In the Yoga Sutras, asana is described as the third of the eight limbs of classical yoga.* The word asana simply means seat, and actually refers to seated postures used for pranayama and meditation.
Interestingly, poses are only mentioned once in the entire Yoga Sutras, and not a single asana is mentioned by name. All the Sutras have to say about practicing yoga postures is this:
‘Posture (should be) steady and comfortable’.
That's it, folks! The classical path of yoga is concerned with your liberation; it doesn't care one lick about the length of your hamstrings or the tautness of your abs.
Posture practice as we know it today evolved much later, and is a helpful for gaining mastery over our physiology ... but that’s another subject for another day...
For The Classical Yoga system, asana is how you position yourself when you are practicing meditation - and it has to be comfortable so it doesn’t interfere with your ability to concentrate.
Here are some ways to play with this idea:
On the Mat: Sit in Sukhasana (comfortable pose) and practice some pranayama or meditation in a steady, comfortable seated position.
Off the Mat: Contemplate what it is you use asana practice for. The Sutras aim for liberation/enlightenment. What are you aiming for? Are you satisfied with your personal goals for practice?
*Scroll back through the blog feed if you’re interested in reading about yama and niyama