The word Asana originates from the Sanskrit word Aas which actually means Existence and the condition of existence is referred to as Asanaor position or yoga postures Asana is conside/ed as the first step in Hatha Yoga and the third step in Patanjali yoga or Ashtanga Yoga. Asanas are gentle stretches that are designed to balance the body and mind. The postures are designed so as to rejuvenate the spine, glands, brain and other internal organs, increase blood circulation and supply oxygen (prana) to all parts with a mild squeezing action. In addition to this, the asanas when performed regularly increases stamina, efficiency, body immunity, calmness of mind and improves outlook.
Asanas are performed in three main steps; firstly assuming the position, second being the position itself and finally relaxing from the position. As Asana is defined as a comfortable and steady position, the movements performed should also be slow and steady. Sudden and speedy movements are strictly forbidden. Most Asanas benefit more than one body part simultaneously. For instance there are certain yogic asanas that benefit the adrenals, kidneys, pancreas and spine in a single stretch.
Based on their application, asanas can be classified as follows:
- Meditative Asana Padmasana (Lotus pose), Swastikasana (Auspicious pose), Siddhasana (perfect pose), Samanasana (Balance pose), Vajrasana (Thunderbolt pose) etc., are grouped into this category. These asanas help in stabilizing the body for meditative practices and Pranayama.
- For better health Matsyendrasana (Spinal twist pose) improves digestion and production of insulin, while the Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand pose) benefits the thyroid and endocrine glands. Similarly various asanas have positive impact on more than one part of the body.
- For Relaxation Makarasana (Crocodile pose), Shavasana (Corpse pose) etc., provide complete relaxation to mind and body.
- Based on positions, the Asanas can be classified as :
- Supine posture Halasana (plough pose), Chkrasana (wheel pose) and Sarvangasana (shoulder stand pose).
- Prone posture Bhujangasana (Cobra pose), Dhanurasana(bow pose), Shalabhasana (locust pose) and Noukasana (boat pose).
- Sitting posture – Paschimottasana (forward bend pose), Matsyendrasana (spinal twist pose), vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) and Padmasana (lotus pose).
- Standing posture Vrikshasana (tree pose), Veerasana (warrior pose) etc. There are various other ways to classify the Asanas, these are only a few of such Asanas.