For every human, to maintain a balance between oneself and the environment is necessary. Many people suffer from stress, anxiety, insomnia and other health disorders, which is mainly due to improper lifestyle and physical exercise. Therefore, we need a holistic and intense approach for the attainment of health and harmony; in this respect, yoga acts as an aid to one’s health. This ancient form of fitness with roots in India focuses on developing balance, strength and flexibility.
Asana is the physical practice of yoga poses. What most people call yoga could more specifically be called asana. Besides asana, yoga also encompasses pranayama (breathing exercises), dhyana (meditation), yamas (codes of social conduct), niyamas (self-observances), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), and samadhi (bliss). While the breathing and focus exercises can help relieve stress and anxiety, the postures on the other hand are used holistically as a mind-body practice to improve physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Check out these 16 asanas to attain inner peace and physical strength and relaxation with a video by Ranjana Pradhan:
Balasana or child pose – Lengthens and stretches the spine along with the hips, ankles and shoulders. This is a relaxation pose during transition between different poses but also benefits the body by stimulating digestion and helping ease anxiety and stress.
Marjarisana or cat pose – This pose provides a gentle massage to the spine and organs around the belly. It also stretches the back and the neck region. This is a great warming up pose in any yoga practice.
Bitilasana or cow pose – This is a pose used as a counter pose to the cat pose. This pose stretches the front torso and the neck region, and the movement of transition between the two poses (cat and cow) work to massage the spine and the organs around the belly.
Uttana shishosana or extended puppy pose – It looks like a puppy taking an intense stretch forward with its whole body. This pose is a great heart opener that stretches the entire chain of the front body, expanding the chest, easing the upper back and shoulder muscles and stretching the abdomen muscles increasing the circulation immensely. This pose is recommended for people suffering from insomnia and acts as a stress buster, calming the mind and inducing sleep.
Bhujangasana or baby cobra pose – Among others, this back-bending pose has huge benefits like improving and deepening breathing, relieving back ache issues and keeping the spine supple and healthy. The pose stimulates abdominal organs, acts as a heart opener, firms the buttock muscles and works to make your arms and shoulders stronger as well. This pose also increases flexibility and elevates one’s mood.
Adho mukho svnasana or downward facing dog – This is one of the most commonly used yoga pose. This pose acts as a calming effect to the brain relieving stress and mild depression. Contrarily, this pose also energizes the entire body by stretching and strengthening the shoulders, back, hamstrings, calves, arms and legs.
Utthan pristhasana or lizard pose – This pose is a great hip opener. It also tones the muscles in the glutes, strengthens muscles in the shoulder region, strengthens the core by working on balancing the pose, opens the hip joint, hamstring and the quadricep muscles and increases flexibility.
Utthan pristhasana variation – lizard pose variation – Actively stretches the quadriceps and engages the glute muscles, both work leading to strengthening of the lower back.
Uttanasana or standing forward fold – Stretches and opens the hips, hamstring and the calves. This pose works to keep your spine strong and flexible. Helps to strengthen the thigh and knees. Also holding this pose for a longer period helps calm the mind by soothing the nerves. This pose also activates the abdominal muscles if held correctly.
Chair pose or utkatasana – This pose is similar to a low squatting posture that strengthens the vertebral column, hips, thigh, calf and the ankles. It also stretches the thoracic region and the shoulders
Supta pawan muktasana or the leg lock-wind relieving pose – Amongst many other pawan muktasanas poses in the series this particular one is when you are lying and locking legs pressing thighs into your abdomen region. This pose strengthens the lower back muscles and loosens the spinal vertebrae. It massages the abdomen and the digestive organs and therefore very effective in removing wind from the abdomen. It is also helpful for pelvic muscles, reproductive organs and is useful for impotence, sterility and menstrual problems.
Halasana or plough pose – This pose stretches the shoulders and increases flexibility in the lumbosacral region of the spine.
Sarvangasana or shoulder stand – This pose stimulates the thyroid gland by pressing the chest against the chin. This pose carries huge benefits to the entire body including balancing the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, reproductive, nervous, and the endocrine systems.
Matsyasana or fish pose – This pose is counter practiced after sarvangasana, where the entire frontal portion of the upper body is stretched, incorporating the abdominal and respiratory organs. This pose regulates the thymus gland helping boost the immune system.
Meru wakrasana or spinal twist pose – this pose stretches the spine, decompressing the vertebrae and toning the nerves. It alleviates backache, neck pain, lumbago and mild forms of sciatica. This is a beginner’s twist pose to prepare for more intense spinal twists.
Salambha sirsasana or head stand – Known as the king of asanas, this asana revitalises the entire body and mind. It relives anxiety and helps to rectify many forms of nervous and glandular disorders. This asana reverses the effect of gravity on the body hence getting the blood flow in the opposite direction getting sufficient the supply of blood to the heart and the brain. This inverted pose also releases the toxins gathered at the base of the organs out as the body is reversed and the pressure upturned. Also, since the body is upturned and just the hand and head supporting the weight of the entire body, balance of the body is needed to keep the body straight and strong making the core, and the entire body muscles active and engaged.
(Born in Sikkim, Ranjana Pradhan is currently residing in Thimphu, Bhutan. She is a yoga instructor by profession and has been teaching yoga everywhere she travels.)