Why types of Asanas? Asanas in yoga are many in number. Classical yoga texts declare that there are as many yoga poses as the number of species. Ancient yogic texts and contemporary yoga curriculum teaches us a large number of yoga poses. It will be easier and helpful to understand and practice, if we could classify them into various types of Poses.
Types of Asana
We may classify the yoga postures according to our requirement. One may classify the Asanas into Classic Yoga Asanas and Modern Yoga Asanas. Or he may group as Easy Asana Group, Intermediate Group, and Advanced Group. Hence the classification depends on the requirement. There is no hard and fast rules in grouping. This is why we come across many classifications.
Grouping by Classic Yoga
We, at Classic Yoga, group yoga poses into the following seven types of Asanas.
- Meditation Poses
- Relaxation Poses
- Standing Poses
- Inverted Poses
- Balancing Poses
- Specific Sequence Poses
Meditation Yoga Poses
As the name suggests, these Yoga Poses are intended for the purpose of meditation only. Mostly they are sitting postures. The earliest Yoga Poses belong to this category.
Brief history of Meditation Asanas
Before Postures came into existence, the ancient yogis used specific seats made up of the skins of tiger or deer along with grass and clothes for meditation. In those days, these seats were known as Asanas.
It was a prerequisite for meditation to sit on such a prescribed seat in a manner in which the trunk, neck and head of the body in a straight line. As the time passed, seat and the sitting posture came to be known as Asana.
Thereafter, different sitting postures came into existence. While the seat being constant, the postures became many. At this point of time, the word Asana indicates the sitting posture only. Afterwards, when postures other than sitting postures have come into existence, the meaning of Asana includes those postures also.
This explanation of mine simply could not be denied, because there exists a proof in Bhagavad Gita in verse 6.11. It talks about the seat for meditation as Asana only. Subsequently, verse 6.13 describes the sitting posture without any name. Here the sitting posture is not termed as Asana. So, it was the time, Asana meant only the seat and not the sitting posture. It was the time when multiple sitting postures were not available.
It is possible that Patanjali would have meant Asana for seat only and the commentators took the meaning as posture which would have been prevalent at the time of making commentary. Of course, this is a mere hypothesis that may be investigated upon.
List of Yoga Poses for Meditation
The classic texts of Yoga like Yoga Yajnavalkya, Yoga Sutra commentary of Maharishi Vyasa, Thirumanthiram of Thirumoolar give around ten to twelve poses most of which are Meditation Poses only. These Asanas are called classic yoga poses.
- Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
- Siddhasana (Adept Pose)
- Swastikasana (Auspicious Mark Pose)
- Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)
- Virasana (Hero Pose)
- Muktasana (Liberated Pose)
- Simhasana (Lion Pose)
- Gorakshasana (Goraknath Pose)
- Matsyendrasana (Lord of the Fishes Pose)
- Sukhasana (Easy Pose)
The relaxation Poses are meant for taking rest. Relaxation is different from sleep. In sleep, consciousness is not there; whereas in relaxation, you have consciousness.
When a sequence of postures are being performed, practice of a relaxation Pose like Corpse Pose is to be done for a couple of minutes in between two Poses. Besides this, at the end of every yogasana session, any one of Relaxation Poses should be performed for a duration of five to ten minutes. Whenever the body or mind becomes tired, one should recourse to a Relaxation Postures for getting recharged.
List of Poses for Relaxation
- Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
- Matsya Kridasana (Flapping Fish Pose)
- Advasana (Revers Corpse Pose)
- Makarasana (Crocodile Pose)
Standing Postures provide flexibility of body. They strengthen the muscles and remove stiffness and lethargy.
- Tadasana (Palm Tree Pose)
- Garudasana (Eagle Pose)
- Uttanasana (Squat and Rise Pose)
- Samakonasana (Right Angle Pose)
- Divikonasana (Touble Angle Pose)
- Trikonasana (Trible Angle Pose)
- Ardhachandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
- Eka Pada Pranamasana (Single Foot Prayer Pose)
- Eka Padasana (Single Foot Pose)
- Eka Pada Sirasasana (Single Foot Head-leg Pose)
- Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana (Single Foot Inverted Staff Pose)
- Natarajasana (Lord Nataraja Pose)
- Bakasana (Crane Pose)
- Uttida Hasta Padangusthasana (Raised Hand Big Toe Pose)
- Pada Hastasana (Hand to Foot Pose)
- Vatyanasana (Flying Horse Pose)
- Vishwamitrasana (Sage Vishwamitra Pose)
- Virabhadrasana (Warrior Pose)
Inverted Poses provide rest to the veins of the body. Normally veins are under pressure for the whole of the day except when one is sleeping. Inverted Poses takes off the pressure of the veins for a while. It gives rest for the whole of the body. However, one should take while doing Postures like Sirsasana (head stand). If not done properly, it may give worse results than the benefits gained. It is advisable to perform the Postures of this sort under the guidance of a competent Yoga teacher.
List of Inverted Poses
- Sirasasana (Head Stand)
- Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)
- Viparitakarani (Reverse Action Pose)
- Oortva Padamasana (Inverted Lotus Pose)
Balancing Poses give strength to the limbs of the body especially hands and legs. Balancing Poses may either be of hand balancing category or of leg balancing category.
List of Balancing Poses
- Mayurasana (Peacock Pose)
- Kakasana (Crow Pose)
- Vakrasana (Curved Pose)
- Kukkutasana (Cock Pose)
- Parvatasana (Mountain Pose)
- Prapadasana (Tip-Toe Pose)
- Adhomuka Shavasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
- Chakrasana (Wheel Pose)
- Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
- Halasana (Plow Pose)
- Shalabhasana (Locust Pose)
- Ushtrasana (Camel Pose)
Twists give flexibility. This group of Poses are little harder to master, yet they give immense benefits. They remove toxins and provide lightness.
List of Twists in Poses
- Matsyendrasana (Matyendra pose)
- Bharatvajasana (Bharatvaja Pose)
- Koundinyasana (Koundinya Pose)
- Janusirasasana (Head-Knee Pose)
- Marichiyasana (Marichi Pose)
Specific Sequence Asanas
Specific Sequence Poses are not single ones, they are a set of yoga postures to be performed in a specific order.
List of Specific Sequence Asanas
- Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation)
- Tibetan Kriya (Tibetan workout)
- Shankaprakshalana (Washing Indestines)
The postures shown in the types of Poses are only important Poses. They don’t include the variants. Some postures are shown in more than one group. The idea of the classification is to have a bare idea of the list of poses.