A’sanas or Yoga postures have developed over the last several thousand years into a coherent, scientific system for promoting all-around health. Through daily practice, our bodies and minds can become vehicles of joy, flexible and strong. For many, the regular practice of a’sanas is the first step, a tangible, practical method for self-improvement and expansion of consciousness. A’sanas are much more than physical exercises; they are a spiritual practice. For a well-balanced, integrated life, a person should develop in all three aspects: physical, mental, and spiritual. When performed with a calm, concentrated mind, a’sanas prepare the practitioner for the journey into the inner self, exploring one’s own consciousness. In this manual for teachers, explicit instructions are provided for those who want to serve others by sharing the peace they themselves enjoy.
A’sanas comprise one of eight branches of a system called Raja Yoga or As’a’unga Yoga. They are the third step on a progressive ladder of higher and higher mental and spiritual practices, culminating in the highest state of mind a person can experience: sama’dhi, or total absorption in Cosmic Consciousness. The first two steps of Raja Yoga are Yama (abstinences) and Niyama (observances). They provide a code of conduct, a moral base for the practices of spirituality. Without being completely honest and pure in all relationships with others and with oneself, a spiritual aspirant cannot even begin to explore the depths of his mind. Establishment in the principles of Yama and Niyama facilitates the practice of a’sanas and meditation. Pra’n’a’ya’ma, or control of the vital energies through control of breathing, is the next step. By carefully following the A’ca’rya (spiritual teacher) instructions, the practitioner greatly increases his powers of concentration and infuses his body with vital energy. The processes of meditation (sa’dhana) follow. By perfecting the practice of Pratyaha’ra (sense withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), and Dhya’na (meditation), the spiritual aspirant can reach that high state of consciousness sama’dhi.
In any practical science, an experienced guide is essential – one who knows the path and can lead others carefully along with it. By following the teachings of such an experienced master, one’s progress is greatly accelerated. The system of exercises given here is based on the teachings of Shrii Shrii A’nandamu’rti, the guru of A’nanda Ma’rga. In one of His books, Carya’carya, He has discussed the basic a’sanas, which are essential for health and spiritual development. It is His love that has inspired this manual. For the disciple, the spiritual master is the window to the Infinite.