Asanas

The main component of hatha yoga is yoga postures, or in Sanskrit, asanas. The word asana means comfortable, stable pose. Asanas are steady, comfortable and maintained for a considerable period of time. The aim of these yoga postures is to have the ideal combination of immovability with relaxation.

Yoga postures should not be confused with mere exercise, calisthenics, which help to strengthen and develop muscles, rather yoga postures are special positions of the body that strengthen, purify and balance the endocrine, nervous and circulatory systems. These even cure chronic illnesses and emotional disorders. If asanas are practiced regularly, then body will gradually achieve:

  • Greater endurance
  • Spine will become more flexible
  • Body will come to its natural weight and rid itself of toxins
  • Breathing becomes easy
  • Energy is gained
  • Circulation improves
  • Blood pressure is normalize
  • It is easy to cope up with stress and
  • Practitioner will have more pleasant thoughts and fewer negative emotions. And considering all this, your overall mood will improve—in other words, vibrant physical and emotional health is gained.

Asanas squeeze and stretch glands, and thus invigorate and balance their secretions. As a result, endocrine defects are cured and emotional and mental difficulties caused by these defects gradually disappear, without much effort. Gradually the mind becomes calm and focused.

Asanas are better done a little every day regularly rather than lot at a time Yoga practice is a process—haste will not make it shorter. Mind, body, emotions do not change instantaneously. Usually the changes become a bit noticeable after about three months of regular practice. One should treat asana practice with care. It is always adviceable to practice asanas under the guidance of an experienced and properly trained teacher. Once the practitioner achieves perfection in performing the asana then he/she can be practice it regularly.

Environment for Asanas:

  • Refresh the body with water before the practice.
  • Do not practice asanas right after a meal—wait at least two and a half hours.
  • Make sure that the room where you are going to practice asanas is well ventilated and smoke-free.
  • Do not do asanas outdoors.
  • Finish asanas with deep relaxation called Shavasana (Corpse pose).
  • After the practice do not touch water or metal objects
  • Do not do any physically strenuous activity (such as jogging, weight lifting, carrying heavy objects, etc.) for at least 15 minutes (better 30 min.) after the practice. If you need to go outdoors immediately after the practice, be careful with the resulting temperature shift.
  • Women should not practice asanas during menstrual period (wait two-three days before and after the period), pregnancy and during the first month after delivery.

Yoga postures work on all dimensions of the body & mind – “physical through”

  • Healing
  • Strengthening
  • Stretching
  • Relaxing the skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, digestive, glandular, and nervous systems; "mental" through the cultivation of a quiet and peaceful mind, alertness, and concentration; and "spiritual" by way of preparation for meditation and cultivation of inner strength.

There are in all eighty four different yoga asanas. The postures being explained below are useful for Pranayama and Meditation that helps in attaining Self Control.

I: Padmasana ( Lotus Posture ) :

'Padma' and 'Kamala' means lotus. The posture resembles a lotus, a very calm, peaceful and holy symbol. Lord Shiva and the founder of Buddhism, Gautam Buddha are usually depicted in this posture. This is a basic posture on which many other asanas are based.

Sit on the floor with the legs stretched out straight in front.

Bend the right knee and grasp the right foot with both hands and place it on top of the left thigh bringing the heel as close to the navel as possible. Following, bend the left knee and grasp the left foot with both hands and place it on top of the right thigh bringing the heel as close to the navel as possible. Both knees should be on the ground and the soles of the feet are pointed upward.

The spine is held straight but not rigid.

Knees must touch the ground.

The position of the legs may be switched after a period of time if the posture becomes uncomfortable.

When sitting in the padma-asana the hands should be placed in one of the following three positions:

Place one hand on top of the other, both palms up, and rest the hands on the heels (this is known as the dhyana-mudra). This variation is recommended for meditation.

Place the hands on the knees, palms down.

With palms up, place the hands on the knees, form a circle with the thumb and forefinger and extend the remaining fingers straight ahead (this is known as the chin-mudra).

Recommended for Pranayama(Yogic breathing).

The length of time to sit in the padma-asana depends on your intention. In the course of a typical asana routine you might hold it for several minutes or until you experience discomfort in the legs. When used as a meditation posture you hold it for the duration of the meditation.

