I think that the asanas do matter, but mainly because of the process that we go through to get to the posture, not because of some inherent value to the posture itself.
The process is so empowering. I think that the cycle is always the same. You see a posture and you think "oh holy crap, that is never going to be me." But then for some reason, you keep trying. You keep going to class. You concentrate, you meditate. (The object of the concentration does not matter, the concentration itself matters, but there still has to be an object.) You keep the faith and you keep practicing. And then, one day, your body does go there. At many times it's a gradual, infinitesimal change, and other times it is breathtakingly sudden. In any case, the "impossible" becomes your reality. So then you know... those limitations that you've set on yourself, since the day you were born... they don't even exist.
And then... you get to do it all again! This is one of the things I find brilliant in the yoga system. There is always another goal to work towards, another frontier. There are a very few "final frontiers" that a very small number of people will approach, but for the most part, the frontier is infinite. (The road goes ever on and on....)
For me, full cobra is one posture where I can witness the progress of my personal frontier. When I first tried this asana - which was two years ago TODAY, in fact!!! - I couldn't even get my toes to touch my head, which is the first step. Not even close. A few months later, I saw a picture of one of the yoga champions in full cobra with his feet tucked under his chin, and it blew my mind. It seemed absolutely impossible. Two days ago, I did it myself. That's my process. But for different people, of course, the object can be anything. Holding awkward pose for the full time. Locking the top leg in standing bow. Wrapping the leg in eagle. Seeing the floor in a backbend. Seeing the WALL in a backbend. Touching your toes, with straight legs, for the first time in your adult life. Doing camel pose, at all. Doing all the postures. Getting through that first 90 minute class without leaving the room. All these accomplishments can be equally important, equally vital, equally powerful.
And I think that there is something very special about the first frontier. I still believe thatnothing compares to the courage of stepping into that hot room for the first time, exposed and unprepared, and saying "Ok, here I am. I am going to stay. I am going to try."
I have to offer up a quote from Nelson Mandela's inaugural speech, because this is all that I am really trying to say. I could write a whole essay on this little piece, but I'll let it speak for itself.