As defined in the Patanjali yoga sutra, asana is a comfortable and steady posture. Though the sutras do not specify a particular pose, it requires that while performing an asana, the body should always be in a steady and comfortable position.
Up until now, teachers and texts have described a number of asanas. The classical texts of hatha yoga refer to 84 asanas as told by lord Shiva of which the first four are considered necessary to acquire spiritual perfection. These four asanas are siddhasana, padmasana, bhadrasana and saimhasana.
Asanas have a number of therapeutic benefits which make them such an integral part of yoga. During the ancient period, meditation was the main aim and asanas were just a means to improve the capacity of the body and mind so a yogi could sit in one position meditating for longer periods without getting tired or distracted. Since the body is the vessel which carries the soul, taking care of the physical body is crucial for the spiritual development. Practicing asanas also have a variety of emotional and psychological benefits, increase in concentration and discipline and calm down the mind for meditation.
How to practice asanas?
If you look at the yoga sutras, the only rule that Patanjali suggests for practicing a yoga asana is to have a steady and comfortable position. The practitioner should not be experiencing any sort of discomfort. Traditionally yoga asanas should always be practiced on an empty stomach and without exercising any excessive pressure or force. Asanas can be coupled with pranayama or breathing practices to enhance the effect of the yoga poses. The head and other parts of the body should be lowered slowly especially raised heels. The breathing should be rhythmic and each asana should be practiced with controlled movements for getting the most from that asana.
To release the tension and stress from the body, perform corpse or child pose. While performing yoga one should be mentally aware and should focus on uniting the body, mind and breath. There are specific yoga asanas which can be practiced to treat specific health issues.
The main objectives of practicing asanas
The main objective of asanas is to benefit from the therapeutic aspects of yoga. The therapeutic benefits from these asanas are both for the physical body as well as the inner self. There are a plethora of benefits of asana practice such as increased strength and flexibility. The regular practice of asanas helps in stimulating the psychological systems of the body such as the circulatory, immune and digestive systems. They also help in reducing the stress and tensions thus developing the focus and mindfulness required for meditation thus stimulating the energetic body and opening the nadis and chakras. The overall functions of the body on an emotional, behavioral and perceptual level are also improved.
Benefits of practicing asanas
Yoga is the practice through which one can exercise the mind and the body simultaneously to acquire the overall sense of well being. The health benefits that can be achieved through yoga are plenty and affect everything from the joints to the muscles to the blood circulatory system.
Asanas enhance the respiration process through focused breathing techniques and also helps in strengthening the body. Meditation helps in clearing the mind while deviating the focus onto important things in life.