In yoga, asana is a specific body posture that provides the body physical and mental comfort, balance, and calmness. The yoga asana benefits are many and include physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational benefits.
Practicing yoga asanas regularly improves physical balance, strength, flexibility, and energy level. Yoga asanas reduce anxiety and stress, improve the emotional state, and compassion, and control the energy flow. They are also beneficial to heal or manage some health conditions such as high blood pressure, infertility, and asthma.
Moreover, according to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, daily early morning practice of a minimum of 30 min and at a frequency of at least 5 days per week provides practitioners with the greatest amount of benefits.
So, in this article, we are going to explore different types of yoga asana and their benefits, and some important points that need to be followed to enhance the benefits of yoga asana. These asanas are very easy to practice and can be performed by new or beginner practitioners.
General Notes to Get Complete Yoga Asana Benefits
The following are some points that you need to consider to get maximum benefits from yoga asana.
- While practicing yoga asana, always breathe through the nose and coordinate your breath with asana steps.
- Do counterpose whenever necessary. That is, backward bending asana should be followed by forward bending asana and vice versa. This will help to keep the body in a balanced state.
- If you feel any physical or mental discomfort during or after asana, perform Shavasana. Otherwise, Shavasana must be practiced after the completion of other asanas sessions.
- Right-handed person tends to start the asana on the right side. He/she should start on the left side to promote its development. A Left-handed person should do the same thing.
- Yoga asana can be performed at any time of the day except after meals. But, to reap the maximum yoga asana benefits, it is recommended to do it in the early morning in a calm and quiet environment.
- Yoga asana should be practiced 3 to 4 hours after taking your meal.
- Wear loose, light, and comfortable clothes while exercising yoga asana.
- Although, some yoga asanas are beneficial for pregnant women. It is advised to consult your concerned doctor or certified yoga teacher before practicing.
- Understand well the steps and precautions associated before starting the yoga asana.
- If you feel excessive pain in any body parts during performing yoga asana, then asana should be immediately terminated.
Yoga Asana and Their Benefits
1. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
Adho Mukha Svanasana replicates a dog bending forward, hence the name given “Downward Facing Dog Pose”. This asana is a good exercise for stretching your calves and hamstrings. It also strengthens the arms, legs, and shoulders. Moreover, practicing Adho Mukha Svanasana increases circulation to the brain and calms the mind which helps to relieve headache, insomnia, and fatigue. If you want to keep anxiety and depression at bay, then this asana can be beneficial. For women, it helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and in treating menstrual symptoms like menstrual pain and discomfort.
How to Do Adho Mukha Svanasana?
- Lie flat on the floor or mat with stomach and face down.
- Bring both the hands shoulder apart and legs hip apart.
- Exhale and lift your back to make your posture to look like a table.
- Now, breathe in and slowly bring your head and legs inward to make an inverted “V” shape.
- Ensure your knees and elbows are not bent and toes pointed straight.
- Stay in this position for 1 minute with deep breathing before releasing the pose.
Do not apply too much pressure while lifting your upper torso. Distribute your weight evenly on both hands and legs.
2. Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge Pose)
“Anjaneya” refers to the monkey god Hanuman that means son of Anjali – his mother’s name. This is the most commonly practiced asana in yoga to stretch hips, gluteus, groin, and quads. It is beneficial in strengthening knees, arm, chest, and intercostal muscles. It also improves balance, concentration, and core awareness. Besides, regular practice of this asana can stimulate digestive and reproductive organs.
How to Do Anjaneyasana?
- Start in downward facing dog pose. Exhale and bring your right foot in front. Make sure the knee and heel of your right foot are in the same line creating a 90-degree angle on the right knee.
- Gently lower your left knee and place it on the floor right behind your hip, toes should be pointing straight back.
- Now, put your hand on the right thigh and apply little pressure on it, simultaneously lift your head and chest up and straight.
- Inhale and raise your hands overhead so that your palms are facing each other and biceps are next to your ears.
- Pull your tailbone towards the ground. Lengthen your lower back and engage your core muscles.
- Bring your arms further back so that you see above.
- Breathe normally and stay in this position for a minute before releasing the pose.
- Repeat the above steps with the left foot for the same length of time.
Do not practice Anjaneyasana if you have knee, neck or spinal injuries.
3. Ardha Chakrasana (Half Moon Pose)
Ardha Chakrasana is a standing backward bending asana. It is also known as a half-moon pose because in the final position it looks like a half-moon. It is a good exercise to relieve back pain and improve posture. It also strengthens and tones the back, abdominal, thighs, arms, and shoulders muscles. Moreover, ardha Chakrasana is effective in reducing thighs and stomach fat. For females, practicing Ardha Chakrasana is beneficial to reduce menstrual disorders.
