No Magic Pill
Can we just get one thing straight?
Asanas don’t have magical power.
They are just stretches that condition our body. When practiced regularly. Over a long period of time. With sincere effort.
But social media posts, blogs not unlike this one, articles published in yoga magazines, and even some yoga teachers will extol the virtues of individual asanas as if they are imbued with magical powers.
It's not uncommon to read or hear something like this - Paschiamttanasana will cure sciatica! Improve digestion! Eliminate anxiety! Purify your nervous system! Align your chakras!
I have no idea if anyone has actually made those specific claims about that specific posture, but I think you get my point. Empty promises are being made. Innocently enough, to be sure, but what we’re selling is not delivering. It’s snake oil.
Don’t get me wrong. Individual asanas do, of course, target certain areas of the body and do, without a doubt, have an amazing capacity to heal. But problems arise when we try to use them as a quick fix instead of incorporating them into a broader practice or lifestyle change. Asana performed as a one off, half assed attempt to improve our lives will do no such thing.
A single posture, removed from the context of dedicated practice, has very little power to change our bodies and lives in any significant way. While paschimattanasana might relieve anxiety for a sincere practitioner within the framework of the eight limbs of yoga, it's unlikely to have the same effect for someone looking for a quick fix for their over scheduled, under exercised, poorly nourished life.
This “magical asana” myth is likely a product of our impatient, rushing to nowhere culture. The notion that we could take a single posture, perform it a few times, and have it cure us in some fantastical way is just too tempting. Compare that to the REAL solution - spending time on your yoga mat everyday, putting forth sincere effort, and making significant lifestyles changes, and it's easy to see why we prefer the former.
Let us instead be mindful of how we advertise our practice. Let’s make sure to be honest about the true benefits of yoga, which are usually more modest than we care to admit…
…oh, am I the only yogi who still sucks at life sometimes and still gets sick and injured and still suffers from anxiety and still hasn't ascended to heaven? I didn’t think so.
Asana is no magic pill.
Let us please be very clear about the work this practice involves and what it can realistically deliver.
Don’t want to take my word for it? Perhaps you’ll find Pattabhi Jois more convincing. He said, “Whole lifetime take practice. Some small benefit is there.” He didn't say, “Practice seated forward fold a few times to fix everything”
I’ll step off my soapbox now, but please don’t tell anyone that trikonasana will cure their diabetes or I’ll have to climb back up here.