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We lead frantic lives. It might be challenging for us to switch our focus from our to-do lists to very subtle aspects of human experience. That is why we do yoga asanas, or poses. Asanas provide a bridge between our external and internal focus. Practicing them allows us to start training our awareness by using our bodies. Yoga asanas have a powerful effect on our body and should be done regularly for full effect.
One might wonder how many yoga poses are there? And how many should we practice in one yoga class?
It is believed that there are 84 asanas. However, as yoga practice developed and new variations started to appear, the number of yoga asanas increased, with each posture having a number of sub-poses. They promote healthy digestion and strengthen and stretch muscles, bringing them length and stability. However, yoga poses are equally essential in cultivating consciousness. Instead of diving right in and losing focus along the way, it’s far simpler to become consciously aware of your body and gradually bring that focus into your emotions and mindset.
Yoga asanas are a tool for training the mind and consciousness. By focusing on the yoga positions, you may train your body to recognize patterns, which over time helps you to train your mind to recognize patterns as well.
What Is a Yoga Asana?
Asana is the Sanskrit term that translates to “posture,” “seat,” or “place.” The yoga positions we take on physically when practicing yoga are known as asanas.
While many of the first yoga asanas are seated meditation postures, asanas can also be standing, seated, arm balances, twists, inversions, forward bends, back bends, or reclining in prone or supine positions.
Each position has a name in both Sanskrit and English. Almost all of the poses’ Sanskrit names finish in “asana.”
Numerous asana names are derived from the shapes and movements of various animals and natural occurrences. Different schools of yoga have different names, and some names have evolved over time. Many yoga asanas have been referred to by a number of different names over the years.
A yoga posture can be performed in two ways: as a still, static position that can be kept for several breaths, or as a part of a dynamic, flowing movement that lasts for only a single inhalation or exhalation. The length of time it is held depends on the yoga school practiced, as well as the degree of difficulty and intensity of the physical position.
History of Asanas – Yoga Postures
The initial asanas were simple sitting poses intended to be practiced by yogis during meditation. They were steady yet comfortable shapes created to help one focus and enter a deep state of meditation.
Since then, a growing number of asanas have been developed for various purposes. Non-seated asanas were originally described in the Goraksha Shataka text, which dates back to the eleventh century. There are 18 postures listed in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika from the 15th century. However, none of them are standing poses. The Gheranda Samhita, which was written in the 17th century, is where non-seated positions are first documented.
Patanjali’s Definition of Asana
It appears that Patanjali never specifically referred to asanas in The Yoga Sutras, the famous yogic text, but rather discusses the fundamental components of the right sitting position as one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The seated positions such as Sukhasana (pleasant cross-legged stance), Padmasana (Lotus pose and its modifications), Vajrasana (sitting on heels), and staff pose (seated with legs outstretched and feet together are thought to be the four fundamental asanas according to the Yoga Sutras.
Benefits of Doing Yoga Poses – Asanas
In medieval hatha yoga texts, asanas were said to have both spiritual and physical benefits. The modern practice of asana focuses primarily on its health benefits (reducing stress and conditions related to it), improving flexibility, strength, and balance.
When you learn to control and discipline the body, the body’s energy and mind are also calmed and focused. Yoga postures have a number of unique benefits which set them apart from other forms of exercise:
- Stretch and relax the muscles, nerves and joints in the whole body
- Boost flexibility
- Nourish often neglected organs and glands by directing the blood flow to a specific area.
- Balance the hormones secreted by the endocrine glands that control our physical, mental and emotional states and by that promote optimal physical and emotional conditions.
- Purify the blood and encourage calmness, focus, and awareness through the use of breath.
- Encourage mental steadiness and calmness through the use of balance and stillness.
- Promote mental stability and perception by using concentration.
Every seated asana increases flexibility in the hips, knees, ankles, and groin muscles. As you get closer to the earth in these positions, you are going to feel more at ease and find it easier to breathe. Therefore they calm the mind, give the body stability, and keep the spine straight. The seated positions are frequently more favorable when contemplating and meditating.
