The Ananda Marga system of yoga comprises 42 yoga asana postures, which were specifically selected by P.R. Sarkar for their benefits.
During Asana practice, the body remains in a state of relaxed efficiency, and the deep breathing which naturally accompanies this means that more oxygen is carried to the bloodstream. During asanas, energy is accumulated and the body refreshed.
Asanas effect on the body and mind
Asanas benefit all of the body’s systems. The twisting and bending which these postures involve places pressure on the endocrine glands, helping them to function in a more balanced manner. The result is improved functioning of the entire organism, including its growth, digestive, repair and waste processes. In addition, since hormonal secretions affect emotions, asanas, by balancing these secretions, gradually help to bring emotional disturbances under control. Thus asanas relieve the mind of many upsetting influences, and mental composure is attained. Asanas have many other benefits: they relax and tone up the muscles and nervous system, stimulate circulation, limber the joints, stretch ligaments, improve digestion and massage the internal organs.
For a well-balanced, integrated life, a person should develop in three aspects: physical, mental and spiritual. Meditation calms and controls the mind and elevates the spirit; asanas and proper diet purify the body so that its development may not lag behind that of the mind. Through the discipline of asanas, the practitioner gradually learns to keep the mind and body poised in all situations. A perfectly functioning body and a mind free from emotional disturbances … this is the aim of asanas.
Yogic postures help strengthen the endocrine system and also bring the emotions under control through concentration and relaxation. This ability to remain in relaxed equilibrium has an important psychological effect. Yogis, through their physical training, gradually learn to keep their psychological equilibrium unaltered to preserve a perfect psychological calm in whatever environment they happen to find themselves.
Asanas vs. Exercise
There is a difference between asanas and exercise. Asanas affect the hormonal, glandular, endocrine, lymphatic systems. They have subtle effects on deep parts of the mind. If done improperly, the subtler effects are not realised. Asanas done while exposed to harsh elements, such as wind, hot sun, cold water will not enable these effects to be felt. Asanas done in unhealthy moods will also not be effective to elevate the mind. Indeed, the effect can be to aggravate lower propensities. The left nostril should be open because flow of breath is more subtle. Doing asanas while only the right nostril is open (which is the more cruder flow of breath and mind) will not realise the subtle effects. Changes in body functions should be particularly taken into account in determining what asanas are to be performed.
It is not necessary to go through a long complicated series of asanas. Depending on the particular needs of your body it may be necessary to perform only a few asanas each day. As each of us have different imbalances and needs, each person should have their own special set of asanas. Performance of certain positions may stimulate an already overactive gland, or harm a person in other subtle ways. Asanas, as with all other yogic techniques, are part of a whole, harmonious psycho-physical training, a step in a long path, which should be travelled under the guidance of a true spiritual teacher.
In Ananda Marga asanas are taught individually by trained teachers who also practice meditation.