There are many reasons why more people practice asana every day. Most of them respond to the search for physical, emotional or mental well-being that increases their quality of life. Truly who has done asanas can confirm that the improvement in these aspects is noticeable in a short space of time. Perhaps that is why there are more and more people faithful to this practice, but is that all that the asana has to offer us? When we do this practice we can go beyond posture, we can go beyond breathing, we can come to meditate on it, what we call Integral Asana.
Although in the West the part of Yoga that has most penetrated has been its aesthetic and therapeutic part, we must not forget that Yoga is a spiritual path, that the Yogi is a seeker of “the transcendent” who wants to know the purpose of his heart in order to do it in life using each of the opportunities available to you, including asana practice.
We observe that Yoga, as a whole, meets the needs of all parts of our Being. It orders, heals and balances the physical body with Hatha Yoga. With Bhakti Yoga elevates our emotional state. Through Raja Yoga, attention works, incorporates intuition, as one more sense, and opens our mind to higher states of consciousness. Jnana Yoga facilitates inspiration through reading and study. And Karma Yoga helps us transform ourselves through work in the middle of life.
Hatha Yoga includes a large number of tools and resources that we need to know and practice efficiently. There are different lines that, in their sensitivity, use these tools in different ways. All, in general, work well and meet the needs of different types of people. We live some of these lines temporarily as transitory stages towards other deeper or more transcendent Yogas.
We consider, beyond the line that each one practices, that at present Hatha is an essential part of our Sadhana, but not the only one since Yoga is not only Hatha nor Hatha is all Yoga. In our way of seeing, for the Hathayogi, Meditation is an inseparable companion. A good combination of Hatha and Raja make our practice much more holistic, complete and comprehensive. Meditation in Asana can lead us to Samadhi, the ultimate goal of all Yoga, it brings us closer to “the experience with the highest that is within us and the experience of communion with Brahman.” Next we will see how the Integral Asana fuses Hatha with Meditation.
THE FOUR LEVELS OF ASANA PRACTICE
In Asana practice we consider that there are four levels of work. This classification that we present is related to the different physical, respiratory and meditative abilities that the practitioner has and not to the degrees of difficulty of the postures since this would adhere to merely physical criteria, making the practice something gymnastic. We invite you to observe your work with Asana and be able to place yourself within one of the following levels in order to move towards the next.
Basic level: Postural development of the Asana. The practitioner is exclusively oriented in the position, placement and joint and muscular repercussion. The fact that more complex Asanas are performed in their execution does not prevent us from being at a basic level since the objective, at this level of practice, is exclusively linked to the physical and its benefits.
Medium level: Pranayama in the Asana. At this level the practitioner already knows what his possibilities and difficulties are. He works from a comfortable limit and is able to integrate Raja Pranayama into any Asana. It supports itself comfortably pastorally, breathing calmly without difficulty and without tension. At this level, a minimum of postural mastery and a previous work with Pranayama are required.
Advanced level: Meditating in Asana. To access this level, the Hathayogi practices Meditation separately and has acquired an evident handling with the attention moving with it without difficulty. Your position as a “conscious observer” in the Asana brings you knowledge about the contents and movements that arise in your surface consciousness. Become aware that each Asana sets different internal states in motion. In the middle of Asana observe, perceive and transform.
Integral Asana: it occurs when the advanced level is transcended and there is a contact with the transcendent, both internal and external. This connection occurs in a spontaneous, unforced way, facilitating different degrees of Samadhi.
THE FOUR STEPS TOWARDS THE INTEGRAL ASANA.
When we orient ourselves towards the practice of Integral Asana, we begin an ascent up the steps of our Sadhana, creating the conditions for that expected encounter with “the highest” within the practice itself, which marks the main objective of this tool. . The key is found in transferring the skills we acquired in the sitting meditation training to the Asana. Of all of them, the domain of attention is going to be what will give us depth at different levels. We will make the attention flow in an orderly manner during the development of the Asana: it will supervise the physical posture, it will pass to the respiratory action in its development and from there towards the meditative principle that places us in full consciousness as a conscious observer.
Attention is the vector that provides our individuality with the experience of life and the experience of the transcendent in life. In Integral Asana we are acquiring awareness, at all times, of where we place our attention and where we project it. Here are the steps to get to Comprehensive Asana:
- The attention is totally linked to the posture with the aim of building, settling and developing the physical part of the Asana.
- Once the Asana is settled in its physical structure, we progressively tilt the bulk of the attention towards the breath in Raja Pranayama, until we feel that it stabilizes and is harmonically supported, we will leave a part of the attention attending to the physical posture.
- When we feel that the breath in Raja Pranayama has settled in, and sustains itself harmonically, we partially withdraw our attention from it, quietly positioning ourselves as witnesses in full consciousness, peacefully observing the perceptual space that is naturally created in front of us. We will make, from time to time, a deliberate visit either towards the breathing or towards the organic to confirm that these aspects are still well installed with the aim of redirecting what has been misadjusted or simply to grow both posturally and respiratory, returning finally the attention towards the meditative position and performing the same steps as in a meditative practice sitting in Siddhasana. The location as “observer in full consciousness” allows us to detect the emotional and mental movements that transit in our perceptual space and that may be related to the organic structures involved in the Asana, which gives us the opportunity to be worked on in the moment. When we carry out these steps we can say that we are really beginning to meditate on the Asana, opening the possibility of an inner transformation.
- Staying like this, we take meditation towards its primary objective where, spontaneously, we find the experience of Light, Peace, Love and Joy that the moment provides us. Only then can we say that we are doing Integral Asana.
INTEGRAL ASANA AND INTEGRAL YOGA
With Integral Asana we turn a simple posture into a laboratory of inner exploration and a way that brings us closer to the experience of Samadhi.
But the technical part is not enough for the above. The openness and receptivity to the transcendent and the willingness to carry out a purpose that goes beyond personal benefit are essential elements in this conception of Yoga as a spiritual path and path.
A path that leads us to the great discovery: the Master, the ultimate Yoga Master, is within us. Not as an allegory, but as a tangible and authentic reality. A path that leads us to discover the truth of who we are and the purpose that our heart wants to achieve. That puts us in communion with the forces of life that vibrate in Peace, Love, Truth and Joy. Forces that for the Yogi cease to be a secret, becoming a vehicle for them. A channel of Peace so needed in these times, a means that supports that great objective of Integral Yoga “Lower the sky to Earth”.