  • The Padmasana facilitates relaxation, concentration and meditation. The posture creates a natural balance throughout the body/mind.
    When the knees are stretched enough to remain in the padma-asana without discomfort the posture creates a feeling of effortlessness and ease that will soothe the nervous system, quiet the mind and bring about the condition of one-pointedness.

II: Vajrasana (Diamond Posture) :

In translation vajra means lightning. So you might say that it means, "The position of thunder" or "the position of lightning". This asana is realized by maintaining the legs on both sides of the anus, makes hips as diamonds and gives many powers and paranormal abilities (siddhis) to the yogi who uses it".

The vajra-asana is a seated posture. Begin by sitting back on your heels and placing your knees, legs and feet together. Keeping the back straight place the palms of your hands down on top of your thighs as shown in the picture.

Bend the right knee and grasp the right foot with both hands and place it on top of the left thigh bringing the heel as close to the navel as possible. Following, bend the left knee and grasp the left foot with both hands and place it on top of the right thigh bringing the heel as close to the navel as possible. Both knees should be on the ground and the soles of the feet are pointed upward.

The vajra-asana is a seated posture. Begin by sitting back on your heels and placing your knees, legs and feet together. Keeping the back straight place the palms of your hands down on top of your thighs.

Breathe gently through the nostrils and sit in this position for at least three minutes. Hold this posture for as long as is comfortable.

This asana is recommended to all those who have to stand a lot because of their job. It will heal rheumatic affections and also the gout. It is indicated to the ones with flat feet. It eliminates heel aches because it leads to stretching the ankles and feet. Legs and thighs' nerves and muscles are enhanced. The myalgia (muscular pain in legs and thighs) will shortly and miraculously disappear.

Vajrasana brings back the equilibrium to the status of the backbone. It regenerates and relaxes the lumbar area of the back. MERU DANDA (the vital axe of the being), also called the backbone, becomes thus firm and strong. The sciatica is gradually eliminated.

Due to the pelvis' position, of the lumbar and sacral area, and also to the subtle energetic circulation from the inferior area of the belly, Vajrasana contributes to eliminating certain disturbing characteristics of the period or of the menopause (in women's case). It also leads to irrigating the gonads and producing male hormones (in men's case). Thus this position has an important role in maintaining a normal sexual activity, without tension and super - excitement.

By regular practice of this asana one can have a firm attitude. This position can be practiced even immediately after meals. Along with profound breaths Vajrasana secures an excellent and very easy digestion. Only 10 minutes of Vajrasana, after each meal, are enough to accelerate your digestion. (The subtle explanation of this phenomenon is in relation with the direction of the flow of the subtle energy). Immediately after you eat, the flow of energies through nadis (nerves) is most commonly oriented downwards. Vajrasana inverses this circulation and turns it upwards and thus accelerates digestion).

BENIFITS OF VAJARASANA

  1. Improves digestion system
  2. Improves the sensual energy
  3. Beneficial for curbing pain (waist, shoulders and spinal cords)
  4. Good for women as it helps in minimizing menstrual pain
  5. Avoids complication during pregnancy
  6. Clears problems like sciatica and slip disc
  7. Help reduces blood pressure
  8. Tones abdominal muscles and wall
  9. Useful for hernia
  10. Strengthens lower spine, knee, ankles, thighs, and calf muscles
  11. Lubricates every joint of body
  12. Heals rheumatic and gouts
  13. Irrigates gonads and produces male harmones

III: Virasana (Hero Pose) :

In Sanskrit, VIRA means man, in the virile sense of the term. Moreover, because a man was considered a hero as well, the term VIRA symbolizes the heroic man. Consequently, Virasana is "the Pose of the Hero" or "the Virility Pose".

Technique :-

  1. Come into a position on your hand and your knees with your knees together and your feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Your big toes & little toes pressing firmly into the floor.
  2. Push back with your hands & sit between your buttocks on the floor, make sure you roll your calf muscles out wards so you are not sitting on them.
  3. Make sure the inner calves are touching the outer thighs and your ankles are outside your buttocks, arm resting at the sides.
  4. Inhale as you slowly raise your arms to shoulder height, shoulders down.
  5. Exhale lengthens out the fingertips & turns your palms to the roof. Inhale stretches your arms overhead.
  6. Interlock the fingers. Slowly exhaling turn the palms towards the ceiling and with a powerful push lift up from the belly into your chest and shoulders.
  7. Exhale brings your hands down in a smooth continuance motion...
  8. Now bringing your arms interlocking behind your back with straight arms, being careful not to roll the shoulders forward, squeezing the shoulder blades together and opening the chest on the front of the body.
  9. Inhale hands back to the side. Repeat 2-3 times more.

