Asanas: Meaning, Definition and Purpose


Anyone who’s taken a yoga class has likely heard the term “asana.” Asanas are the physical body positions or poses of yoga that type the foundation of a modern day hatha yoga practice. While most classes only teach the fundamentals, there is a wide variety of difficulty and complexity of the yoga asanas. To completely comprehend and study the asanas, we will have to have to uncover the history of them, their origin, and how they’re made use of today in yoga. Gaining this expertise opens up the doors for us to have a deep, profound and insightful practice.

Asana which means and definition in Yoga

Asana is a Sanskrit word which means “posture,” “seat,” or “place.” Asanas are the physical positions we assume in the course of a hatha yoga practice. Each pose has its personal Sanskrit and English name. Almost all of the Sanskrit names for the poses finish with “asana.” For instance, the classic lotus pose is named Padmasana, and the prevalent tree poses is named Vrikshasana. Many of the asana names have come from the shapes and movements of animals and components of the organic planet. Some names differ by various schools of yoga, and some of the names have changed more than time. There are various asanas that have been identified by numerous names at various time periods.

There are quite a few various sorts of poses, but they all comply with the identical simple principles of alignment and muscular engagement. They include things like every thing from uncomplicated twists and backbends to sophisticated balancing poses. There can be quite a few variations on the person poses, and every single variation has its personal added benefits, objective and challenges.

An asana can be performed as a nonetheless and static position that can be held for various breaths, or it can be a posture that is portion of a dynamic flowing movement that lasts for significantly less than a single inhale or exhale. The period of time it is held is dependent on the college of yoga followed and the intensity and difficulty of the physical posture. For instance, Iyengar Yoga emphasizes yoga anatomy and physical alignment so the poses are held a although. In contrast, Ashtanga Yoga and Vinyasa designs move speedily in between poses linking movements with breath as in the sun salutations.

While there is no incorrect way to do any asana, there are a basic principles of alignment, breathing tactics, and mindfulness that really should be followed to stop injury and maximize the benefits of yoga.

How quite a few yoga postures are there?

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras was a single of the very first yogic texts to mention the word asana. Patanjali incorporates it as a single of the eight limbs of yoga and in sutra 2.47 he notes that asana really should be “steady and comfortable.” The classic Hatha Yoga Pradipika text describes 18 postures but goes on to state that “Shiva taught 84 asanas.” Yet a later text called The Gheranda Samhita notes that “there are 8,400,000 asanas described by Shiva. The postures are as many in number as there are numbers of species of living creatures in this universe. Among them 84 are the best; and among these 84, 32 have been found useful for humankind in this world.” Most yoga teachers only lead about 15-25 poses in their classes. YogaBasics’ pose directory has 120 of the most important modern day asanas listed with images and step-by-step directions.

The history of the asanas

The original asanas had been uncomplicated seated positions made to be performed by yogis in the course of meditation. They had been steady but comfy shapes made to focus the thoughts and calm the nerves and let a single to enter a deep meditative state.

Since these early days, more and more asanas had been designed for various factors. In the 11th century at the Goraksha Sataka text was the very first to describe a non-seated asanas. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika was written in the 15th century and describes 18 poses, but none of these are standing poses. Non-seated poses very first seem in the Gheranda Samhita which was composed in the 17th century.

In the renowned 1966 asana book Light on Yoga, B. K. S. Iyengar integrated the asanas his teacher Krishnamacharya designed from a fusion of standard Indian wrestling, gymnastics, and British Army calisthenics. In 1974 yoga instructor Sri Dharma Mittra designed an “Ultimate Yoga Chart” poster that contained a list of 908 asanas which was later published as a book.

The distinction in between asanas and other physical exercising

The practice of yoga combines stretching, breathing, mindfulness and meditation to enhance your wellness, lower strain and enhance strength and flexibility. It’s significantly less of a exercise and more of an exploration into the thoughts-body connection. It’s a holistic life style that is a mental and spiritual journey rather than a physical challenge.

In contrast, gymnastics and other physical exercising focus on creating muscle mass, endurance and stamina by way of fast repetitions or sets of movement. There is no emphasis on breath work, mindfulness or creating the thoughts-body connection. Yoga is not a competitive sport like operating or weight lifting. It is made to create balance, coordination and concentration by way of controlled movement although embracing non-judgement, kindness and compassion for oneself and other people.

Asanas objective and added benefits

The modern day practice of asana focuses mainly on its wellness added benefits, and is made use of as a low-influence type of exercising. The standard targets of asana also integrated stopping illness and advertising a healthful body but focused more on its spiritual objective and added benefits. By finding out to handle and discipline the body, the body’s power and thoughts are also calmed and focused. Below are the more standard and maybe unknown purposes of a typical asana practice:

  • Yoga asanas are practiced to enhance inner strength and focus to make a sturdy container to withstand the intensity of tapas, the austerity practices used to attain a state of enlightenment.
  • Yoga postures are used to control, purify and cultivate prana, the life-force power the flows by way of the nadis or power channels of the body.
  • Asana practice creates mental, emotional and energetic balance. When you execute asanas routinely, it aids lower unfavorable believed patterns and regulate the feelings.
  • Asanas are a single of various yogic practices used to lower undesirable karma and stop its accumulation.
  • A grounded and steady physical practice facilitates the deeper practices of pranayama, bandha, and mudra. These hatha yoga practices assistance direct and calm the power and market additional exploration of the subtle body.
  • A strong asana practice enables a single to explore the conscious and unconscious thoughts by way of the layers of the koshas and subtle body. This enables a single to achieve insight into the accurate nature of self and reality.

The relevancy of asana in the yoga tradition

Asanas are a somewhat small aspect of yoga when compared to the general depth and breath of the tradition of yoga. They are a somewhat compact slice of an older and significantly bigger body of expertise, philosophy, lineage, and tactics. For instance, you can discover other elements of yoga such as breathing workout routines, meditation, codes of social conduct, self-observances, diet program, devotion, or selfless service, devoid of getting to do any asanas at all.

The ultimate target of yoga is the union of one’s person thoughts, body, and spirit. Yoga poses are a single technique you can assistance you attain peace inside oneself by practicing self-discipline and self-awareness. Asanas had been not intended to be a standalone practice. Instead, they had been meant to complement the other practices of yoga.



Originally published in www.yogabasics.com