Asana

What is Asana?

Asana (pronounced AHS-ah-na) in Sanskrit means “pose” or “posture”. Each pose in the yoga discipline has an array of benefits and are designed to assist with functions in the body or invoke and enhance personal qualities – such as digestion, posture, sleep, openness, strength, stamina, and patience. Every asana in yoga – whether you are sitting cross-legged or in Downward Facing Dog – is guided by the breath (Prana) – inhaling as we open the body, exhaling as we close the body.

Asana is the moving meditation that allows the mind to be at ease and become one-pointed, helping to focus a busy mind on breath and body. In addition, asana or poses were created to assist with yoga’s overarching goals: to connect to your authentic, higher-Self  and help one to sit in stillness during meditation.

How often should I practice?

Ideally, yoga asana is practiced daily along with meditation. With that said, practicing this discipline is more about consistency rather than trying to jam in several hours of yoga in one day. If you are only able to begin with 15-30 minutes of yoga daily, that is a wonderful place to start. Continue to practice that length of time each day and you will experience changes in your physical body as well as embody the ease and peace of mind that yoga helps one to actualize. Eventually, you will work up to a daily practice of 1-1.5 hour(s) a day.

Many of us – whether we are beginning or advanced in our practice – need the structure of a studio class, the encouragement and guidance of an instructor, or private lessons to help us with the consistency of our practice or to push and challenge us to reach our true potential. I am available in each capacity to guide you through the transformational experience of yoga and meditation. Contact me to schedule your first Discovery Yoga Class for FREE or attend one of my public studio classes. You can also subscribe to my email list to receive exclusive offers and updates on yoga classes, workshops and retreats!

Here are some basic poses to help you to begin your practice:

Beginner Poses

1. Cat-Cows (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)

CowPose
  • Come onto your hands and knees (Table Top position). Spread fingers wide, thumbs reach towards each other and pinkies reach towards the edges of the mat.
  • Make sure shoulders are stacked over wrists and hips over knees. Knees should be hip distance apart. Feet in line with knees.
  • Take a deep breath in (inhale). Dump relaxed belly down to the ground, and press chest through the shoulders towards the front of the mat.
  • Pull shoulders back and away from the ears and press hips towards the earth. This will help the dump the belly down further and deepen the dip/stretch in the spine.
  • Tilt the chin up to the sky and reach out through the top of your head to lengthen the neck and open the throat.
CatPose
  • From Cow pose, exhale and pull belly button into the spine. Press into palms and arch the upper back.
  • Tuck chin to chest and press hips towards the face. Arch the upper back more by pushing into palms further and pressing out through the tops of the shoulders.
  • Keep the tops of the feet flat to the earth to help with strength and stability in the pose.

Take 5-10 rounds of cat-cows. Inhaling into cow, Exhaling into cat.

Benefits: Cat-cows stretch the spine, upper back, shoulders and neck; works the abdominal muscles and massages inner organs, which helps with digestion; opens the chest and throat.

2. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

DownwardFacingDog
  • Come onto your hands and knees (Table Top position). Spread fingers wide, thumbs reach towards each other and pinkies reach towards the edges of the mat. Take a deep breath in (inhale).
  • Exhale, tuck toes under and press hips back and up towards the sky. Make sure toes are facing forward to the front of your mat.
  • Press down through your heels (even if they don’t touch the ground). This will help to stretch the back of your legs and help to straighten your knees.
    **If legs are really tight, bend your knees and take your feet as wide as your mat. This modification will also help with tightness in the lower back during this pose.
  • Press into the center of your whole hand (into palms out through the knuckles and fingertips) and push your chest back towards your thighs. Keep your arms straight and extended.
  • Let your neck and head hang heavy.

Take 3-5 deep breaths in Downward Facing Dog.

Benefits: Inversions such as Downward Facing Dog (where head is below the heart) help to relieve stress and mild depression, calms the mind, and stimulates the entire body. This pose stretches the whole backside of the body; speeds up metabolism and improves digestion; relieves headaches, insomnia, fatigue and sciatica.

3. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Balasana
  • Come onto your hands and knees (Table Top position). Spread fingers wide, thumbs reach towards each other and pinkies reach towards the edges of the mat.
  • Knees and feet are together. Tops of feet are flat to the mat. Take a deep breath in (inhale). **If you need room for your belly or are pregnant, take your knees wide but keep toes touching.
  • Exhale and sit bottom back on heels and lower belly and upper body onto thighs and rest forehead on the ground. Arms are extended.
    **If your hips do not reach your heels, place blanket(s) or a block between your heels and bottom.
    **If you cannot reach your forehead to the earth, bend elbows and stack hands on top of each other to make a pillow to rest your forehead on or place a blanket or block underneath forehead for support.

Take 3-5 deep breaths into the back of the body, expanding the back of the ribs.

Benefits: Child’s Pose is great for grounding a busy mind; calms stress; increases blood circulation; stretches lower back.

4. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Tadasana_Front
  • Stand tall at the front of your mat with feet together and toes facing forward. Arms are relaxed by your sides.
  • Press chest gently forward and point the tailbone down to the ground by gently pressing hips forward. Pull belly button into towards spine.
  • Reach out through the top of your head to lengthen spine and pull shoulders down and away from ears.
  • Press down into all four corners of your feet and extend your arms out by sides, reaching through the fingertips. Spread the fingers wide and face palms forward.

 
 
Take 3-5 deep breaths into the chest and front of the body.

Benefits: Mountain Pose helps to correct posture; tones the abdominal muscles; opens shoulders and chest; strengthens legs; improves stance.

Ready for more yoga? Check out Sun Salutations!

 


Note: The benefits listed for each pose are certainly not exhaustive. I have only included the fundamental benefits as each pose is incredibly beneficial in a multitude of ways.