By Gary Kraftsow
According to the ancients , the physical body consists of five aspects: the head, the torso , the two arms, and the two legs— and the related practice of āsana.
Our tendency today is to think of physical fitness and health in terms of measurements (the percentage of muscle to body fat or the target pulse rate, for example) and/ or standards of performance (the ability to run a marathon or to bench-press our body weight). Bringing this mentality to āsana practice, many have the impression that it is about performance and that we can measure our progress by our ability to perfect the forms of the postures.
The ancients, however, based their concept of physical fitness and health on an entirely different set of criteria : a feeling of lightness in the body (aṅgalaghavam); an ability to withstand change (dvaṅdvānabhighātaḥ); and a stable body and focused mind, ready to sit for prāṇāyāma practice, in which the ancient science of the breath is applied.
They recognized that, from the moment of conception, all aspects of the physical body must be nourished. They understood that the needs of our bodies change from infancy through childhood, from adolescence into adulthood, and again from the child-bearing into the senior years. On the basis of this recognition and understanding, they developed the science of āsana practice (āsanābhyāsaḥ) as a way of promoting the balanced growth of the body and the maintenance of that balance into old age. And just as our bodies change through time, the ancients suggested that the purpose and methods of āsana practice must also change. In other words, traditionally, the practice of āsana was always considered as an integral part of a holistic practice, never as an isolated fitness system.
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Excerpt from: Yoga for Transformation: Ancient Teachings and Practices for Healing the Body, Mind,and Heart by Gary Kraftsow.
Gary Kraftsow, the leading proponent of viniyoga therapy in the US, has been a pioneer in the transmission of yoga for health, healing, and personal transformation for 30 years. After studying in India with T.K.V. Desikachar and his father T. Krishnamacharya, Gary received a special diploma from Viniyoga International in Paris. In 1999 he founded the American Viniyoga Institute where he is currently director and senior teacher of the Institute’s teacher and therapist trainings.
To learn more about Gary Kraftsow, check out his DVDs here at Pranamaya.