Why are yoga poses called asana?

Asana is Sanskrit for “seat.” It traditionally referred to the seated posture used during meditation. Patanjali, the Indian Sage who authored the Yoga Sutras, outlined asana as one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. He defined asana as physical postures that helped to train the body to focus and to help take care of the physical self. 

Today, the term asana is used to describe any physical posture of Hatha yoga, including those in Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Restorative yoga, and Bikram yoga. You’ll find that almost every yoga pose in our directory has asana as a suffix of the pose name.

What is a drishti? Why does each pose have one?

Drishti is Sanskrit for “sight,” it refers to the point a yogi should gaze at while doing a yoga pose. There are nine different drishtis in yoga. They are used to help improve balance and promote focus.

Each of the poses in our directory list the corresponding drishti for that pose. For example, the drishti for downward-facing dog is the nabhichakra, which is the drishti corresponding to the navel. This means that a yogi should focus their gaze towards or on their navel while they practice this pose.

How many yoga poses are there?

The exact amount of yoga poses is still debated. The yogic texts of Hatha yoga outline 84 asanas. However, other texts and scriptures suggest there are as many asanas as there are organisms in the universe, which would be about 8.7 million poses. In more modern times, Sri Dharma Mittra, a distinguished yoga teacher of Iyengar yoga, Ashtanga yoga and Sivananda yoga, catalogued 1,300 yoga poses.

As new styles of yoga continue to be developed, the number of asanas increases. There are now aerial versions of poses, partnered poses, acrobatic poses and even poses designed for doing yoga on paddleboards. It is possible that the number of asanas will only keep growing as yogis continue to experiment and explore. 

Which yoga poses should I do?

One of the best things about yoga is that there are poses for every level and every body. The poses you choose to do will depend on which areas you’re looking to focus on. We recommend using the filters in our directory to help narrow down the list of asanas based on what types of poses you want to practice and your yoga level. 

If you’re a beginner, you should begin with gentle and simple asana to help build flexibility and strength before moving on to more intermediate and advanced yoga postures. Trying yoga poses that your body is not ready for may lead to injury. Always listen to your body; if a yoga pose causes you pain, it is best to avoid this asana or adapt an easier variation of the pose.   

What are the best yoga poses?

The answer to this question will vary from yogi to yogi, and from each yogi’s day to day. Each yoga pose targets different areas of the body in different ways. The best yoga pose could depend on which parts of the body you are looking to strengthen, stretch, energize or relax. The best yoga poses can also depend on what poses feel best to you. Each yogi develops favourite postures that simply feel good to practice. 

All in all, there aren’t really any “best” yoga poses. Each yogi gets to determine which yoga poses are best for them, and that answer will likely vary based on the day and how the yogi is feeling physically and mentally. 

If you’re looking for yoga poses or yoga sequences for a specific body area, check out our Asana Tips articles for more information.

Arm Balances:

Arm balancing postures involve balancing your body weight onto a portion of your arms or hands. As the majority of the body weight is being held up by the arms and hands, these poses help build upper body strength, core strength and balance. 

Backbends:

Backbends involve bending the spine backwards. Backbending poses help to stretch and strengthen the spine and open the chest and the hips. Back bending yoga poses are invigorating and strengthening.

Balancing Poses:

Balancing poses are postures that cause the practitioner to focus on keeping balanced. These poses can vary greatly from one another; some balancing poses require the practitioner to balance on the hands, toes, feet, butt, head or a combination of these. Balancing yoga poses help improve balance, strengthen and elongate muscles, and develop core strength. Balancing can also help improve mental focus. 

Binds:

Binds refer to any yoga pose when one part of the body holds onto another part and pulls against it, or when two body parts are intertwined. The most common yoga binds require the practitioner to link their hands or wrists together. Binds help to massage the internal organs and can help a practitioner to relax into a pose.

Chest Openers:

Chest openers are poses that stretch and expand the chest. Chest openers help to stretch and lengthen the chest muscles, as well as the torso and the front of the shoulders. Chest opening poses can also help to strengthen the back. 

Core Strengthening Poses:

Core strengthening poses require engagement of the core muscles. These yoga poses help strengthen the core of the body and improve alignment. They also help build focus and resolve.

Forward Bends:

Forward bends, also commonly called forward folds, are yoga poses that require the practitioner to fold forward from the hips. Forward bends can be done standing or seated. Forward bend yoga poses can help increase lower-body flexibility, improve alignment, keep the spine strong and flexible, and help reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue. 

Hip Openers:

Hip openers are yoga poses that stretch the hips and the surrounding muscles. Hip opening yoga poses increase flexibility, range of motion and circulation in the hips, low back and lower body. This can improve range of motion and reduce pain in the low back, as well as release pent up emotions, leading to an energetic shift.

Inversions:

Inversions are yoga poses that place the practitioner’s head below their heart. While some inversions require the yogi to be completely upside down, not all do. Inversions help to reduce blood flood, thus improving circulation. Inversions also help improve balance and strengthen and energize the body. 

Restorative:

Restorative poses focus on helping the body relax and soften. These are gentle yoga poses aimed at lengthening and relaxing muscles and helping the body to recover. 

Seated Poses:

Seated yoga poses are those that require the practitioner to be seated on the floor. Seated yoga poses vary widely, but they are designed to improve flexibility and alignment and promote grounding.

Standing Poses:

Standing yoga poses require the practitioner to be standing on at least one foot or on their toes. Standing yoga poses vary widely, but they are designed to build strength, balance, focus and alignment.

Supine Poses:

Supine poses are poses that require the practitioner to be lying on their back. Supine yoga poses vary widely, but they can be used to improve alignment, flexibility or increase relaxation.

Twists:

Twists are poses that require the practitioner to twist their body either from their core or their torso. Twisting yoga poses, or twists, help improve flexibility, stimulate digestion and detoxification, and tone abdominal muscles. Regular twisting can help reduce back pain as well stress and anxiety.

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