Vajrasana – The Diamond Pose (Thunderbolt Pose)
Vajrasana helps with digestion and provides a deep stretch for the quadriceps and tops of the foot. The diamond pose is frequently used as a resting or transitional pose between other asanas and sometimes can be used for meditation.
Padmasana – Lotus Pose
In the seated pose known as Padmasana, the feet are placed on top of the thighs of the opposing legs at the hip crease. Padmasana, which ranges from intermediate to advanced, calls for a lot of flexibility in the knees and hips.
Standing poses improve the flexibility and strength of the spine and body while strengthening the muscles and joints in the legs. Stretching the arteries in the legs improves blood flow to the lower limbs, reducing varicose veins and calf muscle thrombosis. Due to the effort needed to maintain standing poses, these asanas naturally cause a rise in heart rate, which tones the cardiovascular systems. The heart’s lateral wall is fully extended, increasing the amount of blood it receives.
Vrikshasana – The Tree Pose
Vrksasana is a standing posture that enhances balance, concentration, and mental focus. Tree pose requires the practitioners to stand rooted on the ground. The tree position promotes both overall physical and mental health. Since the entire body is balanced on one leg, this position can be difficult for beginners.
Natarajasana – The Dancer Pose
Natarajasana is a standing pose that calls for balance and focus. It promotes grace and strengthens the legs, hips, ankles, and chest. Additionally, it encourages inner peace and awareness of how quickly everything is changing.
Squeezing and massaging the abdominal organs during forward bends helps with digestion, relieves constipation, and prevents weight gain. The frontal brain is chilled and the blood flow to the entire brain is regulated as a result of this special impact on the nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is relaxed, which lowers blood pressure and pulse rate. The senses unwind as stress is removed from the organ’s perception.
Additionally, the adrenal glands are relaxed and work more effectively. In most forward bends, the body is horizontal, relieving the heart of the burden of pumping blood against gravity, and the blood smoothly circulates through all regions of the body. Additionally, the lumbar spine’s flexibility is improved by forward bends, as are the intervertebral joints and ligaments. The entire back body is stretched, including the hamstrings.
Paschimottanasana – Forward bend
Paschimottanasana is a seated position that stretches the hamstrings and back muscles by folding the upper body forward over the legs. As a soothing pose for the mind and neurological system, paschimottanasana is thought to be beneficial for anxiety and depression. It is contemplative by nature and can be combined with deep breathing exercises to create a more meditative atmosphere.
Given how difficult the stretch is, it can be important to let go of the want to fold totally over the legs and accept the posture as it is. Paschimottanasana can therefore assist practitioners in learning to find a balance between effort and surrender, as well as developing detachment from the outcome.
Uttanasana – Forward Fold Pose
The standing forward fold known as uttanasana is widely praised for reducing tension and calming the nervous system.
In addition to its benefits for physical stretching and strengthening, uttanasana is regarded as a crucial posture since it is said to be balancing for the body. This is because, once the body is folded into the posture, it combines components of movement and passivity. Uttanasana is regarded as being calming for the mind, just as all forward bends. It is a surrendering position, and as such, it could teach patience and acceptance. Additionally, it is claimed that the inverted posture, in which the heart is above the head increases blood flow to the brain and reduces stress.
Twists make the center of the body more flexible and ease back, hip, and groin pain. Additionally, the spine becomes more flexible, which increases blood flow to the spinal nerves and boosts energy levels. They help in the body’s detoxification by squeezing the intestines. Additionally, this improves the blood flow to the intestines.
Parivrtta Trikonasana – Revolved Triangle Pose
Parivrtta trikonasana is a standing yoga pose that requires flexibility and balance as the body is twisted. This asana is traditionally thought to activate the sacral chakra. The posture stimulates this chakra, allowing the practitioner to access their creativity, pleasure, sense of worth, and joy. Both passion and the digestive fire are stoked.
Parivrtta Parsvakonasana – Revolved Side Angle Pose
With the legs in the lunge position of virabhadrasana, the standing side-stretch pose known as parivrtta parsvakonasana requires flexibility and balance. The opposite arm rests on the lead leg or stretches to the ground, while the other arm extends overhead, twisting the body from the center out. In addition to its physical advantages, this pose is thought to be stress-relieving.
