Yoga Asanas (Yoga Poses)

Yoga means the union of mind and body. Asanas means postures. So the word yogasanas means postures for the union of mind and body.

Four Asanas are prescribed for the purpose of Japa and meditation. They are Padmasana, Siddhasana, Svastikasana and Sukhasana. You must be able to sit in any one of these four Asanas at a stretch for full three hours without shaking the body. “Then only you will get Asana-Jaya, mastery over the Asana”, says Swami Sivananda… Asana system is the 3rd in ashtanga Yoga. Yogasanas help achieve physical health, control over mind and power of concentration. Patanjali has described Yogasana as “Sthir Sukham Asanam”, which means a yoga pose that is stable and pleasant. A more broad definition of Yogasana according to Patanjali is “Tatodwanabhighatah” which means practice of Yogasana leads to disappearance of duality of cold-hot, sadness-joy, happiness-sorrow and so on.

Yoga is different from exercise as it doesn’t involve speedy movements, but very slow and steady movements. Yoga helps achieve relaxation which reduces stress & strain. Very few calories are consumed during Yogasana practice and metabolism rate of the body also drops which means reduced Aging Process. Less food is required as digestive power is increased. Yoga must be co-ordinated with the breath. We breathe in when our hands or legs move against gravity and we breathe out when our hands or legs move towards the earth. Yogasanas are practiced to remain in good health. However, if combined with pranayama, they are the perfect antidote to illness. Continued practice of yogasanas and pranayama leads to not only good health, but to stillness of the mind, which is a pre-requisite for meditation. It is said that if one can sit in the same yoga pose without moving for more than two hours, one is a yogi.

Hindus believe that spirituality must encompass a sound mind and a sound body. Yogasanas are therefore designed not just for physical fitness but also mental strength. Simple yogasanas should be practiced everyday.

Surya Namaskar is one of the important group of asanas. Hindus acknowledge the importance of Sun and sunlight in their daily lives and begin their day by paying tribute to the Sun God (Surya Devata). The Suryanamaskar is a prayer to the Sun God. In fact, it is a perfect combination of exercise and prayers. These exercises activate the endocrine glands and the chakras, energizing the entire body in a balanced way. Surya Namaskar accords overall strength and flexibility to the body, which is why it is generally performed before other asanas. It is a sequence of 12 asanas. These simple exercises fight aging and rejuvenate the entire body.

First of all, we need to sit errect whether we are going to practice asanas, do pranayama or meditation. When we sit cross-legged on the floor with our spine erect, we feel comfortable. So this is known as Sukhasana. Padamasana or the lotus pose is when we fold one leg first, then entwine the other in it. It is more difficult to sit in padmasana than in sukhasana.

Siddhasana seals the lower apertures. Siddh means to having come through a process or to complete a process. It is an important asana. It is a meditative seating yoga pose in which the left heel presses the perineum. The perineum is one of the outlets of our body, i.e. anus, vagina or testes. So when the left heel presses this region, the outlet is closed. This stimulates the mooladhar chakra. It is also called the pose of perfection. This helps us go within. The chin must be pressed to the chest. Our gaze should be in-between the eyebrows. So this is a form of meditation.

In the Swastikasan, both the hands are kept below the thighs and with the body straight, when one sits calmly in this posture, it is called Swastika. One seems to be sitting in the shape of the swastika. Shavasan is an important asana which is done for complete relaxation. The body lies still like a corpse, with the spine erect and the hands and legs straight but slightly apart from each other. In the advanced stage of shavasan, the yogi mentally feels each part of the body relaxing. Yog Nidra, a meditation and relaxation technique, requires the practitioner to be in shavasan. Other important asanas are pawanmukt asana for the stomach, trikon asan and ushtra asana for the spine, sarvangasana, halasana and chakrasana for the whole body, bhujangasana for the neck and upper back and shalabhasana for the legs. The advantages of practicing yogasanas are manifold.

· Yogasanas and pranayama increase the capacity of expansion and contraction of the lung, which results in purification of the lungs.

· They help in keeping the body flexible.

· They help the body to relax.

· Glands in the body secrete horomones, which get stimulated through yogasanas and keep the hormones balanced..

· Diseases like constipation, gas-trouble, diabetes, blood-pressure, hernia, headache, etc. can be cured by practicing Yogasanas and Pranayama.

· Yogasanas make possible not only physical and mental development but also intellectual and spiritual development.

· There is no restriction of age and sex for Yogasana aspirants. Our ancient sages had adopted this system for thousands of years with the result that they enjoyed sound health for a long time.

Seema

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