Yoga’s blueprint, passed originally by word of mouth, then written on banana leaves and now shared by books and digital media, is steeped in an elegant heritage which admonishes the yogi from seeds of an encounter with self.
This deepening with self is born in stillness and realized in the mind, body, and spirit. It’s a yogatecture, and with the application of yoga tools: meditation, deliberate movement, breath, and ease in stress, the yogi constructs a flexible yet strong building in their body.
The process is simple, and the blueprint is clear; take a seat and start with one conscious breath followed by another. Link this to meditation and deliberate movement for the start of a makeover that each yogi embodies in their own way. Yogis build a sacred and sound structure by following this practice. It’s the physical, non-physical, and metaphysical work of yoga; it is also yoga’s therapeutic.
Builders say the most important structural aspect of a building is its foundation. When building, it’s necessary to create a strong foundation. In the north, if the foundation is not set below the frost line, the freeze and thaw cycles of Earth will crack the base which starts the slow process of destruction.
B.K.S. Iyengar spoke directly on foundational work in, Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom. “In each asana, if the contact between body and the floor – the foundation – is good, the asana will be performed well. Always watch your base: Be attentive to the portion nearest the ground. Correct first from the root. The standing poses are meant to begin providing this foundation for life.”
Asana is not only foundation building in yoga, its the ground and heart of an embodied spiritual practice because asana is a moving prayer. Many people pray in church, in nature, or in some other religious setting, but does their prayer include movement? Working as a Protestant clergy for 14 years, I observed most prayer was offered while standing still, sitting still, or kneeling.
But in asana, yogis open the body first by movement and breath, and spirit follows. If the yogi has eyes to see, their asana becomes an expression of gratitude in motion. It then becomes moving prayer, embodied prayer: a physical, mental, and spiritual act. Yoga prayers are not asking for something; rather, they are a response. In that way, if asana is prayer, a yogi’s motivation for mastering asana is not selfish or egoistic, it’s a way of making the response as complete as possible because it’s a posture of gratitude.