What is an Asana?

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali defines "asana" as "to be seated in a position that is firm, but relaxed. "Asana is a physical Yoga posture or position that is designed to help master the body and enhance the body's functions. When the body is cluttered with stress, tension, and disease, this clouds the mind and the ability to connect with the inner self. The physical freedom attained from the Yoga exercises increases one's ability to sit with silence and joyful observation.

Three General Types of Asanas

Asanas can be divided into meditative, relaxing, and cultural asanas. These three types of postures are quite different in their purpose and technique.

Meditative Asanas

These are cross-legged sitting postures that allow you to sit upright and relaxed for a longer time. They provide a stable seat for meditation. The aim is to train your body so you can sit a long time without moving any part of your body. These yoga poses regulate the blood flow to the legs and make available more blood in the pelvic region and lower abdominal region and allow the mind to be peaceful and focused.The purpose of these asanas is to stabilize the body for advanced practices of Pranayama and Meditation. You should choose the posture that is most comfortable for you and start practicing it from 5 minutes and you can increase the length gradually.

There are five main meditative postures:

  • Padmasana or lotus.
  • Siddhasana or perfect pose.
  • Swastikasana or locked-ankles pose.
  • Sukhasana or easy pose.
  • Vajrasana or thunderbolt for people who cannot sit cross-legged.

Asanas for Relaxation

The asanas for relaxation are designed in a way that there is no need to contract any muscle. It is important to practice them exactly so your body can come to a deep relaxation and is not just lying on the floor.

There are three main relaxation postures:

  • Savasana or corpse pose
  • Abdominal relaxation pose
  • Garbhasana or child's pose

The first asana of this type, savasana, is also used for yoga nidra, the powerful system of deep relaxation, visualization and self transformation.

Cultural Asanas or asanas for improving health

There are three important phases in the practice of cultural asanas — each of them equally important and should be paid equal attention:

  • Coming into the position.
  • Holding the position.
  • Getting out of the position.

Asanas have good effect on various systems in human body, such as Matsyendrasana (spinal twist pose) has good effect on digestive system and good effect on pancreas for improving the insulin production, sarvangasana (shoulder stand pose) has good effects on endocrine gland system particularly thyroid glands. So the asanas which have complementary effect on various organs can be classified in this category.

The cultural asanas can be divided in seven groups:

  • Dynamic sequences - such as the sun saltuation.
  • Inverted postures - such as the headstand or the shoulderstand.
  • Forward bending postures - such as the sitting forward bend Paschimottanasana.
  • Backward bending postures - such as the cobra, locust, or bow poses.
  • Twisting postures - such as the half spinal twist.
  • Side ward bending postures - such as the triangle pose.
  • Standing postures including balancing poses - such as the tree pose.

Every yoga sequence should at least contain one out of every of the groups listed above. If you take one asana of every group, you will move your spine in every direction and use all the muscles of your body. Depending on the order in which you practice them you influence the flow of the prana in your body.
Another way of classifying the asanas is depending on the pre-position required for a particular asana, for example shoulder stand is performed from supine position so it can be classified under supine position.

Supine position

Lying on back in sleeping position, asanas like Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), Halasana (plough pose), Chakrasana (wheel pose) etc.

Prone position

Asanas like Bhujangasana (cobra pose), Shalabhasana (locust pose), Noukasana (boat pose), Dhanurasana (Bow pose).

Sitting position

Asanas like Padmasana (lotus pose) Matsyendrasana (spinal twist pose), Paschimottasana (forward bend pose), vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) etc.

Standing position

Trikonasana (triangle pose), Veerasana (warrior pose), Vrikshasana (tree pose) etc.

A complete session of basic yoga class is given below:

  • Sitting in Meditative Pose.
  • Opening mantras or chanting of Om.
  • Eye exercises.
  • Neck exercises.
  • Kapalabhati pranayama.
  • Anuloma viloma pranayama.
  • Sun salutation - suryanamaskar.
  • Headstand - shirshasana. The yoga headstand is said to be the king of asanas or chief posture among them all.
  • Shoulderstand - sarvangasana. The shoulder stand pose is a very good complement to the headstand.
  • Plough - halasana.
  • Fish - matsyasana.
  • Forward bend - paschimottanasana - followed by inclined plane.
  • Cobra - bhujangasana.
  • Locust - shalabhasana.
  • Bow - dhanurasana.
  • Half spinal twist - ardha-matsyendrasana.
  • Standing forward bend - padahastasana.
  • Triangle - trikonasana.
  • Final relaxation - savasana.
  • Closing mantras.

Each type of yoga asana offers specific benefits. For a balanced practice that provides the most benefits, you should include poses from all categories, such as standing, seated, twist, side bends, prone and supine poses.


The seated pose strengthen the spine helps release tension from the spinal column. If you experience pain in the lower and upper back, sitting exercises can help in pain relief. This is a neutral position that can help you increase concentration for meditation. Most of the movements of the sitting poses are intended to stretch the muscles and increase flexibility. These movements also help in enhancing the blood circulation throughout the body. When you practice a sitting pose, your body is in the correct alignment it allows the internal organs to function optimally.

Standing poses

Standing yoga postures require both strength and flexibility, and categorize most of the advanced asanas. Standing poses are generally held for shorter times than other poses, and tend to be more energetically uplifting and opening.
Standing poses provide a straight line shaping our best body. They are also great for strength, balance, and focus.

Forward bending

We use forward bends to stretch and strengthen (depending on the pose) the muscles along the spine, as well as the muscles of the shoulder and pelvic girdles, and legs. In addition, forward bends strengthen the abdominal muscles (if you engage them when you practice), and gently compress abdominal organs, increasing circulation to the area.

Inverted poses.

We use forward bends to stretch and strengthen (depending on the pose) the muscles along the spine, as well as the muscles of the shoulder and pelvic girdles, and legs. In addition, forward bends strengthen the abdominal muscles (if you engage them when you practice), and gently compress abdominal organs, increasing circulation to the area.

Side bending poses

Some of the general benefits of side bends include increasing flexibility in the spine, opening the side body and stimulating the liver and breathing muscles. The standing side bends also promote balance, such as triangle pose and other standing side bend poses.

Prone Poses

Belly down postures build core body strength in the low back and abs. The majority of prone yoga poses are backbends, which are known to energize the body and tone the kidneys. Prone postures are simple enough for beginners, yet can be very challenging to hold for longer periods.


Supine yoga postures are done on your back and are a great way to end your yoga practice. Supine postures release stress, promote flexibility, and help to integrate your practice.

Twisting poses

Twists penetrate deep into the body’s core, offering potent benefits to the muscles and organs of the torso while encouraging the breath to grow deep and full. Practicing these postures regularly can create a suppleness and freedom in your spine that in turn brings a spring to your step.

Yoasanas are designed to give people a good alternative of understanding their health problem and what to do to fix it. It is for everyone with any kind of ailment seeking an alternative way of healing themselves. Specific Asanas will be given on a holistic approach to lifestyle.

Namaste Yoga