DEFINITION OF ASANA
An asana is that which contributes to stability and comfort.
Stability and comfort of what ? Stability here does not only mean stability of the posture but also the stillness of body and mind as a whole. Even if we are physically stable in a asana, we may remain mentally unstable due to various disturbing sensory inputs. Only the stability of both body and mind together would lead to the sense of well-being.
Also, it does not mean that any posture which is easy to attain and comfortable to maintain is an asana. A postural pattern, particularly in a sitting condition leading towards physical and mental stability and a sense of well-being, is an asana
Characteristics Of Asana
Stillness of mind.
Sense of well-being.
Thus, effortlessness, absence of tensions, minimum muscular activity and absence of thought processes by contemplating on the infinite are the characteristics of asanas.
STAGES IN YOGASANAS
Most people are of the opinion that Yogasanas are meant for keeping the body fit and healthy. In other words they limit the asanas to physical exercises. It is just like going to a millonaire and asking for a rupee
While maintaining we go through three stages which are described below.
Initially, the posture is shaky. A beginner cannot reach the final posture immediately. After gradual practice he reaches and achieves steadiness and this stage is called 'Sthira'. In this stage, however he is not able to maintain it for the prescribed length of time due to the effort involved
When he withdraws the effort by relaxation as per the suggestion of Patanjali 22 in the first half of Aphorism. II- 47 "Prayatna-Saithilya", he reaches the stage 'Cira' in which he is able to maintain it for the prescribed length of time. The mind control begins here. In 'Sthira' the mind gets concentrated on the process of being in the final posture, but as the posture becomes effortless and natural the mind according to its nature starts wandering.
Patanjali gives us a method in the next half of the same Sutra (11-47) "Ananta-Samapatti" or contemplation on the infinite. Here the word 'Ananta' can be interpreted as the chosen deity, or the chosen sound (Mantra) or just expansiveness. When this is done the mind calms down and as it stays in silence it starts experencing the bliss and this stage is called as 'Sukha'. Patanjali defines the nature of Asana in the previous Sutra (11-46) viz: "Sthira -Sukham asanam"-Posture(should be) steady and comfortable. The Sukha stage is comparable to Dhyana. If the posture is 'Sukha' for an appreciably long time subjectively varient the person enters 'Asana-Siddhi' which is the superconscious state or 'Samadhi'. This is given by the subsequent sutra (11- 48) "tato dvandvanabhighath". From that (mastery of the posture) no assaults from the pairs of opposites.
CLASSIFICATION OF ASANAS
On the basis of the mode of performing yogasanas
Yogasanas of the second type: Relaxing Asanas (static asanas)
This has transformation in the structure of the body as aim. As the name implies, the characteristics of this system of Yogasanas are speed and repetition. All the asanas involve the articulation of the spine-forward, backward lateral as well as twist. While the physical exercises (Non-Yogic) are effective on muscular and circulatory as well as respiratory systems, the Yogic exercises have an effect on nervous and glandular systems as well. The Dynamic Yogasanas stimulate the nervous and glandular systems resulting in evocation of energy. This energy combats laziness by shattering Tamas and gives rise to Rajas (activity). This particular system is recommended for children as well as people who are lethargic.
The aim of this system is to develop an inner awareness and unfold the higher levels of consciousness. Continuity in movement, that is, without jerks slowness and maintenance are the characterise of this system. This results in strength and forbearance-Titiksa. There is also a proportionate growth of the body based on Pantanjali's Aphorisms result in deep relaxation and energy conservation, resulting in freshness. This is basically a nerve culture as it calms down the nerves.