No More Poses Folks

I’m reading BKS Iyengar’s Core of the Yoga Sutras.  In this book, Mr. Iyengar organizes the ideas in ways that illuminate a non-linear path through the Sutras of Patanjali.  It’s a helpful way of looking at this material, especially because Mr. Iyengar adds a broad range of yoga texts and philosophy to support his interpretations.

Right now, I am reflecting on his thoughts about asana. Mr. Iyengar believes that asanas are presented and received – as important – unto themselves.  Yes, they have health benefits when taken in the right environment, but frequently asanas are utilized merely as poses.

We even speak about yoga as “poses.”

But when you look up “pose” in the dictionary, the first definition is to “assume a particular attitude or stance, especially with the hope of impressing others.” The second…”to present oneself insincerely.” And the third definition of pose…”to assume or hold a physical attitude.”

None of these seem in line with Mr. Iyengar’s discussion of asana. He writes that ”Unfortunately, practitioners today misread the sutra and from the very beginning seek comfort and ease when performing the asanas. This means that, in their practices, they surrender their discerning mind to the dictates of the body and become slaves of convenience.”

He goes on to discuss Verse III.26 “The perfect practitioner of asanas develops a super sensory perception when performing the asanas, which enables him to direct the flame of awareness to trace those parts where the light of awareness does not penetrate or where awareness is hidden, veiled or concealed or remains in darkness for ever.”

Clearly the idea of asana and the word pose are at odds with one another.   Perhaps as teachers, students  (not to mention writers) we should abstain from using the word “pose.” It does no justice to the higher understanding of how to do the practice, taking us further away from the very core of yoga.

–Brette Popper


One comment

  1. wildyogahearts · · Reply

    i do agree and what i have learned in the years that i have been teaching(and learning) is that so much has been thrown out of whack and the name of Yoga has been turned into such a state of business that in order to re-teach i will say both (Asana and Pose) and repeat over and over what Asana means so as not too confuse how new students/clients have been taught from other sources that may not have a grasp of what Yoga really means… i have noticed that by bringing truth(to my teachings and classes) i see that the connection to understanding that Asana means pose and what it is meant for, becomes clearer.. In my workshops i do not have to use same way of clarifying because i start out teaching very firm what Asana it is excepted easier in that space.. thank you for your posts, and for helping to bringing understanding to so many 😀

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