Guest Author - Terri Johansen
In yoga the poses we perform are called asanas. No posture is assumed mechanically, rather they involve a great deal of body awareness, concentration, listening to your instructor, breathing, and eventually balance of mind, body and breath.
Physical aspects of asana are directly related to the individual symmetric of your body. No two bodies are alike but starting at the same basics for everyone gives you a set point to go forward from. This point begins as you settle into a posture and begin to scan your body. Is your weight distributed evenly on both sides of the body, front to back and side to side? How do your muscles, bones, joints feel; are you aware of them?
Once both sides of your body are aligned then unnecessary stress is lifted from the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, reproductive, and excretory systems. In asana practice fresh blood is supplied and organs are gently massaged, relaxed, and toned
Here are categories of asanas that we practice, each with their particular purposes:
Seated Asanas: Most seated postures bring flexibility to the hips, knees, ankles, and groin muscles. These postures remove tension and make breathing easier. They keep the spine steady, pacify the mind and stretch the heart muscle.
Standing Asanas: Standing postures are strengthening to the leg muscles and joints while increasing flexibility and strength to the spine. They will help to keep the spinal muscles and the spinal joints mobile and aligned, thus improving your posture.
Forward Bends: In the forward bending postures the hamstrings and lower back are stretched. They can help you relieve upper body tension and the nervous system is rested. They are calming and relaxing.
Back Bends: It is important to do forward and backbends in tandem. They are counter poses and what one does the other does the opposite. These poses stimulate the nervous system increasing your ability to stand up under stress. The back bending asanas are stimulating and revitalizing. They are valuable to persons suffering from depression as they open up the heart center.
Reclining Asanas: These are restful postures, which are soothing to the body and mind. They stretch your abdominal muscles, increase hip flexibility, and relax the spine. They can be used as warm up postures or sequenced at the end of a practice to help the body incorporate the work you have done.
Inversions: In inversions the brain, heart and lungs are flushed with fresh blood. Headstand is referred to as the “King of Asanas” and Shoulderstand as the “Queen of Asanas”. The health of the body and mind is greatly enhanced by practicing inversions. They reverse blood flow relieving tension in the legs. They are important in the development of strength and endurance in the upper body.
Twists: Twisting postures help us become aware of the importance of a healthy and supple spine. In twists, the pelvic and abdominal organs are squeezed and flushed with fresh blood. These poses can help relieve spinal, hip, and groin discomfort and backache. As the spine becomes more supple the blood flow to the spinal nerves increases and improves energy levels. Make sure that you twist evenly on both sides of your body.
Having the knowledge of the different categories of poses will help you especially when you are developing a home practice. It will also help you during yoga class as you become aware of each group and the support they provide your body.
Always check with a medical professional before starting a yoga practice or any type of exercise. Live well, practice yoga.
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