The Practice of Asana: Reflection, Conviction, and Ahimsa

Photo by KoolShooters: Thinking about Asana Practice

In today’s world, it is common for aspiring and experienced yogis alike to think about doing asana practice without actually executing the practice. Whether through contemplation, daydreaming, or simply scheduling a class and then forgetting, this state of “thinking about doing asana practice” is still a form of yoga practice.

In this guide, we will explore why engaging in this kind of practice is self-reflection (svadhyaya), how it strengthens convictions in yoga, and how it cultivates ahimsa.

The Power of Reflection: Svadhyaya

Before engaging in any physical yoga practice, it is helpful to first take some time to be mindful and take time to reflect. This is svadhyaya, an important aspect of the eight limbs of yoga outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

Svadhyaya is key to cultivating self-awareness and is the foundation of any physical asana practice. When it comes to reflecting on engaging in asana practice, svadhyaya can be especially useful.

Svadhyaya can be thought of as the practice of preparing for asana with contemplation and consciousness. This is a way for a yogi to gauge how they are feeling prior to practice and discern if taking the time to engage in physical practice is truly what is needed for their body and soul.

Engaging in svadhyaya can look different for everybody. It can include journaling, meditation, introspection, creative expression, or any combination of the above. It is a way to gain clarity and discover what an individual needs each day to feel their best.

Engaging in conversations with a mentor, teacher, or friend can also help a yogi gain insight into reflection and to further develop an internal sense of awareness. Taking time to reflect on why they are engaging in asana and how they are currently feeling can allow the yogi to practice conscious embodiment. This, in turn, can create a strong connection to the body, helping the yogi to be mindful and more in tune with their physical and mental well-being.

The Strength of Conviction: How Failing to Practice, Strengthens Our Roots

Engaging in asana practice on the mat, whether for pleasure or for physical exercise, is an essential trial for each yogi to go through to understanding the strength of the conviction needed for yoga. Knowing why one is doing the asana practice is essential, and this can sometimes be difficult to discern without actually engaging in an asana practice.

It is important to acknowledge that even if one is thinking about doing asana practice, there may be times when the practitioner doesn’t actually practice.

It is also important to recognize that these moments of “failing” are a key part of the strengthening of conviction needed to gain insight into the power of yoga. For a yogi to truly understand their own practice and the power of yoga, they must be willing to try and sometimes fail.

This is especially true when engaging in asana practice, as it is essential for a yogi to begin to understand and care for their body and their needs in an acutely mindful and compassionate way.

As a yogi begins to engage in their practice, failure is an essential part of the path to success. Unachieved goals for oneself or for one’s asana practice often have deeper lessons to be learned, and failure should be looked at as an opportunity rather than a personal flaw.

By not practicing one may discover that moments to rest and recharge are essential. On the other hand, one may have the opposite lesson and learn that the body feels worse when asana practice is ignored.

The Ability to Cultivate Ahimsa: How Thinking About Asana Supports Compassion

Ahimsa is a central tenant of yoga and is perhaps the hardest concept to embody physically. But ahimsa can be cultivated through all aspects of one’s practice, and it is particularly important when engaging in svadhyaya.

Ahimsa is the practice of non-violence and kindness, whether it be to oneself or to others. When engaging in asana practice, it is important for a yogi to be aware of their thoughts and feelings and to be attune with their body and soul.

This is why thinking about engaging in an asana practice can be an act of ahimsa. Giving yourself the permission to reflect and really understand why you are engaging in asana practice is key to taking control of your practice and engaging in consciousness and kindness towards your practice and yourself.

Conclusion

This article is meant to give yogis the tools to be mindful and to engage in their practice in a way that allows them to practice svadhyaya, strengthen their convictions, and cultivate ahimsa.

Understanding why thinking about doing asana practice is a form of yoga can help a yogi to self-reflect, be mindful of their body, and to create an asana practice that fits their own needs. Thinking about engaging an asana practice can also be an act of compassion and kindness, allowing an individual to build a practice that is tailored to meet their own emotional and physical well-being.

Overall, engaging in an asana practice, regardless if it is active or only thought-based, can provide an individual with greater insight into the power of yoga and into themselves.

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