When describing the benefits of asanas there is always the tendency of oversimplification. The concrete benefits that we attribute to each asana in this book, though definitely valid, are only scratching the surface. We are actually underselling the vast benefits that can be obtained from them. We generally confine ourselves to listing the physical benefits and pointing out the parts of the body that are specifically influenced. These benefits are true enough, but asanas act in far greater depth. They don’t actually affect specific parts of the body to the exclusion of all other parts. Every asana has positive and harmonious repercussions on the whole being of the practitioner. They act on the gross and easily perceivable physical body, but far more important in relation to maintaining or improving health and removing disease, they act on the psychic and pranic body) and personal mind. It is the influence on these far more subtle aspects of being that bring about the main benefits of asanas. But it is these more subtle planes that cannot be discussed in concrete terms. They have to be experienced. It is imbalance in the flow of prana and mental disharmony etc. that are the root causes of disease. Asanas help to harmonize both these spheres.
Asanas don’t really act in a specific sense, but in a total sense. That is, they tend to harmonize the entire subtle instrumentation of the individual being. This in turn helps to rapidly bring about vibrant health, or at least improved health. Of course, we could say more about the effects on the mind and the pranic body, but the relationships and interactions are very subtle, and any attempt to be specific only leads to gross overgeneralization and eventually more confusion. It is for this reason that we stick to describing benefits that come from asanas through direct physical reasons, such as massage, stretching the nerves, etc. But the greatest and more profound benefits come through the influence of the asanas on the pranic and mental bodies. It is these influences that can bring about remarkable improvements in one’s overall health and attitude towards life.
Ideally, asanas should be done amidst conditions of peace and harmony. It is in this manner that they will most effectively purge the system of all types of abnormalities, whether physical, pranic or mental. This is one of the reasons why a sojourn in a quiet haven, combined with yogic practices such as asanas, is so therapeutic. Furthermore, asanas give greatest benefits if you simultaneously change food habits, sleep habits, etc. so that they are more conducive to well-being. The habits here are the ones that are obviously detrimental to good health. We won’t discuss them here for you are more than likely fully aware of them. Even if you don’t change inharmonious habits, asanas will still help to bring about good health, but they work less successfully and efficiently. In fact, without this effort to reorientate your way of life, they will probably only manage to maintain the status quo and prevent you going further down the road to ill health. We don’t want you to become a faddist, or to suppress your natural inclinations. All we want you to do is to bear these factors in mind when you try to gain good health and when you utilize asanas as an aid.