Introduction to Yoga Asanas and health benefits
How This Helps
Yoga is a lifetime of effort and practice. This article is the first, introducing you to this esoteric world.
Modern Yoga has many interpretations and connotations, but this space will focus on the classical yoga as it was taught and practiced in ancient India.
For you, the reader and practitioner, this means that as you follow one article after another, you will step into a world which you will soon realise is universal, where there is no caste, creed, sex, colour or religion - only good health and wisdom, a gift given freely you mankind by the ancient Indian seers.
You will also realise that your growth is in your hands; you can pace your speed of breaking into this magnificent world, assimilate it and slowly make it part of your life. Once it becomes part of you, it'll never leave you and your wisdom will shine as it did in India, many millenniums ago.
Asana - Overview
blog follows the Yogacharya Sundaram school of yoga exercise routines and therapy. This format
was developed by Yogacharya S. Sundaram, who started one of India’s oldest Yoga school
in Bangalore, India around 1925. These routines focus on
maximising the effect of the exercise on the relevant portion of the body at a
time, are holistic and cover all parts of the body. It
is necessary to differentiate between some terminologies;
Asana – The classical definition of asana is Sthira (static) + sukham
(comfortable) + asanam
(seat). This means that any exercise which is called asana should keep the practitioner close to the condition
of homeostasis, which is a psychosomatic state of the body remaining
in balance and equanimity. Therefore, asana is a static exercise where the body movement is
minimal and the focus is on holding the pose to maximise impact on a specific
area of the body.
Asana therefore needs to comply with
the following rules;
It should be static, not vigorous or dynamic.
It should be easy to perform and not stressful.
Is should be at one place, with minimal movement.
It should contain a breathing routine.
Kriya - Dynamic exercises which increase flexibility of the
into this classification.
Banda - this is a holding exercise. This exercise is far
more complex than the above two types and focuses on smooth flow of prana in and around that area of focus.
Uddyana and nauli fall into this classification.
the Sanskrit words - there is always a desire to make approximations to
make the subject more appealing and less forbidding. I am trying to avoid that
and will attempt to stay as close as possible to the classical aspects of the classical aspects of the subject.
teachers get started with warm up asanas and beginner asanas. Yogacharya
Sundaram never really did that. He got people performing the below mentioned asanas as soon as he could get them to flex. I think that is
the right approach. Hence, I have started with the recommended asanas which need to be practiced in a normal routine and
later, I will be drifting to other asanas which
have specific uses.
exercise routines recommended are:
Reverse bending exercises: Focus on the
The Cobra Pose
The Locust Pose
The Bow Pose
Forward bending exercises: Focus on lower
The Air Relieving Pose
The Torso stretch Pose
The Plough Pose
The Peacock Pose
Upper region exercises: Focus on the neck, shoulders, heart, lungs and
The Pan body pose
The Fish Pose
The Head Stand
The Chest Pose
The Half fish middle pose
The Yoga seal
The Hand to Toe Pose
The Abdominal Suction
The Rectus Isolation
Body Reset Exercise: Coming back to the condition of homeostasis
The Corpse Pose
Best time to practice asana:
There are two options, morning and
evening. Asanas performed in the evening are less gruelling, as the
body has undergone the rigors of the day and is already pliable. However, in
the evening, the mind is jaded, having undergone the stresses of the day. The
emotional and intellectual energies are run down which results in the lower
awareness during exercises. Also, very often, not enough time has elapsed since
the last meal. Yogasanas (exercises) induce peristalsis, forcing
undigested food though the intestines, reducing absorption of nutrients. In
certain cases, where the meal has been particularly heavy, or the gap less than
four hours, resistance from a full stomach could induce stomach cramps.
activate specific areas of the body by directing blood flow to the affected area
when the asanas
are performed. This brings increased rejuvenation of the area resulting in
increased energy levels. This is the impact of performing asanas in the morning. Exercises performed in the morning
actually increase the energy levels of the person by optimising the body
systems for harmonic performance. However, this means that, in the morning, the
mind and body, though rested, is stiff as a result of non-use after sleep. Asanas can be painful initially but with exercising, the
organs fire up, loosen and begin flexing. The stomach and intestines are empty
and offer no resistance to the bending and stretching actions. The vigorous
peristalsis action actually assists in the evacuation of waste matter from the
outer colon and rectum.
This blog recommends exercises be done in the morning,
though sometimes it may be more expedient for individuals, depending on their
daily schedules to exercise in the evening. It is, however, most critical that
the same time be maintained every day. This ensures that the system gets
acclimatized to the routine and overcomes the lethargy of exiting the bed.
It is important to recognise the difference
between asana and kriya. Asana is a static pose, while kriya is a dynamic pose, like uddiyana, nauli
Both yield different benefits, and both need to be practiced.
The exercise environment
Exercise is an opportunity for the person to increase
the oxygen content in the body, remove toxins and stress and
harmonise with the environment, thereby increasing one's sentience of his
This means that there is a requirement of peace and tranquillity when
exercising. Therefore, it is recommended that the exercise be performed in any
place that has plenty of fresh air and no unpleasant odour. It should be free
from dust and mites.
Wear clothes that allow stretching and do not run or
fall when lifting or bending. Clothes should breathe and absorb sweat. Men are
advised to wear athletic supporters. Both men and women should
wear well-fitting innerwear to prevent injury during exercise. If one
prefers going to classes for the sake of regularity and discipline, it is
advisable that one wears appropriate clothing.
Diet is absolutely vital to realise the full potential
of the exercises. Eating the right food ensures absorption of essential
ingredients and optimisation of the tri-gunas.
It is important to start exercises after the lapse of
at least 4 hours after consumption of solid food, 1 hour after consumption of
liquid food such as milk or juice and 20 minutes after drinking water.
The reason for this recommendation is that food takes
roughly 4-6 hours to completely move out of the digestive system. The process
of digestion begins with chewing of food and finishes with the absorption of
nutrients in small intestine. Vigorous exercise induces peristalsis or pulsing
of the intestine, which results in the food hurrying through the intestine
without nutrients getting completely absorbed. Also, the presence of food in
the digestive system acts like a resistor to bending and stretching. This acts
in various planes, from stopping the full movement of the diaphragm thereby
impeding full ingestion of air to inducement of sprains and cramps when the
body is stretched/bent.
Homeostasis, may be defined as the tendency
towards a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements,
especially as maintained by physiological processes but this can be extended to
all psychosomatic functions. This means that the body works with a certain set
of parameters for proper functioning, like body temperature etc., and when this
parameter is disturbed, the body takes compensatory action to bring it back to
When performing yogasana, it is important to try and stay close to the
condition of homeostasis. The reason is that the muscles and internal organs
should not experience stress during exercise so as to maximise blood flow and
movement of the tissue resulting in rejuvenation of the area.
Share your opinion and experiences;
you exercise? What is your exercise routine?
do you prefer to exercise? morning or evening? why?
you exercise alone or in a group? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
you wear any special clothing for exercise? why?
is your diet? How do you manage your diet?