Asana can be described as a yoga pose or position. It is designed in such a way that it helps to master the mind and body as well as enhance the overall health and functions of the body. The various poses carried out in yoga are basically the essence of yoga exercises, which tend to create strength and endurance. It helps in the improvement of circulation throughout the body and also allows for the free flow of energy. If carried out in a correct manner, these asanas help cleanse the organs and other systems in the body along with expanding the joints and muscles. These are just a few of the innumerable benefits yoga has to offer. Along with all these benefits, one should not miss out on the original purpose of yoga poses or yoga exercises.
When we talk about the word, “asana”, it can be translated into a posture or pose. The literal meaning of the word is "seat". Each movement carried out in yoga demands that we polish some aspects of consciousness.
The various exercises in yoga are known to evolve thousands of years ago. It was created from the need of a healthy body so that one can easily move into the state of realization and oneness gradually and steadily. Due to our daily routine and ever-changing lifestyle, our minds and bodies are usually cluttered with various thoughts leading to stress and tension, which ultimately give rise to diseases. This leads the mind to be unable to connect with the inner self. When one carries out various asanas, it increases the individual’s ability to sit in silence and connect with the mind. When Hatha yoga is practiced, it can be easily moved into another state of ego, wherein one drives out more expectations and goals from various yoga poses.
The asanas can be categorized into various ways. The classification is basically dependent on where the asanas would be applied, its uses in various physical conditions, and the level of practice to be carried out by the individual.
There are certain yoga asanas, which are specifically created for meditation. Meditative asana helps to provide a firm support to the posture and also maintains the posture of the body for a longer duration. Meditative poses help in regulating the flow of blood to the legs, thus making more blood available in the pelvic region as well as the lower abdominal area. The poses also maintain a certain calmness in the mind. It keeps the mind at ease and tends to increase the duration of focus.
Few of the meditative asanas that can be practiced are:
- Padmasana (lotus pose)
- Swastikasana (auspicious pose)
- Samasana (balance pose)
- Siddhasana (perfect pose)
- Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose)
The main goal of these asanas is to create stabilization in the body to practice more advanced positions of meditation and pranayama (breath control).
Asanas to Improve Health
Asanas have a huge positive impact on various internal and external systems of the human body. For example, matsyendrasana or the spinal twist pose is known to provide aid in digestion along with a good effect on the pancreas, thus leading to the improvement in the production of insulin in the body. The shoulder stand pose or sarvangasana is known to have a good impact on the hormones, which have an effect on the endocrine glands, mostly the thyroid glands. Thus, under the health improvement category, there are asanas that have complementary effects on various organs or body systems. They are further classified below:
Two of the most common relaxing postures or asanas are makarasana (crocodile pose) and savasana (corpse pose). The relaxing postures are mostly carried out after a series of certain asanas. It provides complete rest to the mind and the body. Relaxing poses are carried out with the intention that the mind gradually focuses on each and every part of the body and make them feel at rest. Minute cells or systems of the body are often ignored or not taken care of in our daily routine life.
There is also another way of categorizing yoga asanas based on the position of the body in which the yoga pose is carried out.
- Forward bends
- Twisting pose
- Side bends
- Stretching poses
- Relaxing poses
- Inversion bends
Other ways of classifying yoga asanas are based on the preposition, which is required for the particular type of asana.
- Supine position
- Prone position
- Sitting position
- Standing position
Purpose of Asana
There has been a huge difference in the way asanas have thought to be perceived, of what they are actually taught today, and how they were taught in the past. During the ancient days, the main goal was meditation, wherein asana was a way of enhancing the body and mind’s capacity. Moreover, it would lead to the person sitting in a meditative pose for a longer duration with little or no distractions if possible.
When the body is kept or maintained healthy and the mind is one-pointed, only then will the person would get a chance to discover the new inner dimensions of life. This is the main essence of spiritual practice, and it is known as self-discovery. In this process of self-discovery, the individual practicing yoga will start to see the connecting link between the body, breathing, mind, and the mind with the soul.
