It’s a common misconception that the asanas are a form of physical exercise. While the asanas move the body, they also move the mind.
The effect on the mind comes because the asanas move prana in the body. When prana flows freely, you have everything you need to feel well. Your mind can stop chasing and racing and rests comfortably in the present moment.
Paschimottanasana, or West side facing up pose, is a good practice for moving prana in your body so that your mind can find peace wherever it is. But the key to the flow of prana is in how you practice.
How many times have you been in an asana class and found yourself faking your way through a pose that you did not know how to do? This is very common in fast-paced studio classes, and it is the cause of injury in many yogis.
Long before Yoga studios began to appear in every town, learning the asanas took years of dedicated study. A student would work with one teacher over many years, combining formal education with self-study. Ultimately, the student owned and was responsible for their own practice.
If you are used to doing Yoga asana in a group setting, it’s a common pitfall to compare your progress with the people around you. But there is no end goal in Yoga asana. No matter how long you have practiced, there are always new steps and levels to reach. If you are focused on trying to get your hips as open as the next person or do sun salutations with the most flair, you’re not honoring your personal journey. Progression in asana is something that comes over time and with dedication. Rushing into the full expression of a pose runs counter to the teachings of Yoga.