Yoga practice can be represented in the image of a tree, to illustrate the spiritual as well as physical benefits.
Developed by Yoga master B. H. S. Iyengar, the Tree of Yoga is a symbol of the spiritual development that is available through devoted practice.
Indian sages who have experienced enlightenment found the seed of liberation in Yoga; just as a seed is planted – the ground is dug and softened, and the seed is placed, covered and watered so must you adequately care for the Self, cultivating your inner and outer nature.
Strong roots will give way to a solid trunk and wide spreading branches with many leaves. If the tree is well-cared for, it will also flower and bear fruit; Yoga practice is the same.
The Tree of Yoga represents an evolution of the Self by unifying body, mind and soul; it provides a path for spiritual enlightenment from roots to trunk, branches to leaves, flowers to fruit.
Often Yoga is misrepresented as only a physical practice, and the Asanas of Yoga as only physical exercise. This limited field of vision lacks the spiritual nature and true intent of Yoga, the sight of the soul.
Yoga includes eight limbs (or parts of the Tree of Yoga), which range from moral and ethical disciplines to pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation. All of these eight limbs are represented in the regular practice of the Asanas.
It is a lifelong journey that, with time, patience and devotion, unites body, breath, senses, mind, intelligence and the cosmic nature of the soul.
Perfect your performance of the Asanas through gaining a more in-depth appreciation of the benefits of these positions.
The third limb of the Tree of Yoga is Asana, which is represented by the branches of the Tree of Yoga. As each branch is different, stretching, bending, twisting towards a different point, so does each Asana stretch the body, mind and soul in a different way.
Through the branches of the Yoga Tree, you learn how to perform each Asana correctly, the usage of this term does not only mean physically correct by also mentally.
What is your attitude and approach towards the Asana? You should be completely absorbed in the performance and have an honest acceptance of your body’s capabilities. You must be fully aware of the body and its actions, and the mind and its impulses to avoid placing unnecessary stress on some muscles. You must find the right balance or working and pushing the body, yet not overworking the body leading to pain and damage.
This fine balance is found only through regular practice; through posing’ and reposing’ the Asanas. Posing means action, or performing the position, while reposing means to reflect on the position. This process of performing, rethinking and re-adjusting will give you the sensitivity to correctly perform the Asanas.
In addition to pose and repose, you will need to have faith, courage, determination, awareness and absorption to physically perform the Asanas well and break through to the spiritual level of practice.
An Asana is a perfect form, an art. Before attempting each Asana, you should study its structure; observe if it is round, triangular, semi-circular, straight or diagonal. Note the direction of the Asana and where the body must lift; notice where the center of gravity is located in each position. It is the body that must fit the form of each Asana, not the Asana that adapts to fit the body. Therefore, pose and repose, adjust and improve your performance of the position.
In this way, the body with its bones, joints and muscles is molded into the shape of each Asana, rendering it beautiful and joyful.
If you perform the Asana correctly, you become one with the position; resistance and movement will exist in harmony. Equal sensitivity is given to the body, mind and soul, which creates a state of contemplation or meditation. In this state, the dualities of divisions between the body and mind, and mind and soul are totally destroyed.
A correctly performed Asana will have profound physical, physiological, psychological, and intellectual and spiritual effects on the practitioner, and through continually devoted and correct practice, the mind becomes further detached from the body and increasingly attached to the light of the soul.