Lord Shiva as Nataraja, the cosmic dancer, is said to be the creator of the 84,000 yoga asanas – a metaphor for the endless movements we can perform. The fire ring symbolizes the purifying power of movement, both disciplined and wild, and the hands traveling through the perfect yantra (geometry) reflect the dimensions of space . Balance, poise, alignment, stillness, centering – there are so many qualities we discover as the dancer becomes the dance.
Lord Shiva as the cosmic dancer is the archetype of asana. It is said there are 84,000 asanas, which means that there are endless movements we can perform. Balance, poise, alignment, stillness, centering – there are so many qualities we discover as the dancer becomes the dance.
“It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.”
— B.K.S Iyengar
2.47 prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam
The means of perfecting the posture is that of relaxing or loosening of effort, and allowing attention to merge with endlessness, or the infinite. — Patanjali
The word asana means posture, which inwardly can be experienced as a dance of body, breath, mind and energy. Assuming a posture carries a great deal of significance to it – how you hold yourself influences how you experience life. Shiva as nataraja, lord of the dance, and pashupati, lord of animals, is said to have created the 84,000 asana.
There are countless geometries and animal forms to open our energy channels, facilitate healing, and tune our consciousness for communing with the cosmos. You do not need to know hundreds of asanas or be able to do very difficult poses to have an advanced practice, what’s important is how you do it. Asana is a way for you to connect and experience life through your body, which is a direct way to contact reality.
The guidelines in the yoga sutras for asana are simple and direct: remain stable and relaxed in your position and you are correctly practicing asana.
Asana practice dissolves stiffness and removes energetic blockages, helping you remain seated for extended periods of time so that you can practice the inner limbs of yoga without discomfort. Popular in many spiritual traditions for practicing meditation, seated asana allow the free-flow of energy through the spine, helping you remain awake and reducing energy expenditure by aligning with gravity.
It also facilitates easy and relaxed focus on the third-eye which is a gateway for accessing the Cosmic Intelligence and exploring the nature of consciousness.
Hatha yoga has the potential to become a spiritual practice when done with mindfulness and inclusiveness of universal movement principles and yogic techniques. Otherwise, hatha yoga and its many variations are little more than glorified stretch routines – sometimes helping and at other times even harming, depending on the awareness of the practitioner.
Concepts such as yielding, intention, centering, and aligning all offer parallels between our outer lives and inner states. Integrating your practice with such principles develops the capacity for conscious movement, meaning that the body, breath, and mind are united.
This becomes a support for your meditation and yogic lifestyle.