In yoga, an asana can be described as a physical posture that is designed to benefit the body’s functions. When asanas are performed, they are commonly referred to as “yoga poses” or “postures”. Many of these postures are practised purely for health purposes. Although they fall into the category of ‘exercise’, asanas benefit the body in a different way to physical forms of exercise. Instead of just benefiting the body’s physical being, asanas help to cultivate awareness, relaxation, and concentration, too. In this article, we explore the benefits of asanas in more detail, discussing exactly what successes each one brings.
Simply put, asanas are exercises designed to increase strength and endurance. Additionally, the postures are thought to improve circulation and energy flow, cleanse the organs, and stretch the muscles. Today, people recognise the wider benefits of the exercises; however, these benefits were not the original pur-pose of asanas. Traditionally, each pose was designed to create a healthy body and mind. This was achieved through yoga by releasing one’s stress, tension, and disease, enabling them to connect with their inner-self by cleansing the mind. The correct clothes can also help to ease stress; our Harper Easy Tank Top oozes comfort.
In Hatha Yoga, students are encouraged to bring expectations and goals into the postures. Rather than connecting with the inner self, this practice was designed to move one deeper into the physical reality of disillusion. Today, many people in the West practice yoga within their daily work out routine. Losing the holistic connection can make individuals focus on their physical body and it’s achievements, rather than the original purpose of the alternative therapy. While this will still provide the body with the physical benefits of the postures, Asanas were originally designed to move one into an existence of wholeness, encouraging them to focus and reflect on the world around them.
Asanas are most effective when the mind and body work together. Within the practice, each individual should be encouraged to perform at their own rate. People that have been practising longer are more likely to be able to stretch the body that bit further; however, a good instructor will help beginners to perform each asana to the best of their ability, without causing distress on the muscles. Yoga is designed to have a positive effect on the body, not a negative one. With this in mind, students should never push their body too far – If an asana begins to feel uncomfortable, it’s sensible to stop and move onto the next one. To encourage individuals to abide by this rule, each asana is performed slowly to focus on how the body feels.
There are many asanas practised within yoga today, each one bringing with it its own range of positive benefits. Standing asanas are thought to increase joint and muscle flexibility, in addition to improving stamina. Due to the natural nature of these positions, standing asanas are great for beginners. On the other end of the scale, you will find forward and backwards bending asanas. These difficult positions are generally only popular among experts, due to the high level of flexibility needed to perform them correctly. When individuals are limber enough to attempt them, though, bending asanas can bring with them an array of positive benefits. Notably, the forward bending pose, Paschimotanasana, can reduce discomfort in the lower back.
Great for opening the front hip joints, the Bridge Pose strengthens the spine, opens the chest, and im-proves your spinal flexibility. Additionally, this asana can benefit the body by relieving stress, anxiety, and depression. Practicing Bridge Pose before bed is thought to help combat insomnia, allowing individuals to enjoy a well rested nights sleep.
Possibly one of the most famous asanas in existence, Downward Dog is great for decompressing the spine. Additionally, the posture stretches the arms and legs and flushes the brain with fresh, oxygenated blood. Practicing this asana for a couple of minutes each day is believed to have a calming effect on both the body and mind. To practice the Downward Dog properly, you will need a flexible pair of yoga leggings; our Moss Ballet Leggings are incredibly flexible and comfortable, and will help you to practice with complete ease.
Childs Pose is another well-known asana. Useful to relieve discomfort in the neck, back, and hips, this posture should be practised alongside slow, regulated breathing. Great for individuals of all ages, Childs Pose is restorative and calming.
As suggested in the name, Easy Pose is a simple posture with an array of positive benefits. In addition to calming the mind, this asana is believed to ease menstrual pain and aid anxiety. To encourage a state of pure relaxation, make sure you are wearing comfortable yoga clothes before practicing this posture. For a high-quality pair of bottoms, we recommend the Ana Heart, Hill Sweatpant.
Warrior 1 is another great asana for relaxing the body and mind. Simple in nature, practice the pose after a long day at work to feel your worries seep away. In addition to its stress-reducing benefits, Warrior 1 strengthens the legs and opens up the chest and shoulders. Movement in these areas is rarely achieved naturally, so giving the body a chance to stretch out built-up tension can work wonders for your health. Additionally, this asana promotes good posture by strengthening muscles in the knees and feet, as well as stretching out the shoulders and spine.
Much like Warrior 1, Warrior 2 also strengthens the arms and legs and opens your chest. Unlike its sister pose, Warrior 2 contracts your abdominal organs and muscles; not only does this help to tone the stomach, but it also helps to regulate breathing. Focussing on the expansion of your arms, ensure to keep yourself elevated in the pose rather than letting gravity pull your hips down.
Still to this day, asanas remain an integral part of the alternative therapy known as yoga. Whether you’re hoping to tone the physical body or you’d rather focus on calming the mind, practice these asanas regularly to reap the benefits.