Types of Asanas
What is an Asana?
The word asana has different meanings in Sanskrit. In this page we will focus on the postural aspect.
Three General Types of Asanas
Asanas can be divided into meditative, relaxing, and cultural asanas. These three types of postures are quite different in their purpose and technique.
These are cross-legged sitting postures which allow you to sit upright and relaxed for a longer time. They provide a stable seat for meditation. The aim is to train your body so you can sit a long time without moving any part of your body. This is important if you are practicing meditation or pranayama and want to come to a deep concentration.
You should choose the posture that is most comfortable for you and start practicing it for 15 minutes. You can increase the length gradually.
In the raja yoga sutras the asana is defined as a steady, firm, and comfortable posture.
There are five main meditative postures:
- Padmasana or lotus
- Siddhasana or adept's pose
- Swastikasana or locked-ankles pose
- Sukhasana or easy pose
- Vajrasana for people who cannot sit cross-legged
Asanas for Relaxation
The asanas for relaxation are designed in a way that there is no need to contract any muscle. It is important to practice them exactly so your body can come to a deep relaxation and is not just lying on the floor.
There are three main relaxation postures:
- Savasana or corpse pose
- Abdominal relaxation pose
- Garbhasana or child's pose
The first asana of this type, savasana, is also used for yoga nidra, the powerful system of deep relaxation, visualization and self transformation.
There are three important phases in the practice of cultural asanas — each of them equally important and should be paid equal attention:
- Coming into the position
- Holding the position
- Getting out of the position
This group contains by far the largest amount of asanas. It is said that there are 84 lakhs (8.4 million) yoga postures. Of these, 84 are more important and 12 of them constitute the structure of the Rishikesh sequence sometimes called Sivananda series or Yoga Vidya series.
The cultural asanas can be divided in seven groups:
- Dynamic sequences - such as the sun saltuation
- Inverted postures - such as the headstand or the shoulderstand
- Forward bending postures - such as the sitting forward bend aka Paschimottanasana.
- Backward bending postures - such as the cobra , locust , or bow poses
- Twisting postures - such as the half spinal twist
- Side ward bending postures - such as the triangle pose
- Standing postures including balancing poses - such as the tree pose.
Every yoga sequence should at least contain one out of every of the groups listed above. If you take one asana of every group, you will move your spine in every direction and use all the muscles of your body. Depending on the order in which you practice them you influence the flow of the prana in your body. For the sequence practiced by AYA you can look up our basic yoga class.