Some people worry that their blood pressure will increase or their blood vessels will rupture if they perform inversion poses. This impression is untrue. The body can learn to conduct inversions safely and without risk, once it has adjusted to being upright. The brain, heart, and lungs are among the vital organs that get oxygenated blood flow.
Halasana – The Plow
A folded inversion known as halasana is often practiced as a final pose to complete a yoga session. It helps in preparing the body for relaxation, pranayama, and meditation as a concluding pose. The throat and heart chakras benefit greatly from the strong opening features of halasana.
Sirsasana – The Headstand
Headstand or sirsasana is a complex inversion that shows power, control, and the beauty of overcoming the fear of falling through physical and mental balance. Sirsasana, sometimes known as the “king” of asanas, is frequently regarded by some as the most significant inversion. This complete inversion revitalizes the circulatory and lymphatic systems and has stimulating benefits on the entire body by bringing blood back to the heart and brain.
The ability to handle stress is improved by all back bends since they all stimulate the central nervous system. Therefore they energize the body and help in the treatment and prevention of headaches, and hypertension.
Ustrasana – Camel Pose
Ustrasana is a backbend that stretches the entire front of the body and improves core strength and shoulder flexibility. This asana is regarded as a powerful method for calming the mind and achieving tranquility and balance on a spiritual and emotional level. This asana fosters emotions of inner strength and fortitude as well as a profound sense of faith in one’s self and body because the practitioner must lean backwards without being able to see where they are going. As the chest opens up and bears the heart outward, it also opens the heart chakra.
Chakrasana – Wheel Pose
Chakrasana is said to have a wide range of advantages. It is believed that the posture’s heart-opening benefits might aid in the release of mental issues as well as physical tension in the spine and body. According to some, this effect unblocks energy that has been clogged up in the heart chakra. Others believe the position more effectively balances the energy of the heart chakra.
Restful poses like the reclining asana calm the body and revive the mind. Even though reclining poses are frequently performed at the end of a yoga session, they can also be preparatory poses since they calm the body and center the mind. They provide the body with the necessary energy and mental attention for challenging asanas. For instance, savasana helps in breath recovery and body and mental cooling. You get ready for pranayama with reclining asanas. Savasana or any reclining pose should be practiced after a yoga practice or class to stabilize the body and regulate blood pressure.
Savasana – Corpse Pose
The major restorative asana is savasana or shavasana. It is a crucial part of asana practice in practically every school of yoga, and it is most frequently employed at the end of a yoga practice to promote relaxation and connection. And even though the goal of savasana is to promote physical and mental rest, it is actually thought of as a rather active pose in which the practitioner should remain awake and avoid dozing off.
Try these for yourself!
Take out your yoga mat and try these poses yourself!
Don’t forget to meditate to start (or end!) your day well.
Many schools and teachers of yoga consider handstand-scorpion to be one of the most challenging poses to master. You need to have excellent balance, lots of strength, and exceptional flexibility to perform the handstand scorpion pose. However, all bodies are different and have different construction and abilities, so what can be hard for one individual might not necessarily be as hard for another.
The ultra famous Sun Salutation. Sun Salutation or also known as Surya Namaskar is a sequence of 12 powerful yoga postures with profound benefits that have been written about for thousands of years. It is a unique sequence of yoga postures and breathing. Sun Salutation has all kinds of physical, mental, and spiritual benefits – stimulating and rejuvenating every system of the body, relaxing and calming the overworked mind and renewing spirits. It is especially beneficial for people with limited time.
Although there are 84 yoga poses or asanas it’s not necessary for one to do all of them. An average of 15 to 20 asanas should be done in one yoga session, depending on the time you have on your hand.
This depends on the style of yoga that you practice. The average Hatha yoga session should include between 20 and 30 asanas, and about half of them should be dynamic. On the other hand, if you practice Ashtanga yoga, there is an established sequence that you need to follow. The series has about 75 poses and takes an hour and a half to two hours to complete.