Nowadays, most people prefer going to yoga classes to enhance their physical fitness. These classes teach asanas as a means of addressing only the various concerns of the body. However, there is hardly any attention given to the enlightening connections between the body, mind, breath, and soul. Yoga is considered as a path to unity, and by practicing yoga, it would help one come to the realization that there is some form of connection among the various aspects of ourselves. When the physical aspect is taken into consideration while carrying out asanas, then it cannot be termed as yoga since it does not help one to spiritually grow.
One of the examples would be carrying out the pranayama, which is controlling one's breathing. It is known as one of the confirmed ways to attain the level of mastery over the modifications of the mind, thus leading the mind to be one-pointed or focused. Nowadays, most asanas are carried out by separating the breathing practice. In the past or in ancient yoga scriptures, there are no yoga asanas that are taught without pranayama being involved. These types of yoga asana can help in enhancing good health. However, they would fail to bring about improvement in the clarity of the mind or spiritual awakening.
Benefits of Asana
Practicing asanas with patience and dedication can bring about a lot of changes in our life such as:
- Losing extra flab and getting in shape
- Having a flexible body
- Rejuvenating the skin's texture and tone
- Having a peaceful mind even after too much tension and stress
- Promoting good overall health
Yoga offers a lot of benefits if practiced wholeheartedly. But today, people only understand the partial sense of yoga and carrying them out without understanding the full meaning of it. Thus, most of them perceive the asanas only to maintain a good body and fail to understand the other immense benefits that yoga asanas have to offer.
Below are few of the health benefits of yoga asanas in our daily routine:
1. Weight Loss
Losing extra weight is something most people desire. To achieve a healthy and fit body, many people reach out to yoga classes with the intention of attaining weight loss. Sun salutation is a combination of various yoga asanas, which is mostly carried out for losing weight. Regularly practicing asanas helps the body to become more sensitive to the kind of food one eats and one's wake-up time, which often leads to effective weight loss.
2. Maintaining an "All-Around" Fitness
Yoga asana is called as an "all-rounder", wherein it helps in breathing techniques, postures, and meditation. Hence, it is regarded as a package of holistic fitness. The regular practice of asana would help improve one's health through body detoxification, promoting physical strength, boosting and improving mental strength, and protects the body through quick healing in cases of infection or injury.
3. Improvement in Immunity
Our body system is said to be an infinite blend of mind, spirit, and body, and any differences or irregularity in the body has an impact on the mind. Any kind of restlessness or unpleasantness in the mind would lead to illnesses in the body. Hence, practicing asana would help in massaging the various organs in the body along with strengthening the muscles, improving breathing techniques, and carrying out meditation. A healthy immune system would be very active in defending the body against harmful substances.
4. Attaining Inner Peace
Wouldn’t we all, at some point in time, would want to go out to a place that would provide us with peace and serenity? However, we hardly realize that peace can be found first within ourselves. To find inner peace, you would need to take a break for just a few minutes a day and carry out certain meditative asanas or relaxing asanas. Hence, yoga asana is considered as the best way to calm an overloaded or disturbed mind.
5. Relieving Stress
Carrying out a few useful yoga asanas can help provide relief from stressful moments or thoughts that can lead to a disruption in the mind, body, and soul. Asanas can be carried out any time during the day, so that one can get relief from the accumulated thoughts that are continuously running in the mind.
6. Improvement in Relationships
Yoga asanas are also known to bring about improvement in relationships. Relationships can be with anyone. It can be with your spouse, parents, children, siblings, friends, or any loved ones. A person with a relaxed body and mind along with a contented and happy state is able to deal with sensitive relationships wisely and sail through it smoothly in turbulent times. Practicing yoga and meditation on a daily basis would keep the mind happy and at peace.
7. Better Posture and Flexibility
When yoga is inculcated in the daily routine similar to bathing or brushing the teeth, it would help the body to become flexible and strong from inside to the outside. Regularly practicing various asanas stretches the body and tones each and every muscle, thus making them strong. It also helps to improve body posture while you are standing, walking, or sitting. Hence, it is a good way of getting away from all of those unwanted body pain or aches.