Asanas or postures are the most physical aspect of yoga. They belong to the bahiranga (external) yoga. The word ‘asan’ means mat or seat. It is recommended that you use your own yoga mat as it carries your energies. Another meaning of ‘asana’ is ‘no hope’. Yogis say asanas or postures must be simply practiced. It is an art of hopelessness just like a child’s play.
Types of postures
There are 84 lakh yoga postures categorised as cultural, meditative and relaxing postures. Cultural postures help achieve flexibility, balance, strength, endurance and agility. Meditative postures help shift the awareness from the physical body to the breath and awareness of consciousness. Relaxing postures are meant to relax and rejuvenate the body. There are only four meditative postures, two postures for relaxation and the rest are cultural postures. The purpose of all asanas is to achieve one of the four meditative postures – siddhasana, padmasana, vajrasana or sukhasana. The true test of fitness is the ability to sit or stand for hours at a stretch without any discomfort, aches or pains. Yoga postures are designed towards this end as yogis sat for hours or even days in a meditative posture to attain further in yoga.
Break your habits, not your body
There are stretch receptors present in the body which detect changes in the length of muscles and communicate with the brain to avoid strain on the muscles due to over stretching. But pushing yourself slowly and regularly in a posture can help attain new levels of flexibility over a period of time. Research has also shown increased blood circulation, lymphatic drainage, synovial fluid movement and improved fascia in the body with yoga postures. Your lung capacity can also be improved with leads to better oxygen absorption in the body. Postures work directly on the organs and endocrinal glands of the body. You can break the unhealthy patterns or habits in the body which lead to diseases and disorders through regular practice. Thus weight loss, improved health and fitness, age reversal are all obvious benefits of practicing yoga.
Postures help bring clarity and balance to the mind.
Research has shown an increase in GABA levels in practitioners of yoga. GABA is the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the nervous system. People with depression and anxiety have been shown to have low amounts of GABA in their cerebrospinal fluid. When the GABA receptors are activated in the brain using certain substance or medication, you tend to feel relaxed and sleepy. But when that is withdrawn, you are left with overexcited GABA receptors, the side effects of which include insomnia, anxiety and seizures. Thus yoga is a natural way to improve the GABA levels which elevates mood, makes you feel relaxed and alert. Alertness of the brain brings clarity to your thoughts, decisions, mental focus and energies. It also helps improve a sense of balance in your day to day life.
Tip: Practice yoga on an empty stomach or leave a minimum of 2 hours between meals and your session.