Meaning of Yoga and Asanas


Yoga is seen as a form of exercise which has immense physical benefits. Is it merely stretching and exercise? Are the Asanas simply poses? Well, the answer to both these questions is a big “NO”. Yogic practices are about exploring the mystery in our body, and it is a life-long procedure. Asanas similarly are not simply yogic-poses but a way to communicate with our ever changing body.

Holding a pose should not require muscular effort as one becomes an expert. The Gheranda Samhita which is one of the texts of Hatha Yoga (the other two are Shiva Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika) says that the yogasanas should be practised based on the skeletal structure of the body. Hence, minimum muscular effort should be required to keep a yogic-posture intact. The yogic-texts say that everybody is a different entity and requires a different kind of treatment. Some individuals will be more flexible than others physically, but in practising asana, physical flexibility is of least importance. Rather more focus is on mental and emotional flexibility.

12 basic Asanas

Asanas are just one of the eight parts of yoga, which makes body mind and spirit stable. There are 12 basic poses and these are much more than exercise. They help to stimulate the flow of energy through the body by opening the chakras (seven in our body). In the long run, these yogasanas help to strengthen the bones, increase the flexibility of spinal cord which helps the body to become stronger and immune to diseases.

The 12 Asanas are:

  • Sirshasana (Standing on head)
  • Sarvangasana (Standing on shoulders)
  • Halasana (The Plough pose)
  • Matsyasana (The Fish pose)
  • Paschimothanasana (Sitting forward and bending)
  • Bhujangasana (The Cobra Pose)
  • Shalabhasana (The Locust pose)
  • Dhanurasana (The Bow pose)
  • Ardha Matsyendrasana (Spinal Twist)
  • Mayurasana (the peacock pose)
  • Pada Hasthasana ( Standing forward and bending) and
  • Trikonasana (The Triangle pose).

These Asanas help the body to stretch all the tendons and muscles making them more flexible. One more pose which has to be done along with each of these poses is the Shavasana (The Corpse Pose). This asana is done for relaxing. Some of these Asanas have already been discussed and the rest we will take up in later posts. Thanks!