Asana, Yoga Postures form the third step in Ashtanga Yoga. Maharishi Patanjali describes asana in Yoga Sutras as “Sthiram Sukham Asanam”, which means that asana is to stay in position or pose with ease. The purpose of yoga asana is to develop strength, balance and steadiness of the body which eventually leads to mastery over the mind.
Yoga is one of the six main systems of Indian philosophy called Shad-Darshanas. Yoga is a philosophy as a well as a practical science. The Yoga system of philosophy has been existing from ancient times, but it was codified by Maharishi Patanjali in his classical treatise, today known as Patanjali Yoga Sutras. So, what is Yoga?
Yama in the Yoga Sutras is the first step in “Ashtanga Yoga” or the eight limbs of Yoga. Yama deals mostly with our external ethical behavior. Yoga tradition has given much importance to developing a balanced personality before taking up higher practices of yoga.
Ashtanga yoga comprises of eight steps towards perfection mentioned in the Yoga Sutras. There are many classical texts on yoga. The process of yoga is dealt with even in the Vedic texts – Yoga Tatva Upanishad, Yoga Shika upanishad, Yoga Chudamani Upanishad, etc. to mention a few. But one has to understand that yoga is what is called a “prayoga sastra” or a practical science. It is more about techniques to evolve the human consciousness, rather than a mere philosophy. In that sense, it was Maharishi Patanjali who expounded the science of yoga in systematic way, in his Patanjali Yoga Sutras.