Yoga Poses: An Overview of Asana
In this lesson, you will learn about Patanjali’s third limb of yoga called asana, the physical poses that a yogi must practice to create the external and internal alignment that is necessary to move on to the more advanced aspects of yoga.
Video Commentary: Posture (Asana)
Asana – posture.
The third limb of yoga is asana. Asana are posture for health and meditation.
Patanjali described asana as the practice of sitting for extended periods of time while keeping the mind steady. Today, asana include a variety of physical postures designed to exercise the body and the mind.
There are eighty-four classic yoga asana.
Benefits of Asana
When you practice yoga asana (postures) you are creating an inner geometry. Not only are the poses a physical shape that makes the body stronger and lets energy flow throughout its parts naturally, but they are also shapes for the mind. Practicing asana again and again is a way to bring the mind back to a point of focus and by properly regulating the breath – pranayama (next lesson) – you will experience a calming effect both in your mind and in your life as the fluctuations of the mind decrease. The result is a becoming steady and even. Evenness is a description of yoga.
Here are a few of the very practical benefits that yoga asana practice can provide to the sincere yogi:
- Greater flexibility
- More physical strength
- Better balance
- Improved immunity
- Less anxiety (hypertension)
- More resistance to stress
- More energy and less fatigue
- Better quality sleep
- Reduces excess weight
32 Essential Yoga Poses
Lord Shiva taught 8,400,000 asana and others suggest there are an infinite number of possible postures, we will consider a few that are useful for people in this world*. According to the Gheranda Samhita, there are 32 essential asana to be practiced for health, success, and perfection. While there are 84 classic yoga asana, the follow are important foundational poses commonly practiced in many yoga schools.
Each pose’s Sanskrit name appears first and then the English name. In yoga class, you may hear one or the other or both. Always seek the guidance of an experienced teacher for learning postures completely.
Tips: When practicing a new pose start slowly and never force a posture to happen; keep your breath flowing; if you can’t breath, you are trying to hard; slow and steady progress is best.
- Siddhasana – Adept Pose
- Padmasana – Lotus Pose
- Bhadrasana/ Baddha-konasana – Restrained/ Bound Angle Pose (“Butterfly” or “Cobbler Pose”)
- Muktasana/ Pavana-muktasana – Wind-Releasing Pose
- Vajrasana – Thunderbolt/ Diamond Pose
- Svastikasana/ Siddhasana – Accomplished/ Perfect Pose
- Simhasana – Lion Pose
- Gomukhasana – Cow-Face Pose
- Virasana – Hero Pose
- Dhanurasana – Bow Pose
- Mritasana/ Shavasana – Corpse Pose
- Guptasana/ Siddhasana – Accomplished/ Perfect Pose
- Matsyasana – Fish Pose
- Matsyendrasana – Lord of the Fishes Pose/ Spinal Twist Pose
- Gorakshasana – Cowherd/ Goatherd Pose (similar to Bhadrasana)
- Paschimottanasana – Seated Forward Bend
- Utkatasana – Chair/ Lightening Bolt Pose
- Sankatasana – Difficult Pose
- Mayurasana – Peacock Pose
- Kukkutasana – Rooster Pose
- Kurmasana – Tortoise/ Turtle Pose
- Uttanakurmakasana – Inverted Tortoise Pose
- Mandukasana – Frog Pose
- Uttanamandukasana – Stretched Frog Pose
- Vrikshasana – Tree Pose
- Garudasana – Eagle Pose, “Half Spinal Twist Pose”
- Vrishasana – Scorpion Pose
- Shalabhasana – Locust/ Grasshopper Pose
- Makarasana – Crocodile Pose
- Ushtrasana – Camel Pose
- Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose
*The Gheranda Samhita (The Collection of Teachings from Gheranda)
More Common Yoga Poses
- Sun Salutation – Surya Namaskar
- Bow Pose – Akarna Dhanurasana
- Salutation Pose – Anjaneyasana
- Half Moon Pose – Ardha Chandrasana
- Child Pose – Balasana
- Wheel Pose – Chakrasana
- One-Legged Pose – Ekapadasana
- Eagle Pose – Garudasana
- Plow Pose – Halasana
- Hand-Foot-Big Toe Pose – Hasta-pada-angustasana
- Cobra Pose – Nagasana
- King of the Dance Pose (“Dancers Pose”) – Natarajasana
- Turned Side-Angle Pose – Parivritta-parshvokonasana
- Shoulder-stand Pose – Sarvangasana
- Head Stand – Sirshasana
- Mountain Pose – Tadasana
- Triangle Pose – Trikonasana
- Noble Pose – Ugrasana