Pulling my leg has to do with asana? What?

Asana, or physical practice of Hatha yoga, does pull your legs, your arms, your torso, etc., in different directions to free up “stuck” energy and restore your natural flexibility and poise. It also balances your mind, your emotions and the organs and functions of your body. Need I say that a balanced body, mind and emotions allow you to act more intelligently, more sensibly, more compassionate.

eagle pose-Garudasana - Ricardo das NevesAll of that from turning myself into a pretzel?

Well, though some of the more advanced poses are exhilarating to achieve, the poses are only a means to an end: a quiet mind and a peaceful heart. Besides, I’ve never seen you turn into a pretzel. More like a donut, if you ask me.

Oh, like that was a very compassionate thing to say.

Okay, okay. But with a quiet mind and a peaceful heart, you can respond to anything with far superior efficiency and intelligence. Relaxation means your body does not carry unconscious tensions that fight one another; stillness of mind means your focus and attention are razor-sharp; and peacefulness means your innate wisdom surfaces, unclouded by leftover fears, agitation, or anger.

Wow. Like, deep, man.

Forward fold pose-Uttanasana - Ricardo das NevesExactly. And when you touch this peace on a regular basis, the neuroses, fears, and old hurts begin to fade. Not instantly, but in a slow, organic way.

Any other words of wisdom or are we done here?

Asana. Pranayama. Yama. Niyama. Pratyahara. Dharana. Dyana. Samadhi.

Um… Right back at you, pal.

These are the Eight Limbs that make up Raja Yoga.

Why eight and not seven or six?

Because fewer and you would’ve missed out on some good stuff!

What “good stuff”?

If you leave out any of these you’d be a little lopsided. Asana, for instance, is the physical poses. The ancient yogis weren’t the first ones to realize that if you’re sick, or hurting, or weak, it’s hard to concentrate on other things. So bodily health is the foundation.

Upward facing bow pose-Urdhva Dhanurasana - Ricardo das NevesHard to do anything else when you’re sick as a dog.

That’s right. Poor breathing, the demands and stresses of daily living, as well as physical exertion, create residual muscular tension. We all walk around with greater or lesser amount of this unconscious tension -- in the shoulders, the neck, the lower back, any muscle at all. How we eat, how we sit, how we move affects the energy flow of the body -- freeing up that energy or blocking it along specific points in the body. With yoga postures, both the residual muscle tension and these blockage points are gradually opened, leading to a state of vitality, alertness, and relaxation all at once. And then you can focus on pranayama.