Yoga postures are the foundation of yoga, a holistic form of physical and mental discipline. An asana is simply a basic body posture, first and in some schools a general introductory term for an overall sitting, kneeling, or standing position, and then extended into various other forms, such as back bending, twisting, balance, and even lying down. The goal of yoga is to develop self-awareness, unity with your own body, an understanding of how the universe is interconnected, and to develop a sense of personal worth and spiritual strength. The word “yoga” comes from the Sanskrit meaning joining together.
There are countless asanas that are practiced worldwide. They differ in purpose and effect, as well as in style and complexity. Some positions are meant for therapeutic use, while others are purely for the practice of improving flexibility and coordination. Most yoga classes concentrate on the asana or posture which is most compatible with a student’s current skill level, whatever that skill level may be. Students who wish to study yoga seriously, however, must attempt to master all the asanas, as they are meant to be practiced in sequence in order to achieve some kind of spiritual awakening. This is true for all schools, but especially for yoga that claims to be a path, or even a sport, rather than a religious practice.
There are yoga postures for each level of physical and psychological conditioning, as well as for each specific purpose. Beginners should start with a basic asana, such as seated or lying forward-bend, and proceed through more strenuous poses as their body’s physical and psychological ability develops. There are asanas that are suitable for athletes and other demanding conditions. Yoga can be done by anyone, regardless of age, gender, or physical ability. In fact, beginners should begin with simple yoga postures to help develop body strength and flexibility, as well as to relieve stress.
Asana refers to the actual pose, whereas pranayama or the art of controlling breathing is referred to as dhyana or self-inquiry. The goal of yoga postures is to purify the mind and spirit through physical exercises. These exercises improve overall health, as well as their effects on the mind and body. Different yoga postures differ according to the emphasis they carry out on each of the three major aspects of yoga: yoga pranayama, yoga dharana, and yoga meditation. There are yoga poses that are intended for achieving sexual prowess, yoga poses intended for improving mental concentration, yoga poses intended for reaching inner peace, as well as posing intended for improving the power of concentration and memory.
The primary aim of yoga postures is to promote healthy flexibility and strengthen the muscles. Many yoga positions encourage controlled breathing through the nose, which helps to relieve stress and anxiety. Yoga postures also help to elongate the spine, making it easier for the body to adapt to a number of postures. When practiced regularly, yoga can have very positive effects on the mind and the body. A person who practices yoga regularly can expect to feel calmer, more relaxed, as well as having better flexibility and strength. It can also help in reducing stress levels and anxiety, as well as helping with depression and insomnia.
Yoga postures have been practiced for thousands of years, by yogis and yoginis all over the world. Today, there are many different styles of yoga, such as Ashtanga yoga, power yoga, Kundalini yoga, Hatha yoga, etc., but the fundamental yoga poses are the same. The yoga poses are done in specific sequences, which require the body to assume certain positions in order to achieve a state of meditative relaxation. When these basic postures are mastered, they can be developed further for individual purposes.
Some of the main yoga postures include the chair pose (ana), ladder pose (prasarita padottanasana), child’s pose (chaturanga dandruff), supported bridge pose (sankhasana), wheel (banana), tree (makarasana), half moon (inclined forward bend), twisting (abhinaya), back bend, mountain (Tibetan posture), pug (Taoist posture), twisting (laying flat on the floor with legs crossed) and Dolphin pose. All yoga postures can be learnt from yoga DVDs, or can be learned from a teacher. It is important to stretch and warm up correctly before trying any new yoga poses.
Most yoga poses are designed for beginners, with simple instructions and easy to follow guidelines. There are also yoga fitness programs based on the yoga poses, for people who want to improve their physical performance. Most yoga fitness programs focus on the inner aspect of the body, which includes breathing and meditation. As you learn yoga postures, you will gradually become aware of your own body, and how you can adjust to the daily stresses that you face in your everyday life. This gradual awareness will give you a sense of empowerment that you can carry with you throughout your entire life.