Updated: Sep 20, 2020
How can yoga make us stronger?
Creating whole body intelligence in yoga
Earlier this year in Thailand, I met a lovely lady who said that the stick pose (or ‘yastikasana’ in Sandskrit) could also be called the banana pose if you twist your body into a sort of a crescent moon shape. Try it, lie on your back. Feet together, hands together over head, inhale and stretch out. Stretch through your fingers and toes. Really reach, like a stick. Exhale to release. Try it again, and add the curve (arms and legs to the same side) if you fancy trying the banana. How have I done?! Or can you think of another word that rhymes with jnana?!
So, what is Jnana? It is the second of the four bhavas, attitudes or feelings, that we can apply to our practice. Jnana is knowledge. Wholesome, fulfilling knowledge. Yoga says that everybody’s mind, everybody’s body is genius and totally intelligent. It knows exactly what it wants, exactly what it needs and if you let it, it will exist in complete balance, complete harmony. When we connect to our inner intelligence, we will be guided in magnificent ways.
Sounds easy right? Yoga says it is. That we can use our bodies to gain knowledge. If you listen to your body it will tell you exactly what you need, what it requires, and we can connect to it through certain types of asana.
What does this look like in practice?
The jnana bhava can be cultivated in any upward stretching, spine rinsing asana, sideways bends and twists. Juicy. It can also be summoned in balance postures like the tree (ekpadasnana or one foot pose) and extremities postures that really use your arms and legs (the eagle or garudasana or the kneeling prayer pose - you’ll know if you’ve been to one of my classes, it's one of my favourite!).
By doing these jnana asanas (another word that rhymes with banana!), over time we increase the intelligence of our cells, and change old habits, and begin to re-wire our circuits as we promote and build neuromuscular strength. We condition our muscles and internal organs and bring awareness to all levels of our beings - physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.
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Carrie is a co-founder of The Frog Project, yoga teacher, and full time stay at home mum to two smalls. When she's not playing with the kids or practicing yoga, you'll likely find her in the middle of her veg patch, trowel in hand and covered in mud. She loves the outdoors, and would camp every night given the chance. She and her partner in crime, Martin, set up The Frog Project with the aim of bringing classical yoga to all, and deliver live online classes with a group of dedicated teachers, to students of all experiences, ages, shapes, sizes, jobs, lives, you name it, from all around the world. Join them now and get 15 days of free unlimited classes. It's just yoga.