Progress in all forms of yoga is directly related to how persistent and regular one practices. Asana is no exception. To obtain the most benefit, one should practice every day. Beginners should develop a daily practice from the start. Like brushing teeth, bathing, or a good night’s sleep, asana practice should become part of one’s daily routine. The effect of regular practice on the physical body can readily be seen, as joints and muscles gain flexibility and strength. The skin takes on a luminous glow, and the eyes sparkle. One feels lighter and at the same time better able to articulate the body as agility and coordination develop.
The benefits of asana practice, however, reach far greater than skin, muscles and joints. More than other physical practices, asana practice directly affects the endocrine system, stimulating and balancing glandular secretions. The long term positive effect that asana practice can have on the endocrine system only comes about when the practice is daily. A healthy endocrine system contributes to a healthier physical body and can even slow down the aging process. One’s metabolism becomes balanced, resulting in better digestion and assimilation of food. Compulsive eating is curbed. The immune system is strengthened and stabilized. One feels more energetic and at the same time calm. Stress reduction occurs naturally, as emotions become stabilized. One gains access to inner wells of creativity.
Perhaps the most extraordinary effect of daily practice is the expansion of consciousness that occurs from the stimulation of the master glands through asana, especially through regular inversion practice. When consciousness, or the “knowing principle,” expands to include cosmic awareness, then the individual begins to perceive him/herself not as a separate insignificant person, but as a dynamic player in the life of the community and the whole world. Fear and insecurity begin to lift, as true self-confidence dawns. Eternal bliss or samadhi, the ultimate result of yoga practice, is realized. One feels their whole being-body and mind-as a vehicle for the Divine Will.
With summer ending and a new season starting in an increasing turbulent world, a consistent spiritual and physical practice will create a calm immediate surrounding. Just as a regular practice expands one’s consciousness, it expands one’s capacity to cope with the “everyday” and increases one’s ability to positively affect others, with less effort. The only thing that any of us really “have” in this life is our effect upon others. How we treat others determines the kind of world we live in. Asana practice can transform one’s life, allowing one to better contribute to a positive atmosphere which can in turn benefit the world.
Asana practice can lead to tremendous health benefits and profound spiritual realizations, but only if approached with a persistent and intense commitment. That was Patanjali’s advice two thousand years ago. More recently, in his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell offers a more modern articulation of that advice in the “10,000 Hour Rule,” which posits that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master any skill. Of course, we do not practice asana in order to achieve any particular level of mastery in the performance of asana itself, but rather in order to experience the highest levels of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual attainment possible. Nevertheless, the 10,000 Hour Rule is a useful reminder of the commitment necessary to achieve our goal. As a resolution for the new season, take an asana class every day for a month to see and feel if there is a positive change in your life.