How to Do Ardha Chakrasana?
- Stand straight with having some distance between your feet and balance your weight equally on both feet.
- Keep arms alongside the body.
- Breathe in, extend your arms overhead, palms facing each other. Exhale
- You can also put your palm at the waist to support the back.
- While inhaling, gently bend backward from the lumbar region and pushing the pelvis forward.
- Bend the neck backward to stretch the neck muscles, keep the arms in line with the ears, elbows, and knees straight.
- This is the final position of Ardha Chakrasana.
- Hold the position for 5 – 8 seconds and breathe normally.
- Come back to the straight position. Relax
Do not practice ardha Chakrasana if you have serious neck, hip, or spinal problem.
4. Ashtanga Namaskara (Eight Limbed Pose)
It is a transition pose before coming into Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose). During the practice of this pose the eight points of the body namely two feet, the two knees, the two hands, chest, and chin are in contact with the floor. In Sanskrit, “ashta” means “eight” and “anga” means “part”, hence the name Ashtanga Namaskara. It is a great exercise for novices to build the arm strength needed for Chaturanga Dandasana in a sun salutation sequence. This pose is also useful to prepare yourself for other arm balancing poses. Ashtanga Namaskara provides stretch to toes, hips, lower back, and neck which as a result strengthens the core, abdominal, chest, and knees.
How to Do Ashtanga Namaskara?
- Start with the plank position.
- Exhale, and drop your knees to touch the floor. Breathe normally.
- Exhale, and bring the chest and chin to the floor keeping the hip off the floor and elbows hugging into your sides. Make sure that the toes are tucked inside.
- Hold the pose for at least 5 breaths before releasing the pose.
Do not practice Ashtanga Namaskara if you have neck, shoulder, or elbow injuries.
5. Bhadrasana (Gracious Pose)
Bhadrasana is a basic pose and is an excellent pose for beginners. In yoga, it is considered as one of the 4th main asanas for prolonged meditation. It is a very comfortable asana and can help to get rid of fatigue. It also calms the mind and reduces cognitive activity. This asana helps to strengthen the backbone, thighs, hips, and buttocks. Regular practicing of this asana is beneficial in improving digestive disorders and in getting rid of respiratory problems.
How to Do Bhadrasana?
- Sit on the floor or yoga mat with legs stretched out.
- Bend both your legs and bring them to touch each other. Make sure both the soles of the legs are in contact with each other and with the floor as well.
- Hold the toes with both hands and bring them very close to your perineum.
- Now place both hands on your knees and apply little pressure to press them down. Keep the neck and spine erect.
- Take slow and rhythmic breathe and maintain this position for at least 1 minute.
Do not practice Bhadrasana if you have knee problems, back pain, weak legs, and neck pain.
6. Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Balasana is a relaxation asana and can be practiced by beginners. It is easy to follow and very useful in relieving back, shoulder, neck, and hip tension. It provides a gentle stretch to the back, hips, thighs, and ankles. Besides, this asana helps to stretch and lengthen the spine. As this is the relaxation pose, it calms the mind and helps relieve stress and fatigue. It also promotes blood circulation and stimulates digestion and elimination.
How to Do Balasana?
- Sit on your heels on the floor or yoga mat with your big toes touching each other.
- Spread your knees hip-width apart. Inhale
- While exhaling bend forward by lowering your torso and touch your forehead to the floor.
- Broaden your sacrum across the back of your pelvis and narrow the points of your hip such that they point towards the navel.
- Bring your arms in front of your head with your palms touching the floor and release the shoulder’s fronts towards the floor.
- Now, gently press the chest on the thighs.
- Stay in this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute with regulated breathing.
Do not practice Balasana if you have knee injuries or suffering from diarrhea.
7. Bidalasana (Cat Pose)
Bidalasana is also known as cat pose due to its resemblance with the cat. This asana can be performed by beginners and as the warm-up pose to prepare the body for more intense yoga exercises. The idea of performing this pose is to provide strength to the spine and to improve the flexibility of the spine. It is a relaxation pose that can help to combat stress and correct the insomnia problem. Additionally, it massages and stretches the abdominal muscles thus improving the digestive system of the body. For women, it is one of the best poses to reduce symptoms related to PMS.
How to Do Bidalasana?
- Position your hands and knees on the floor with palms facing the floor and knees under the hip. Keep the palms under the shoulder and shoulder-width apart with your middle fingers pointing forward.
