Mat & Beyond Yoga Studio

Asana Journal

Seeing the bigger context

Growing up, my dad and i were never given to long conversations, but what stands out for me is one of his guiding principles to see the “big picture”..which could be a big stretch at times!..So though there were circumstances in my moms life that were very challenging, and later on, when i faced challenges on my own, he would urge me/us to always keep in mind the bigger context of life. and as my understanding of life deepens, it comes back to my mind with greater relevance.

In the yoga classes that i teach, in manasa yoga tradition, we begin with the “atha” practice where we guide the students to consciously connect and ground into their bodies. So as i begin the process; as i guide my students to connect to the sensation of touch of the outer edges of their feet grounding into the mat, i remind them that on its own, the outer edges may not seem so exciting, so meaningful. But seen in the bigger context of Ashtanga yoga..the shifting of our awareness from the outer world to our inner world is about pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) practice, that the effort to direct our attention to the sensation of touch…be it the outer edges of the feet, be it the sit bones or be it the breath..constitutes dharana (concentration) practice and the sustained attention that we are able to direct to either the breath or the asana has the potential to lead us into dhyana (meditation) state..So when we put it all together; our ability to shift our awareness to the outer edges of our feet or to our big toe holds tremendous possibilities..our practice is to open our minds and see it in the bigger context of the yoga practice. Then value and meaning comes all of its own.

Similarly, in asana too..when i ask my student to hold the bridge pose..setu bandha is not greeted with much excitement or the pose does not have the scope to express much shrngara at first glace. but when it is understood in its larger context as a pose that strengthens the hamstrings, the glutes, the upper back and stretches the chest, the hips..and most importantly prepares the body for deeper backbends such as urdhva dhanurasana (upward bow) and variations of that..then dots meaningfully connect..the pose takes on a whole new meaning, a whole larger context..and we value it.

So as we are able to see the interconnection between poses and actions and events in our we are in awareness of how one leads to we value each movement, each asana, each breath, each experience..however insignificant it may seem at this point..the yoga practice is to be in awareness that it has the potential to lead us to our greatest possibilities.