An asana is a posture. There are innumerable postures your body can take. Among these, certain postures have been identified as “yoga asanas” or yogasanas. “Yoga” means that which takes you on to a higher dimension or higher perception of life. So, that kind of posture which leads you to a higher possibility is called a “yogasana.”
You may have noticed that for different mental and emotional situations that you go through, your body naturally tends to take a certain posture. If you are happy, you sit one way. When you are unhappy you sit another way. When you are peaceful you sit one way, if you are angry you sit another way. Many times, you can tell what is happening with someone by just observing the way they are sitting, have you noticed? Based on this, conversely is the science of asanas – by consciously getting your body into a certain posture, you can also elevate your consciousness. You can change the very way you feel, think, understand, and experience life by sitting in a particular way.
Yogasanas are not exercises. They are very subtle processes of manipulating your energy in a certain direction. It needs to be done with a certain level of awareness. There are various levels of doing asanas. You can practice asanas just physically, or more deeply, being aware of the breath, sensations, reverberations, being aware of the nadis, or with appropriate mantras. You can even do asanas without moving a limb. That is also possible.
The science of asanas
The science of asanas is known as hatha yoga. “Ha” means sun, “ta” means moon. The first process of yoga is to bring balance between the masculine and feminine in you. Otherwise there will be no scaling of consciousness. This is why Shiva is known as Ardhanarishvara – one half of him is a woman, another half of him is a man. He is a man and the very embodiment of manhood. At the same time, he is also woman, because without bringing this balance, without cultivating these two dimensions within us, there is no reaching towards the peak, there is no question of a human being flowering to his fullest possibility. That is why the first dimension of yoga that you practice is hatha yoga. That means the yoga of the sun and the moon is bringing balance between the masculine and the feminine. That is the first step to take.
People who have taken up hatha yoga as their way of life generally take up one asana for their life’s sadhana. This is known as Asana Siddhi. Asana Siddhi means one is able to sit in a particular way with absolute ease. For most people, whichever way they keep their body, it is not at ease. If you sit, it is not comfortable. If you stand, it is not comfortable. If you lie down, it is not comfortable. What the hell to do with this? If you give your body to the process of yoga, slowly the body becomes at ease. If you sit like this, it is absolutely at ease. It is not trying to be some other way.
A thinking mind cannot understand how a man can spend his whole life wanting to sit in a particular way. But everything that can be perceived can be perceived, by having mastery over a single physical posture. What you are calling as yogasanas is just to get this body geometrically in line with the cosmic geometry. If you learn to just hold it right, you can download the whole cosmos. This is yoga. If you simply sit right, everything that’s worth knowing can be known to you from within.