Originally Aasana referred to only a sitting position that allowed the body to be steady and comfortable in order not to create disturbance for the mind (through unsteadiness and discomfort) so the Yogin could remain seated for long periods of time to facilitate and maintain a meditative state. A steady body encourages or creates the space for a steady mind. And the posture one is sitting in needs to be comfortable in order to be maintained for long periods of time.
Plethora of Aasanas of all types were later developed as humans became more removed from nature and more sedentary. This allowed for the limbs and spine to become and stay more nimble, flexible and strong in order to sit for long periods of time.
Asanas also encourage and support health of our physiology in order to keep illness at bay as it is harder to meditate when the body is not healthy.
There are also two other deeper purposes behind Aasanas which are either not well known or not stressed enough. Aasanas are ways to consciously recreate through adopting, holding and going within various postures the evolution of life itself, for example ‘mountain pose’, ‘tree pose’, various animal poses, human poses (such as the ‘hero pose’) and god poses (such as Nataraj Aasana or Shiva as the Cosmic Dancer pose). It is a way to exorcise our past which is still recorded in our reptilian and mammalian brains, and therefore to facilitate the human, humane and divine aspect of embodiment locked in our neocortex and beyond.
And finally Aasanas can also be designed to potentialize our subtle body when combined with the breath and ignite the Divine Fire of evolution within ourselves, the Kundalini Shakti on the way to the total liberation of the psyche.
Dr Swami Gitananda Giri Maharaj was famous for asking ‘What is your Aasana in life?”
Let’s ask ourselves what is our stance in life, how do we posture ourselves when faced with personal challenges? In order to grow we must question ourselves but do so without judgement nor justification, without playing games with ourselves or others. Are you up to the challenge? Will your Aasana remain steady even though you may be uncomfortable?