The literal meaning of asanas implies 'sitting down'. These are a set of related postures, which are being practiced during yoga to perform various yogic practices successfully. Asana is described as the third limb of Patanjali's eight limbs of yoga in his book Yoga Sutra. Asanas includes numerous postures within it with each posture having specific significance. Swami Vishnu Devananda described 66 postures with 136 variations in 1959. Later, in 1975 Sri Dharma Mitra prepared a master yoga chart of 908 postures and compiled 1300 variations. Presently, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India has issued a database of 900 asanas in public interest referring to all the ancient manuscripts.
The basic aim of practicing asanas is to attain the physical and mental wellness within an individual. The various postures practiced in asanas have a magical capability of rejuvenation and maintaining a balance in the body. Though, the exact number of asanas is still in ambiguity, some of the commonly known asanas are: Surya Namaskar, Utthan Pada Asana, Paschimothan Asana, Bhujanga Asana, Salbha Asana, Matsya Asana, Hala Asana, Sarvanga Asana, Dhanur Asana and Sava Asana.
1)Surya Namaskar: Surya namaskar is done to greet the sun. Generally, all types of yoga are started beginning from surya namaskar. It is performed in 12 stages done in a continuation. This asana helps in the nourishment of upper part of body.
2)Utthan Pada Asana: Utthan means 'to raise' and pada means 'legs'. In this asana the legs are raised upward by lying on the ground. The upper body is kept straight and only legs are lifted. This practice reduces back disorders and provides strength to the spinal cords.
3)Paschimothan Asana: This is done in a sitting position where the upper body is bent forward, with hands touching the thumbs of the leg and forehead touching the knees. This stretches the back part of body and improves flexibility of the body. It's also useful in reducing spine disorders.
4)Bhujanga Asana: Bhujanga means 'snake'. This refers to the cobra posture, which gives strength to spine and abdomen. Make the shoulders strong and helps in stress management. It is also practiced in order to awaken the kundalini.
5)Salbha Asana: Salbha means locust, which is a type of grasshopper and hence, it is also called the grasshopper pose. It is just opposite to the Bhujanga Asana. This asana is considered to be very tough and needs lots of practice. This increases the stamina of the body and also improves the flexibility and coordination in the body.
6)Sarvanga Asana: Derived from two Sanskrit words 'sarva' means 'all' and 'anga' means 'body', sarvanga asana refers to the posture of the entire body. In this the total weight of the body rests on the shoulders and is very beneficial for rejuvenation and purification of entire body.
7)Matsya Asana: Matsya means 'fish' in Sanskrit. This asana stretches the spine and the chest and provides lungs with maximum air, which improves the ability of an individual to float in water. It reduces the neck and shoulder problems and minimizes the risk of asthma and other respiratory disorders. The best results of matsya asana can be obtained, if practiced after Sarvanga Asana.
8)Dhanur Asana: Dhanur means 'bow'. The body appears like a bow while performing this asana. This strengthens the body joints and is very beneficial for women. This is also called the bow posture.
9)Hala Asana: Also called the plough posture, it is done by bending the body to its extreme. Doing hala asana regularly helps to gain the sexual powers and hence is very important.
10)Sava Asana: This is the relaxation posture as a dead body. Also referd as the Yog Nidra i.e. yogic sleep, it provides calmness and relaxation to the body and the mind.
Asanas are the most important aspects of yoga. If practiced in a proper and regular basis, they can provide us with the best health solutions. Though, there are various postures in asanas, some of them are most common and can easily be practiced by common people.