Yoga Posture and Benefits
By Anne Bridges
It’s no secret yoga has massive mind-body-soul benefits and the foundation of these benefits are its asanas. In yoga, the different postures, poses, and positions are referred to by this Sanskrit term meaning your “seat” or “manner of sitting.” Going even deeper into its meaning, the postures vary in ways they enhance your body’s functions. So what do the different yoga postures do for your body, exactly? We reached out to the teachers at Samsara Mind and Body in London to find out!
The Various Asanas
Looking at every single posture across every type of yoga would be an incredibly long list, so let’s break it down.
Standing poses: Yoga starts with Mountain Pose. It gives proper alignment to your feet and body and therefore dictates your posture. Getting standing poses correct leads to an improvement in your posture and is the basis for any yoga routine.
Balance poses: Another pose to improve your posture is one that requires balance, as your spine needs to lengthen in order to maintain the balance. Balance poses are challenging as they require mental and physical strength. The poses will tone your muscles and as you focus on keeping balance, you’ll increase your coordination skills.
Twists: Twists have similar physical benefits to balance poses as they focus on elongating your spine. As you use your back muscles, twists relieve tension, stretch the back muscles and can help with pain in this area. Twists are also great for increasing shoulder and hip mobility.
Seated poses: Sitting cross-legged specifically increases your hips and lower back flexibility and muscle strength. As many emotions are carried in your pelvis, hip openers are essential during a yoga session. Couple this with the fact that any form of seated pose promotes deep breathing, and you have a pose that’s excellent for making you feel peaceful and calm.
Lying poses: If you want to focus on your abdominal muscles, back poses are brilliant. They stretch these muscles while releasing tension in your back and increasing spinal mobility. Certain lying back poses also open your hips. Lying stomach poses have similar benefits with the added benefit of strengthening your arms.
Plank poses: Planks are well known outside of yoga too, highlighting how good they are for building strength and toning up. They’re particularly good for your arms and spine, and if you complete a side pose, your abdominal muscles and shoulders benefit too.
Bends: Bends are all about stretching – increasing flexibility as well as releasing any tension in your body to make you feel calm and relaxed. Forward bends stretch your hamstrings and your lower back. By targeting your lower back, you feel the release of tension in your upper body and in particular, your spine. Your spine is also targeted through forward bends. These bends open your chest and hips and strengthen your arms and shoulders, all while releasing muscle tension. Because there’s such focus on your spine, forward and backward bends must be completed in succession to balance out the release of tension.
Inversions: Inversions are one of the most challenging yoga poses and are typically only done by advanced yogis. Whether you’re doing a headstand, shoulder stand, or plow, it results in your legs being higher than your heart and so blood flow is reversed. This relieves tension in your legs and stimulates your brain while still building strength in your upper body.
Relaxation poses: Yoga generally ends with Corpse pose but it can also be used during your routine. It promotes deep relaxation so it calms your mind and your body.