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What is Asana?

Asana is yoga pose or posture or position of the body. Patanjali in ashtanga yoga defines asana as Steady and Comfortable pose.

Benefits of Asana or Yoga poses

A healthy and peaceful body is the starting point for advance practices. This is the purpose of Asana.
Benefits of Asana or Yoga poses - make the body healthy and strong and to make the mind peaceful and focused.
In Asana, body is subjected to different stretches, bends, twists, inversions and strains. Then you try to maintain the posture in a relaxed manner. This practice builds the strength and stamina. Especially various muscles are strengthened, which is the support for all other systems. Functioning & efficiency of the internal organs is improved. This affects all other parts of the body in positive manner.
In asana, you try and connect the mind to the body. You try increasing the awareness of body parts, focusing on stressed joints and muscles, maintaining awareness of the breathing. One needs a lot of skill in trying to relax the muscles and different parts under stress during asana practice. This is strengthening of Body- Mind relationship.
Other benefits of the Yoga poses include increasing flexibility, stamina, and endurance of various body parts. Asana or yoga poses or yoga positions increase efficiency of digestive system, and various digestive organs such as liver, pancreas, stomach, intestines. Yoga poses increase the efficiency of respiratory system and makes it more efficient promoting abdominal and relaxed breathing. Asana also have positive effect on reproductive system, excretory system. Most important is asana balance nervous system and hormones. Nervous system & hormonal balance is important in overall.

Categories of Yoga poses

The asanas can be classified or catagorized in various ways, depending on the application of the asanas, usefulness to various physical conditions, level of practice.
Meditative asanas - Some asanas are specially for practice of meditation, they provide a firm support to the posture and help maintain the body posture for longer time. These yoga poses regulate the blood flow to the legs and make available more blood in the pelvic region and lower abdominal region. These positions allow the mind to be peaceful and focused. Yogasana like Padmasana (Lotus pose), Siddhasana (Perfect pose), Swastikasana( Auspicious pose) Vajrasan (thunderbolt pose), Samasana (balance pose) etc are called as meditative asanas. The purpose of this asana is to stabilize the body for advanced practices of Pranayama and Meditation.

Asanas for Improving health - Asanas have a good effect on various systems in the human body, such as Matsyendrasana (spinal twist pose) has a good effect on the digestive system and a good effect on the pancreas for improving the insulin production, Sarvangasana (shoulder stand pose) has good effects on the hormones affecting various endocrine glands particularly the thyroid glands. So the asanas which have a complementary effect on various organs can be classified in this category.
Yoga for Obesity
Yoga for Diabetes
Yoga for Hypertension

And many more related to ailments.
Relaxing asanas - Shavasana (corpse pose) and Makarasana (crocodile pose) are relaxing asanas, which give complete rest to the body and mind.
Another way to classify the asanas is considering the position of the body in a Yoga pose.

Forward Bends

01.Padmasana Yogamudra (type 1)
02.Padmasana Yogamudra (type 2)
03.Sharanagata Mudra (forward bending)
04.Vajrasana Yogamudra (type 1)
05.Vajrasana Yogamudra (type 2)
06.Paschimottanasana (half forward bend)
07.Paschimottanasana (full forward bend)
10.Vipritakarani (inverted pose)
11.Sarwangasana (shoulder stand)
12.Ashwini Mudra (horse gesture in shoulder stand)
13.Pavanamuktasana 2 legs (gas release pose)
14.Pavanamuktasana 1 legs
15.Halasana (plough pose)
16.Noukasana (boat pose)
17.Akarna Dhanurasana (type 1 - bow pose in sitting)
18.Akarna Dhanurasana (type 2 - bow pose in sitting)

Back Bends

02.Makarasana (crocodile pose)
03.Matsyasana (fish pose)
04.Shalabhasana Half (locust pose)
05.Shalabhasana (locust pose)
06.Dhanurasana (bow pose)
07.Noukasana (boat pose)
08.Saral Hasta Bhujangasana (cobra pose - with straight hands)
09.Vakra Hasta Bhujangasana (cobra pose - with curved hands)
10.Ardhachakrasana 1 (half wheel pose)
11.Ardhachakrasana 2
12.Ekpad Sahajhasta Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
13.Dwipad Sahajhasta Bhujangasana (cobra pose)

Side Bends

01.Anantasana 1
02.Anantasana 2
03.Trikonasana (triangle pose)

Twisting Positions (Twists)

01.Vakrasana (type 1 - twisted pose)
02.Vakrasana (type 2 - twisted pose)
03.Ardhamatsyendrasana (half spinal twist)

Stretching Poses

01.Vrikshasana (tree pose)
02.Veerasana (warrior pose)
03.Parvatasana (mountain pose)
04.Tadagasana (pond pose - spinal stretch)

Inversions Bends

01.Uttanpadasana with both legs (leg raised pose)
02.Uttanpadasana with one leg
03.Vipritakarani (inverted pose)
04.Sarwangasana (shoulder stand)
05.Ashwini Mudra (horse gesture in shoulder stand)
06.Halasana (plough pose)
07.Ardhachakrasana 1 (half wheel pose)
08.Ardhachakrasana 2

Relaxing Poses

01.Shavasana (corpse pose)
02.Tadagasana (pond pose)
03.Makarasana (crocodile pose)

Meditative Poses

01.Dhyan Mudra (meditation gesture)
02.Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose)
03.Swastikasana (auspicious pose)
04.Siddhasana (perfect pose)
05.Padmasana (lotus pose)
06.Padmasana (baddha - tied lotus)
Another way of classifying the asanas is depending on the preposition required for a particular asana, for example shoulder stand is performed from supine position so it can be classified under supine position.
Supine position - Lying on back in sleeping position, asanas like Sarvangasana (shoulder stand), Halasana (plough pose), Chakrasana (wheel pose) etc.
Prone position - Asanas like Bhujangasana (cobra pose), Shalabhasana (locust pose), Noukasana (boat pose), Dhanurasana (Bow pose) Sitting position - Asanas like Padmasana (lotus pose) Matsyendrasana (spinal twist pose), Paschimottasana (forward bend pose), Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose) etc.
Standing position - Trikonasana (triangle pose), Veerasana (warrior pose), Vrikshasana (tree pose) etc.