Asana is a very popular component of Yoga. Asanas are practiced in all countries. Millions of people are practicing Asanas every day. The main question is whether they are practicing correctly. Correctly means as per the way prescribed by Patanjali the pioneer of Yoga. Patanjali has mentioned the definition of Asana. The Sutra for this definition reads as follows: "Sthir sukham asanam"
Sthir means Steady, Sukham means comfortable and asanam means posture. The meaning of this definition is " Steady & comfortable posture is Asana. "These are the two qualities of the Asana or posture. Presence of only one quality is not sufficient to qualify it as Asan. Hence a stage which is steady and comfortable at the same time is called Asana. So there should be no movements in the body, at the same time there must be no pain or even discomfort in the body. Then only this stage can be called as Asana.
There are some movements that are essentialto take up the position and also to release the posture and bring it back to thenormal position/preposition. We can analysis the method of practicing asana as follows.
Initial Position "Preposition"
Stage 1: Taking the asana position - by making some movements the final position is attained.
Stage 2 : Keeping the asana position steady for some time.
Stage 3 : Releasing the asana position - by making some movements the asana position is released.
The stage 1 & 3 contain the movements hence they are not "asana" as per the definitation
There is no movement in the stage two hence the stage two is "Asana" If you want to practice Asanas practice the stage two for a longer time. Stage 1 & 3 are not asana but they are essential for taking the asana position. That is why the movements for asana are very slow. Hence the correct procedure for practicing Asana is as follows.
The movements required for attaining and releasingasana position are to be made slowly and then the Asana ismaintained for the longer time. The time duration must be such that the practitioner must feel comfortable. Asana is to be maintained steadily as long as it is comfortable. Asana must be released when comfort is lost and some pain, stretch or discomfort starts due to overstrainThe same explanation is equally applicable to the mind also. The mind must be steady and comfortable in the Asana position. So try to practice your yoga as per the definition of Patanjali!