In asana practice, our body can reveal how we are relating to our ever-changing mental, emotional and physical states. When we are tired, we feel it. When we are frustrated or stressed we get to really taste that. When we are joyous our body and soul sing brightly and we feel as light as a feather. The practice can get us to see how transient our perceptions and feelings are, thereby helping us to become less caught up in and ruled by them.
The Sanskrit word yoga means to bind together and asana literally means seat. Yoga asana then, in the context of hatha yoga (the practice of physical postures), could mean how we process, integrate and meld our outer and inner experiences. Put another way, yoga asana is how our experience of the world and our relationship to it sits within us. Understanding this is the real goal of the practice; the end to the means.
It says several times in various ways in The Bhagavad Gita, “They alone see truly who see the Divine in all creatures. The Supreme Spirit dwells in the heart of all.” With this core teaching, yoga becomes a method of cultivating or heightening our understanding of who we are. As this understanding deepens, our sadhana or yogic practices become an honoring celebration of our truest Divine nature (and that of everyone and everything else). So when we treat ourselves with compassion and love, we are honoring the Divine and deepening our connection with Spirit. When we practice our asana full-heartedly we are celebrating Divine creation that is our very essence. When given our fullest attention every breath, every action, becomes a transformative vehicle of our perceptions of who we are at heart (and who we are not). If we begin to see the essence of ourselves and everything around us as an expression of Divine Spirit, then we will naturally bring a deeper sense of honoring and gratitude to our interactions with ourselves and others.
Below are a few quotes by various world teachers that I think eloquently express this and expand on it.
"God dwells in you, as you, and you don't have to 'do' anything to be God-realized or Self-realized, it is already your true and natural state. Just drop all seeking, turn your attention inward, and sacrifice your mind to the One Self radiating in the Heart of your very being. For this to be your own presently lived experience, Self-Inquiry is the one direct and immediate way."
- Sri Ramana Maharshi
"We are kept from the experience of Spirit because our inner world is cluttered with past traumas....As we begin to clear away this clutter, the energy of divine light and love begins to flow through our beings."
“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
- Anais Nin