Virasana is an alternative to the Padmasana, siddhasana, as well as other seated postures, for mediation and Pranayama.

It acts as a balm for tired legs at the end of the day. It strengthens the arches, improves digestion and relieves gas. For females this asana is very important as it helps relieve the symptoms of menopause, reduces swelling of the legs during pregnancy (through second trimester). And also effective for asthma patients

IV: Bhadrasana ( Thorne Posture) :
The Sanskrit term Bhadra means "throne". Thus, Bhadrasana means "the posture of the throne". This posture is also called either the “European posture” or the “joyous position”.

Technique :-

  1. Take sitting position stretching both the legs together in front, hands by the side, palms resting on the ground. Fingers should remain together pointing forward.
  2. Now folding left and right legs slowly at knees join both the soles with each other.
  3. Hold the legs at ankle by the hands.
  4. Slowly bring the legs towards yourself till they reach under the perineum. Knees should remain on the ground, body erect and gaze in front.
  5. While returning back to the original position loosens the legs and come back to the first position.

Remember: -
While practicing it, a stretch is felt under the thighs therefore, practice it carefully

Waist and neck should remain erect.

Benefits and Limitations
This is very good posture for lumbar, region and keeps it healthy.

In India, the Bhadrasana is symbolic of royalty and its earliest representations are known from Kushan royal portraiture.

This exercise stretches the muscles of the thighs and legs. Practice this posture once and hold from three to five minutes.

V: Svastikasana (Prosperous Pose) :
Setting properly (i.e. evenly) the two soles (i.e. feet) between the opposite thighs and knees, sitting on level ground with body erect, this is known as Svastikasana.

Technique :-

  1. Stretch out both legs together, hands by the side of the body, palms resting on the ground, fingers together pointing forward.
  2. Now fold your one leg at the knees and put it against the joint of the other thigh.
  3. Fold the other leg and put it near the joint of the other thigh.
  4. Put both hands on the knees in jnana mudra.
  5. While returning to the original position first stretch out right leg.
  6. Then stretch out left leg and keep both legs together.

Remember

  1. Sit erect keeping the spine straight.
  2. The two soles should be placed between the thigh and the calf muscles.

Note: This is taken amongst meditative postures. In Indian culture Swastika is very popular as an auspicious sign. When we sit in this posture, the position of legs resemble the Swastika, hence it is called Svastikasana. After all the yoga-asana practice, it is recommended to perform Shavasana. As this posture helps the body and mind to relax and rejuvenate.

VI: Shavasana (Corpse Pose) :
The Sanskrit word shava means corpse hence this is the Corpse. The shava-asana is also known as the mrta-asana. (As if body is dead)

The goals of the Shavasana are for the body and mind to be perfectly still and relaxed. Not only should the body be motionless and at ease, but the mind as well should be quiet, like the surface of a still lake. The result will be a deep and stable relaxation that will extend into your meditation or be felt through the activities of your daily circumstances.

Lie down on your back, spread your legs and hands a comfortable distance from your body. Place the arms beside the body, palms upturned. Keep heels slightly apart. Breathe slowly and deeply, feeling a sense of calm relaxation come over your whole body. Concentrate on loosening all tensions.

Keep your eyes gently closed with the facial muscles relaxed and breathe deeply and slowly through the nostrils.

Starting at the top of the head and working your way down to the feet, bring your attention to each part of your body, consciously relaxing it before proceeding on to the next.

Remain in the shava-asana for between 3 and 5 minutes or longer. If you become sleepy while in the shava-asana begin to breathe a bit faster and deeper.

This asana stimulates:

  • Blood circulation and exercises inner organs.
  • It alleviates fatigue
  • Nervousness
  • Neurasthenia (a general worn-out feeling)
  • Asthma
  • Constipation
  • Diabetes
  • Indigestion
  • Insomnia
  • lumbago

The Corpse Pose is an excellent posture that can be used between poses that allows total relaxation. Simply let the muscles relax, feel the circulation of prana throughout the system and be attuned to cosmic energies. This pose can also be practiced any time when one requires a few minutes of total rest and relaxation. If desired, one can watch the breathing rhythm and inwardly chant the mantra of one's choice.