- Bring your torso parallel to the floor and relax your back and shoulder muscles. Put your head in a relaxed position and look at the floor. This is your neutral position.
- With exhalation smoothly bring your belly inwards and make an arch with your spine towards the ceiling and without force move your head inwards between the shoulders while keeping your shoulders and knees in position.
- Hold the position for 30 seconds to 1 minute and Inhale and come back to the neutral position.
- Repeat the process 15 to 20 times.
Do not practice Bidalasana if you have beck and neck problems. Pregnant women should avoid this asana.
8. Chaturanga Dandasana (Low Plank Pose)
Chaturanga Dandasana is also known as the Four-Limbed Staff pose is a balancing asana frequently practiced as part of the Sun Salutation pose. It is a great asana for beginners to prepare themselves for more advanced arm-balanced poses. It strengthens wrist, arm, shoulder, and leg muscles. It also strengthens the muscles surrounding the spine and shoulders which in turn is helpful in improving posture. Besides, Chaturanga Dandasana also develops core stability which strengthens the abdominal muscles and encourages the abdominal muscles to work properly hence improving the digestive system.
How to Do Chaturanga Dandasana?
- Start with a plank pose with the arms and legs straight.
- Keep your wrists below the shoulders and legs hip-width apart.
- On exhalation bring your torso down by bending your elbows. Bring the elbows hugging into the sides of your body. Keep the shoulders, elbows, and hip in line.
- Keep your core and legs engaged and tailbone firmly in its place.
- Hold this position for 10 – 30 seconds.
- Exhale and come back to plank pose.
Do not practice Chaturanga Dandasana if you have high blood pressure and shoulder and wrist injuries.
9. Dandasana (Staff Pose)
Dandasana comprises of two words “Danda” and “Asana” meaning “staff” and “pose” respectively, thus also known as staff pose. This pose makes the spine straight and strong which supports the whole body like a strong staff. It is a foundation pose of all seated yoga poses which correctly practicing relaxes the leg and the hips after intense practice sessions of other yoga pose. It helps to strengthen the back, chest, shoulders, and all core muscles. Daily practicing improves flexibility and correct posture. It also helps to calm your mind and enhances focus and concentration.
How to Do Dandasana?
- Sit with an erect spine on the floor or over a yoga mat.
- Bring your both legs in front of you keeping your legs and feet hip-width apart and parallel to each other.
- Now, pull the toes inwards to activate the muscles of the calves and hamstring.
- Then, put the palms of your hands on the floor by the sides of your hips with fingers pointing forwards. Make sure your shoulders are in relax position and stretching a little backward to stretch the chest. Maintain the head, shoulders, and hip to be on the same line.
- Hold this position for 30 – 50 seconds while breathing deeply and keeping your legs fully active.
Do not practice Dandasana if you have back or wrist injuries or have any spinal problems.
10. Jathara Parivartanasana (Abdominal Twist Pose)
Jathara Parivartanasana is a reclining twist asana that comprises three words – “Jathara” means “belly” or “abdomen”, “Parivarta” means “moving or twisting”, and “asana” means “pose”. This pose strengthens and tones the abdominal and makes the hips and spine more flexible. It also twists the abdominal organs to improve circulation around the abdomen. It stretches the back muscle, and lengthens the spine. It is also beneficial to encounter digestive issues. Besides, practicing Jathara Parivartanasana provides an energizing effect to the body and is always recommended to perform as a relaxation pose to remove the tiredness of those people who get easily tired after work.
How to Do Jathara Parivartanasana?
- Lie flat on your back on the floor with legs straight and relaxed. The back and head back should be fully resting on the floor.
- Stretch the arms out to the side at shoulder height creating a T-shape. Both palms should be touching the floor.
- Now, bend both the knees straight up and towards the chest making a 90 degrees.
- Exhale and turn your legs to the left by twisting the spine and lower back. Try to touch the knee with floor on the left while keeping both knees touching each other. Then, look at the right-hand fingertips.
- Keep the shoulder flat on the floor and lengthen your spine. Keep your eyes close and try to relax in this position.
- Breath normally and stay in this position for 6 -10 breaths.
- Then, while inhaling bring the knees back up to the center as well as head and do the same thing on the right side.
Do not practice Jathara Parivartanasana if you have knees, hips, or back injuries.
11. Makarasana (Crocodile Pose)
Makarasana commonly known as crocodile pose is an important asana to relax the whole body and mind, and generally practiced in between or after to relive pain caused by other asana or activity. It helps to relive stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Regular practice of this asana is helpful to provide strength and stretch to the muscles of the rear, hips, and legs. It also enhances the blood circulation in the body and improves the digestive problems.
