When you think of “yoga,” does your mind immediately think of a picture of a woman holding a pose on a beach at sunrise? Or perhaps a studio filled with yoga mats and reusable water bottles? This is more or less what yoga has become to many countries in the modern world. But yoga’s history and mythology takes us much deeper into the real meaning of the practice—and suffice it to say, the original practitioners wouldn’t have been caught dead in pink activewear. |
Yoga Asanas and Mythology
warrior-pose-iiiFor ancient yoga practitioners, each movement was connected to a story, often revolving around a hero, a saint, or a god. Here are some yoga poses, known as “asanas,” what they are named for, and the meanings they are intended to have.
Virabhadra: In this classic pose, the body is balanced on one leg. The other leg is extended backwards, while both arms are extended forwards. Known as one of the “warrior” poses, it is named after a son of Shiva the Destroyer. It teaches you to clear your mind, hold your centre and let go of fear.
Astavakra: This pose looks very difficult, but it is meant to teach you that appearances do not always reflect reality. The body is balanced on both arms, with the two legs extended to one side. As long as you have enough arm and wrist strength, it’s simple once you learn the technique. It is named for a mythical boy who was cursed by his father and became deformed, yet achieved success with his intelligence and insight; thus, the pose also speaks to the value of placing knowledge over raw power.
Vasisthasana: This is another yoga classic: a side plank in which practitioners hold themselves up with one arm and their feet, while stretching the other arm into the air. It requires balance, which reflects its origins well: it is named for a priest/sage known for his calmness and emotional mastery, and these are the qualities it is said to cultivate.
This merely scratches the surface of all the poses available to you in yoga: there are over eighty other asanas for you to explore. Each one has a unique meaning and history, but at their core, all are intended to transform you into a strong, successful, confident person.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits
Physically, yoga is known for giving practitioners increased flexibility, core strength, and endurance. Many report that it increases their energy, improves heart health, and helps them lose weight.
Yoga not only stretches and strengthens your muscles; it is also a deeply meditative practice that relaxes and de-stresses you. Clearing your mind and focusing on each physical movement will help to mentally balance you and give you a more positive outlook on life. You will likely find yourself ending each session with increased clarity, decisiveness, and calmness.
If you’ve never tried yoga because you’ve just never thought of yourself as a “yoga person,” maybe it’s time for that to change! It centres your mind, strengthens your body, and helps you face the challenges of life with the spirit of a warrior.
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