Lesson 15 - Asanas

In the previous lesson you learnt about the cause of disease. In this chapter you will learn about Asanas which dispel the disease and make your body strong for the purpose of higher spiritual practices.

What are Asanas?

Asana means body posture. In Hatha Yoga it is said that there are 84,00,000 asanas in all. Considering that humans will not be able to practice (or even remember) all of them Lord Shiva gave out 84 important ones. In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras he defines asana merely as "steady and comfortable posture". In Hatha Yoga, however, many asanas are described. These two thought streams may sound contradicting. However, we should look at them with respect to respective frame of time and environment. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras are older than Hatha Yogic texts. So it seems that Hatha Yogis and Tantrics developed the system of body postures that are known today as Yogasanas. Yoga aspirants often get confused about this contradiction. However, we must find out appropriate balance for ourselves. If you are suffering from some disease asanas will come to your rescue. On the other hand if you are perfectly healthy then you may not indulge too much in asanas. Remember that this body is our vehicle to reach the God. It must be kept healthy. At the same time body itself is not the destination.

Asanas and Diseases

In the previous chapter you learnt that ama, imbalance in three doshas and weak prana (and thus immune system) are the causes of any disease. Asanas have the following impact on your body:

  • They improve blood circulation throughout the body
  • They stretch joints removing ama formation in them
  • They massage internal organs improving their efficiency
  • They circulate prana to each and every part of the body
  • They purify blood
  • They remove toxins from the body
  • They affect various glands in positive way
  • They improve immunity of body
Looking at the above benefits it must have been clear to you as to why Yogis give importance to asanas. Unless your body is healthy you will not be able to pursue higher sadhanas and asanas help you achieve just that.

Classification of Asanas

The overall asanas can be divided into these types:

  • Sitting postures
  • Supine postures
  • Abdominal postures
  • Hand postures
  • Kneeling postures
  • Standing postures
  • Head postures
Though these lessons will not discuss actual technique of any of these asanas, a quick list of important asanas in each category is given below.

Sitting postures

Sitting postures are performed by sitting on the floor. Main postures in this category include:

  • Padmasana
  • Siddhasana
  • Swastikasana
  • Parvatasana
  • Simhasana
  • Mandukasana
  • Gomukhasana
  • Paschimottanasana
  • Matsyendrasana

Supine Postures

Supine postures are done by lying down on your back. Important asanas in this category are given below:

  • Shavasana
  • Uttanapadasana
  • Pavanamuktasana
  • Sarvangasana
  • Matsyasana
  • Halasana

Abdominal Postures

Abdominal postures are performed by lying on your abdomen. Below are some of the important asanas from this category:

  • Shalabhasana
  • Bhujangasana
  • Dhanurasana
  • Makarasana

Hand Postures

Hand postures are performed by using hands as the main support for the body. Some of the postures falling in this category are:

  • Mayurasana
  • Vrishchikasana
  • Tolasana
  • Bakasana

Kneeling Postures

Kneeling postures are done with your legs folded and knees touching the floor. Important asanas in this category include:

  • Vajrasana
  • Bhu Namana Vajrasana
  • Ushtrasana
  • Virshasana

Standing Postures

Standing postures are done by standing straight on the floor. Some popular standing postures are:

  • Garudasana
  • Tadasana
  • Santulanasana
  • Natarajasana
  • Trikonasana

Head Postures

Head postures are the postures in which your body position is up side down i.e. head touching the ground and legs spread upwards. Some asanas from this flavor include:

  • Shirshasana
  • Urdhwa Padmasana

Which postures to do?

It is common for beginners to get confused while selecting postures for practice. You should choose postures depending on your need. For example, postures to reduce fat and relaxation are different. Moreover, you need not do all of them at once. Remember that instead of quantity quality and sincerity is more important.

People often believe that benefits of a posture will be obtained only after attaining final position with perfect ness. This is actually a misconception. Though the final position of an asana will give you maximum benefits, you "trying" to go into that position itself gives you a lot of benefits. For example, a fat person may not be able to bent down and touch his palms on the ground. However, when he tries to do so those efforts themselves bring great benefits to him.

In the next lesson we will discuss something about Pranayama.

May the peace be with you.

Bipin Joshi is an independent software consultant and trainer by profession specializing in Microsoft web development technologies. Having embraced the Yoga way of life he is also a yoga mentor, meditation teacher, and spiritual guide to his students. He is a prolific author and writes regularly about software development and yoga on his websites. He is programming, meditating, writing, and teaching for over 27 years. To read more about him go here. More details about his Kriya and Meditation online course are available here.

Posted On : 16 March 2007

Tags : Yoga Patanjali Hatha Yoga Raja Yoga Ashtanga Yoga Meditation Asanas Courses