Asana in Sanskrit means ‘sitting down’ or ‘to sit down’ but also refers to standing, prone and lying poses. An asana is a posture or pose in which a practitioner or yogi positions their body to promote good health and wellbeing. While the word yoga in the sense that Patanjali intended it is the overarching term for the eight limbs of yoga: yamas, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi, however, it is often used by Westerners to refer to the physical practice of asana.
One of the most influential yoga teachers of recent times was the late Tirumalai Krishnamacharya who passed away in 1989 at the age of 100. He was an Indian yoga teacher, ayurvedic healer, scholar and teacher of some of the most renowned yoga exponents of our times, including the late B.K.S. Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar style yoga and K. Pattabhi Jois, founder of the Astanga style of yoga.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali advises that the practice of asana should be “steady and comfortable”, and that the practitioner should experience no discomfort. When practitioners master control of the body, they are believed to be free from dualities such as heat and cold, hunger and satiety, joy and grief, which is the first step toward the unattachment that relieves suffering.