How to Do Makarasana?
- Lie down on your stomach.
- Spread the legs so that the knees are about at shoulder-width and the toes pointing outwards or inwards which one is comfortable.
- Place the arms in front with elbows at about shoulder width.
- Now join the elbows by placing right arm above the left arm so that the fingers touching the elbows.
- Rest the head on the center point of the arms. Then close both the eyes.
- Breadth deeply and rest in this position for up to 10 – 15 minutes.
Do not practice makarasana if you are suffering from stomach disorder and have inward curved spine. Pregnant women should also avoid this asana.
12. Pawanmuktasana (Gas Release Pose)
Pawanamuktasana is also known as Wind-Relieving Pose or Gas Releasing Pose is performed to release stuck air from the gastrointestinal tract and joints. It is an excellent asana to practice at the beginning of other asanas to release gases to make other asana practice easier. Besides, it massages the internal organs of the digestive system and strengthens the abdominal muscles. It improves the digestive system and relieves constipation. It also provides flexibility and releases the stiffness of the muscle. Regular practice of this asana is beneficial to treat sterility and impotence as it exerts adequate pressure on the reproductive organs.
How to Do Pawanmuktasana?
- Lie flat on your back and keep the legs straight and together.
- Put your hands by the sides of your body and relax.
- Exhale and slowly bring your legs to the chest until your thighs press the abdomen.
- Clasp the knees and lock the fingers.
- Breathe in and lift your head and chest to touch your chin to your knees.
- Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and breathe normally.
- While exhaling, gently release the hands and slowly straight the legs and come back to the original position.
Do not practice Pawanmuktasana if you are suffering from high blood pressure, slip disc, ulcer, hernia, back and neck problems.
13. Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
Shavasana is also known as corpse pose, the name it gets from the resting posture of a dead body. It is considered as the relaxation pose in yoga that relaxes every body part and the mind. It is usually performed at the beginning and at the end of yoga practices or as a resting pose between other yoga asanas. It helps to release stress and to remove disturbing thoughts and tensions. It rejuvenates the body, mind, and spirit.
How to Do Shavasana?
- Lie on your back with hands by the sides of your body. Keep the palms facing up and legs a comfortable distance apart.
- Close your eyes, breathe deeply and relax.
- Now, try to connect your breathing with your body parts and feel that each and every part of the body is in a relaxed state.
- Keep practicing this asana for at least 5 – 10 minutes.
Avoid practicing this asana in a disturbing environment.
14. Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
Sukhasana is an easy cross-legged seated asana usually practiced for meditation. It is a great pose for beginners and can be practiced by people of all ages and all levels of physical capacity. It provides flexibility to the hips and can prepare you to perform more advanced sitting yoga. It stretches the knees and ankles and strengthens the back. It is good for meditation and lets you relax your mind to drift away from the stress. It also improves posture and enhances concentration and focus.
How to Do Sukhasana?
- Sit on the floor or use a blanket, towel or bolster if you have a tight hip.
- Bend your knees and cross one shin in front of the other to bring the feet underneath the knees.
- Now, put your hands on the thighs and bring your index finger to touch the thumb to make an O-shape while keeping other fingers straight. Palms should be facing the sky.
- Keep your head, neck, and trunk in a straight line and close your eyes.
- Relax your whole body and breathe normally.
- Do this as long as you are comfortable.
Do not practice Sukhasana if you have a knee injury.
15. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
In Sanskrit “Tada” means “Mountain”, which is why it is also known as mountain pose. It can be practiced by all levels of yoga practitioners and is the starting position of all standing asanas. This asana is performed to improve posture and can be beneficial to increase height. It also opens up the chest and lengthens the spine. It helps to reduce back pain and strengthens the leg, buttock, and thigh. Additionally, regular practice of Tadasana is beneficial to reduce flat feet and provides relief from back pain.
How to Do Tadasana?
- Stand straight on the ground keeping your feet at the hip distance apart. Balance your weight equally on both feet.
- Keep your hands by the sides of the body and your legs, waist, and neck should be in a straight line.
- Now, while inhaling raise your hands upward and interlace your fingers with palm facing upwards just above the head.
- Stretch your shoulder, arms, and chest upward and balance your body on toes.
- Take normal breathing and stay in this position for nearly 10 seconds.
Do not practice Tadasana if you are suffering from insomnia, migraine, low blood pressure, and joint pain.