Asana in Yoga, What is it?
An asana is the physical practice of yoga poses. But where it gets interesting is the fact it can be applied to not just a single pose, but also to a multitude of poses. A handstand is a great example of a single pose, but it can also be used to refer to a group of asana within a practice. Eg Hatha Asana; of which there are 12.
- Headstand (Sirsasana)
- Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
- Plough Pose (Halasana)
- Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
- Sitting Forward Bend Pose (Paschimottanasana)
- Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
- Locust Pose (Shalabhasana)
- Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- Half Spinal Twist Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
- Crow Pose (Kakasana) or Peacock Pose (Mayurasana)
- Standing Forward Bend (Pada Hasthasana)
- Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Breaking it down, what most people call yoga could more specifically be referred to as asana. Besides asana, yoga also encompasses breathing exercises, meditation, codes of social conduct, self-observances, withdrawal of the senses, concentration and bliss.
The more formal term of each below
- Pranayama - Breathing Exercises
- Dhyana - Meditation
- Yamas - Codes of Social Conduct
- Niyamas - Self-Observances
- Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the Senses
- Dharana - Concentration
- Samadhi - Bliss
The Benefits of Asanas
Asanas can improve your flexibility, strength and balance. The breathing techniques can help focus your mind and help relieve stress & anxiety. The poses themselves whilst physical should be thought of holistically as a mind-body practice to improve physical, mental and spiritual health.
History Of Asanas
The term Asana is the Sanskrit word for posture or seat. It is thought the first yoga asanas were most probably seated positions for meditation. They were described in the "Yoga Sutras" of Patanjali, written around the third century.