This week, I taught on the word "asana."
Asana (pronounced AH-SUN-UH) is the word for a pose. We combine this word with many others to describe the diversity of shapes that we can create on the mat.
However, the translation "pose" is not very satisfactory to me. To look at a photograph of a posture is one thing, but to be in an asana is an entirely different experience. A pose, when done well, is alive with movement. It pulses, burns, and stretches. The tides of breath bathe the body in sensation.
Yoga asana calls us into a sense of interiority uncommon in many physical disciplines. The slow rhythm of the practice combined with dexterous alignment can produce a tremendous quality of feeling that moves us into a mode of embodiment that emphasizes being rather than doing. There comes a point in an asana when everything is lined up just so and all that remains is to sit in the pose, steady in the experience of your body.
Asana can also be translated as "to be" or "seat." Asana is the act of taking a seat, of committing to staying with the surging excitation of a backbend or the tender softening of a restorative pose. We remain steady even as our body pulses with life, gently but firmly turning our attention to the sensations we are experiencing. Asana is, at its most skillful, the physical experience of being fully alive.