I’ve practiced yoga for many years and have found it to be very complimentary to vipassana. I’m lucky to have a studio just 2 minutes away and have been pretty consistent this last year and a half. Goenkaji had talked about yoga as being very beneficial for the physical body and even more beneficial if you can do it with the awareness of sensations and equanimity. I’ve experienced benefits which have included greater strength, flexibility, balance, release of tension and also greater sensitivity and awareness of sensation. This has aided my sitting practice and has factored into deepening meditation on courses.
The origin of the physical asana practice from what I understand was to strengthen the body and help open the channels in support of sitting meditation. Although we tend to only hear about the asana practice, it’s actually only one of 8 limbs of yoga. The other limbs relate to ethical practices, developing virtues, and concentration; 1) The Yama’s- Moral Discipline (Sila) 2) Niyama’s- Positive disciplines which build character 3) Asana’s – The Physical poses 4) Pranayama- Breathing exercises 5) Pratyahara- Sense withdrawal 6) Dharana- Focused concentration 7) Dhyana- Meditative absorption 8) Samadhi- Liberation.
Most of these limbs are within what we practice in Dhamma. I focus on natural breathing instead of pranayama and also in yoga the emphasis seems on developing concentration than on developing wisdom into the impermanent nature of mind and matter. I do yoga with the focus on breath and sensations. The limbs of yoga developed in a class are the physical postures with a positive theme presented usually about developing virtue and character. There’s also the withdrawal of the senses and the development of concentration which is a support for wisdom.
We are very blessed to have come in contact with Dhamma and in order to get the most out of practice it’s important that we maintain the health and longevity of our body. Yoga is one support for that. Just as we take care of our car with servicing, it’s important that we take care of our body. Also in western culture, there is such an emphasis on being busy and in our heads all the time. Yoga is an aid to connecting to the body and sensations. Actually, yoga means to yoke the mind with the body which is something that we in western culture are especially in need of support with.