The Power of Asana for Healthy Body Alignment

T.K.V. Desikachar defines the term asana as posture. The third limb in the Eight Limbs of Yoga, the word asana derived from the Sanskrit root as, which means to stay, to be, to sit and to be established in a particular position. In the commentary of the Yoga Sutras, Sri Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002), defines asana as a “steady and comfortable posture.”

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Iyengar suggests that the practice of asana focuses on every muscle, nerve and gland. He states that a stretched and elastic body protects the student from fatigue and comforts the nervous system. The Yogi also suggests that asana is a gateway for training and purifying the mind. Singers and teachers may find benefits of asana to include: stronger body alignment, improved respiration, greater body awareness, relief of stress, and better focus. Iyengar states:

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Many actors, acrobats, dancers and musicians possess superb physiques and have great control over the body, but they lack control over the mind, the intellect and the Self…they often put the body above all else. Though the yogi does not underrate the body, one does not think merely of its perfection but the senses, mind, intellect and soul. Desikachar acknowledges that before beginning an asana practice, students must accept themselves physically and mentally. When a student is executing the pose with proper form, the mind should still be engaged and not wander. The practice of asana focuses on mind-body awareness. Desikachar believes that, once the student recognizes his starting point and accepts it, the practice may be more rewarding

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The yoga scriptures state that there are over 8,400 asanas. There may be asanas that are not appropriate for singers to practice because of possible injury to the neck. Headstands, or poses involving the head, neck and larynx should be avoided. Singerfriendly asanas include rib and spine-opening poses and asanas that prevent neck tension and that keep the shoulders free. Similar to singing, yoga practice demands the individual set aside ego. A voice student in the first years of voice study might find it difficult to execute a particular vocal exercise. Frustration could create anxiety and self-doubt, making it impossible to complete the exercise correctly. When the ego and self-doubt is removed, the exercise may prove easier to sing. The same might be true when beginning a difficult asana. Lister states:

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When singing and doing yoga, worrying about “looking good” prevents you from doing your best. Worrying about how the class or the audience thinks you look distracts you from staying focused on your form… focus on the pose at hand and you will free your mind from distraction and grant your body greater freedom and better form.

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The student may not go far enough into the pose and the muscles will not be challenged. Conversely, the student might push the body too deeply into the stretch and cause pain or injury. Singers new to yoga should attend a class at a studio or a college campus to be introduced to proper form, allowing the body to open up for other, more challenging asanas