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Published by: thepretender on Nov 01, 2007
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“Asana done without integration of breath is simply exercise.”

Meditation retreats usually teach only one asana, the sitting posture. You will learn the
breathing, focussing and pranayama techniques. In the Ashtanga practice you learn all of
these as you move from one posture to another. You are undertaking a meditation practice
with variation in posture. In this way you are being challenged in many different ways to
maintain breath and steadiness. You are being confronted by the variation in asana, and
because the practice is fixed you are challenged to practice the full range of postures
irrespective of your preferences and flexibility.

Great meditators do not necessarily do great asanas, however, they will do extremely
integrated asanas. This means they will be totally present with mind, body and breath. The
body and mind move as one until they confront some movement within the body that
disturbs their rhythm. When this happens, they need to face the turbulence, transcend it and
move on until the next confrontation. In this way, through practicing asana of a fixed
sequence, pose and counter pose are automatically sequenced. We are faced with poses
that challenge us and others that are easy. This forces us to confront ourselves because we
are revealing the blockages within our body/mind system. In Ashtanga Yoga you confront
your blockages very quickly, whereas in other practices that are self-designed you may
avoid your blockages for 30 to 40 years.

No matter how beautiful we may do an asana, or how flexible our body may be, if we do
not achieve the integration of body, mind and breath we are not doing Yoga. Yoga is after
all an internal experience; one of personal development and exploration. To practise it from
the outside is purely a sport or exercise. What others see as a result of our Yoga practice is
minimal compared to what we experience on the inside; a change in body shape, healthier
skin, clearer eyes—these are truly external results but they are more a reflection of internal
change. When the breath is the focus of the practice we are drawn inward towards the
centre, towards the stillness of no space and time, to a place that ultimately must be
identified as truth, love and Soul.

Follow the breath, inhale to inspire, exhale to surrender. In doing so the heart will stay
open, and the idea of a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ practice will evaporate and something more
profound will take its place.

Yoga; A Way of Life

Awakening the Body-Mind

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