There are many yoga asanas. Each asana has its own benefits and contraindications. Here is a little list with asanas and how to perform them safely. The poses are organised in groups. One asana can belong to more than one group. They’re in alphabetical order, based on their English name. If they have a Sanskrit name, it’s given. (If you want to know how to ‘take apart Sanskrit, read Sanskrit for Beginners.)
Prone yoga asanas
Yoga asanas are roughly done for two reasons: healing the body and cleaning the mind. In the beginning the yogis mainly focused on the mind. They meditated about 16 hours a day, sitting still in a lotus pose. Spending so much time in meditation and neglecting the need of the body to move, the body slowly started to fall apart and dysfunction. To heal themselves the yogis looked at nature and saw how animals move. That’s the reason why so many poses are named after and inspired by animals, trees, mountains and so on.
The yogis also discovered that emotions lead to blockages within the body. Instead of going to those old emotions through the mind, they discovered they can also move the body and by moving into inflexible and painful body parts they can actually let go of old emotions.
There is no picture perfect in yoga. Everybody is built differently: different bone structure, different muscle fibers. Yoga asanas have to feel comfortable, with a light stretch. It may be challenging, but it may not hurt.
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