Asana is the third limb of the eight-limbed path outlined in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (more details in my first post here ).
Tadasana, Utkatasana, Malasana, Bakasana, Balasana, Dandasana you’ve heard them and many more often in class, as most of the yoga poses end in “-asana” the Sanskrit word for “Physical Posture”.
ASANA is the physical part of the Yoga practice and often times people start to go to yoga classes to enhance their physical fitness. Practicing asana has multiple health benefits beyond flexibility and balance, spending an hour or more stretching and strengthening the body will make you both calm and energised.
However, initially the goal of the yoga practice was meditation, and asanas were a means of getting there, improving the capacity of the body and mind, so that a person could sit in meditation for long periods with as few distractions as possible.
It is obvious that Yoga is more than Asana, but the poses are the way in, that’s where we all get hooked and everything else unfolds from there.
Over time, yoga asanas have been incorporated into different yoga styles, all based on ancient yoga teachings, but developed and made popular by different people or outcomes. Some of the most popular styles are highlighted below:
Ashtanga: Popularized and brought to the West by K. Pattabhi Jois in the 70’s, Ashtanga (translated as “Eight limb yoga”) is considered to be the most athletic and physically demanding form of yoga. Following the exact set of postures each time and linking breath and movement, Ashtanga will challenge your mental and physical strength.
Hatha yoga: is the oldest form of yoga, its origins have been traced back to the eleventh century. Hatha Yoga refers to any type of yoga that teaches physical postures and nearly every type of yoga class taught today is Hatha yoga. A well rounded slow practice which gives a gentle introduction to the most basic yoga postures, Hatha Yoga is recommended for beginners as it provides a solid foundation for all the other yoga styles.
Vinyasa Yoga: translated as “to link in a special way”, Vinyasa Yoga links body postures in a dynamic, versatile flow, getting you to move with your breath. The beauty of Vinyasa is that is never the same, giving you infinite possibilities to explore and never feel stuck in your practice. There's high chances will leave the class with an energised body and a still mind.
Kundalini yoga: was brought to the West by Yogi Bhajan and was designed to awaken energy in the spine. Kundalini yoga classes include meditation, breathing techniques such as alternate nostril breathing, and chanting, as well as yoga postures.
Yin Yoga: as opposed to some of the Yang yoga styles mentioned above (Ashtanga and Vinyasa), Yin Yoga focuses on passive, seated postures that target the deep connective tissues of the body and the fascia that covers the it. With poses being helpd from 1 to 10 minutes, Yin offers a much deeper access to the body, breath and mind.
However, what makes these yoga styles highly beneficial are not only the postures, but their link to the breath and specific breathing exercises referred to as PRANAYAMA.
Stay tuned for my next post on Pranayama.
In the meantime...
Breathe In, Breathe Out.