor planning, motor learning, and refinement of movement needed to execute the pose properly are great for the nervous system, such as the brain and spinal cord. Holding poses for longer time builds stability and endurance in joints and muscles. There are many asanas that quite literally feel so delicious to my body. Asana practice feels good to me. It makes my body happy. It makes my muscles more open, agile, stable, and strong. It's a form of self-care for my tissues. Asana study feels like I am providing movement nutrients to my tissues, like taking a multivitamin for my soft tissues. Asana study simply makes my whole body and mind work better.


Experiencing things from different vantage points. Depending on the asanas being practiced, the body ends up in different shapes and orientations to gravity, with different viewpoints of the earth and the present moment. Asana practice helps me to physically exist in a variety of postures and how to use, activate, and move my body in and out of these shapes. But, on a deeper level, the various asana postures help to open my mind to other ways of seeing things across humanity. It also helps me to truly own the space that I inhabit, and to own it in a gentle, grateful, loving way. Things look different sometimes from different shapes. Things feel different from different shapes. Asana study allows me to feel and connect to myself and my breath in nearly any possible shape or position I could be in.



Summary

Thanks so much for reading a more personal post from me. To be fully honest, I am not used to writing personal stuff as much as I am used to being a science writer. But it feels good to share this with whomever wants to hear it. I also feel like I owe a debt of gratitude to the yoga world, community, philosophy, and lineage because yoga has afforded me innumerable gifts over the years. So, I think a part of me wanted to share this information as a pay-it-forward. The reasons listed in this blog are why I always end my personal asana practice with a breath of gratitude, honoring my efforts but also the practice of yoga and asana study itself. I truly love the practice and philosophy of yoga. I love the connection to the self, and through the self. Yoga asanas are always available to the practitioner, at any time, in any place, and in any situation. Asana study has changed my inner world. I wrote a blog post about this a while back about how yoga really helped my bipolar disorder (click here to read). Asana study has made me kinder, gentler, softer, more open, and more grateful. I often think to myself that if I ever lost everything, all my possessions, that I would always be okay because I have my yoga practice. No one can take that from me, as long as I have breath in my body. So, I hope this information is helpful. It sure is honest, and from my heart. So, again, thank you for sharing your own time to read this. If you have more questions about yoga, feel free to email me or DM on social media. I would be happy to talk with you.


As always, the information presented in this blog post is derived from my own study of human movement, yoga, anatomy, and fitness. If you have questions about yoga for your body, please follow up with your physician, physical therapist, yoga teacher, or personal trainer. If you are interested in private yoga, and/or personal training sessions with me, Jackie, email me at info@lotusyogisbyjackie.com for more information about my services. Also, please subscribe to my website so you can receive my monthly newsletters (scroll to the bottom of the page where you can submit your email address). This will help keep you "in-the-know" about my latest blog releases and other helpful yoga and wellness information.  Thanks for reading!

~Namaste, Jackie Allen, M.S., M.Ed., CCC-SLP, RYT-200, RCYT, NASM-CPT, NASM-CES, NASM-SFC, NASM-SFS




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