Yoga Poses (Asanas) Explained

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)

One of the most widely recognized yoga poses, Downward-Facing Dog offers the ultimate, all-over, and rejuvenating stretch. The body is positioned in an inverted "V" with the palms and feet rooted into the earth and buttocks lifted up towards the sky. Calms the brain, helps relieve stress and mild depression, and energizes the body.

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon)

The Half Moon strengthens and stretches. This pose is great for the abdomen, ankles, thighs, buttocks and spine. Starting from a standing position one leg is straight while the other is extended back parallel. And one hand on the floor, flat. while the other hand is extended up towards the sky. The shoulder blades are squeezed together and the fingers move outward in opposing directions. The weight of the body is supported mostly by the standing leg while the bottom hand has very little weight on it but is used intelligently to regulate balance. The upper torso is rotated open to the sky. Both hips are externally rotated. Energy is extended actively through the flexed toes to keep the raised leg strong.

Bakasana (Crow Pose)

This pose begins with a preparation. First the weight of the body is seated on the heels with the knees open, the arms extended straight and the palms of the hands are rooted into the earth between the thighs. The belly is pulled up and in towards the spine with the ribcage and chin lifted. The gaze is forward and slightly down. From this you lean forward to place all the weight upon the arms and palms. This strengthens arms, wrists, and the upper back.

Balasana (Child)

This pose is not just for kids. It relaxes the neck and shoulders and is a base pose for others as well. Start from a kneeling position, the toes and knees are together with most of the weight of the body resting on the heels of the feet. The arms are extended back resting alongside the legs. The forehead rests softly onto the floor.

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

This posture promotes flexibility in the spine and encourages the chest to open. It also strengthens the spine, stretches the chest, the lungs, the shoulders and the abdomen. You may start from a prone position lying on the ground. The pelvic bowl is firmly contracted interiorly towards the center line of the body, while the pubis is tucked under. The legs are extended back and the tops of the feet are squared to the earth. The palms are flat and the fingers are in line with the shoulder blades.

Bitilasana (Cow Pose)

The Cow Pose is a great beginner pose. Bitilasana is wonderful for warming up the spine and stretching the shoulders and core. Start from the Box (Cakravakasana) pose. The ribcage is lifted with a gentle sway in the low back. The tailbone lifts up into dog tilt. The eyes are soft and the gaze is to the sky.

Dandasana (Staff Pose)

In Dandasana the legs are very active, even though it looks like you're just sitting there. This pose if great for strengthening the back and shoulders and improves posture. This pose also benefits the stomach and kidneys. To begin the pose, you would start from a seated position with both legs extended to the front. The torso does not lean backward. The weight of the body is positioned towards the front of the sitting bones and the pubis and tailbone are equidistant from the floor.

Padmasana (Lotus Pose)

The quintessential yoga pose, Padmasana requires open hips and consistent practice. The Lotus Pose is great for preparing beginners for deeper backbends, strengthening the back of the torso, legs, and arms. As a simple and effective pose, you simply bring the bottom ankle and place it on top of the opposite knee, both ankles will be resting on top of the thighs.

Purvottanasana (Upward Plank)

This pose is often done after the Staff (Daṇḍasana) place the hands on the floor about one foot behind the hips with the fingertips pointed forward towards the hips. On an inhale press through the hands and feet to lift the hips as high as possible. The Purvottanasana is perfect for stretching your core and legs.

Sasangasana (Rabbit)

Just as cute as it sounds and a great relaxing pose. Great for the spine and neck. From Child's (Balasana) pose, rest the torso onto the thighs and the forehead onto the earth. Walk the knees up to meet the forehead, shifting some weight to the crown of the head. Find the maximum comfortable neck stretch and then reach back and grip the base of the feet (use a strap if necessary)

Savasana (Corpse)

The Corpse Pose may sound intimidating but it is one of the most relaxing poses. Often used as a great cool down and meditation pose for after a session. The body rests on the ground in a supine position with the arms resting by the side body. Place your palms upward and relaxed. The shoulder blades are pulled back, down and rolled under comfortably, resting evenly on the earth. The legs are extended down and splayed open. The heels are in and the toes flop out. Everything is relaxed.

Supta Jathara Parivartanasana (Supine Spinal Twist)

This pose is especially effective at stretching the hips and lower back. It also stimulates the kidneys, abdominal organs, and relieves stress. From supine position, bend one knee and cross it outside of the opposite foot. Use the hand to put slight pressure on the bent knee to push down towards the floor. Keep both shoulders squared and rooted to the floor. Extend the opposite hand and gaze towards the hand. For a deeper stretch, start to straighten the bent knee.

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)

Although it looks simple, this pose is sometimes called the hardest pose in yoga. The goal is to distribute your weight evenly over both feet to encourage balance and elasticity in the spine, as well as improving posture. Tadasana also strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles, as well as firming the abdomen and buttocks.

Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)

Triangle Pose strengthens leg muscles and ankles. It can also relieve back and neck pain, and get rid of stiffness in the hips. From a standing position, both legs are straight and separated into a wide stance. The feet are aligned and flat on the floor with the back foot in a 60-degree angle towards the front. The inner thighs are rotated externally away from each other. The pelvis tucked in. The ribcage lifted. The arms are extended out in a straight line parallel to the earth.

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

This pose stretches the spine and tones the liver, spleen and kidneys. It can also ease stomach aches or menstrual cramps. Uttanasana will wake up your hamstrings and soothe your mind. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) can be used as a position itself or as a resting position between the standing poses. This Asana is commonly held for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Virabhadra 1 (Warrior 1)

Virabhadra's Pose is also known as the Warrior Pose. There are multiple forms of this post. The basic form starts from a standing position, the legs are in a wide stance with the feet aligned and flat on the earth. The back foot is in a 60-degree angle towards the front. The hips are squared. The inner thighs are rotated towards each other. The front knee is bent in a 90-degree angle directly above the ankle. The arms extend up to the sky with the biceps by the ears. The hands can be together or separated and facing each other with the fingers spread wide. The ribcage is lifted and the pelvis tucked. The gaze is forward.

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2)

A wider and more direct stance, this is the second version of the epic Warrior Pose. From a standing position, the legs are separated into a wide stance. The front knee is bent in a 90-degree angle directly above the ankle. The back leg is extended and straight with the outside edge of the back foot gripping the ground in a 60-degree angle towards the front. Then the inner thighs are externally rotated away from each other. The pelvis is tucked. The ribcage is lifted. The arms are extended out to the sides and are aligned with the shoulders in a straight line with the fingers reaching out as the shoulder blades squeeze together. The gaze is toward the front fingers.

Vrksasana (Tree Pose)

Another simple yet effective pose. The Tree pose begins with the standing position, one foot is rooted into the earth with the opposite heel rooted into the inner thigh with the toes pointing towards the earth. The pelvis and the chin are tucked in. The arms are lifted above the head with the palms together in prayer position. This pose tones leg muscles and promotes balance. It also improves flexibility in the hips and knees and improves balance.

By Gil Romano