What Does Asana Mean – Let Us Explain
If you’ve ever attended a yoga class online or in person, you may have heard the term ‘asana’ used. But have you ever wondered what does asana mean in yoga? Quite literally, according to Wikipedia, asana is the Sanskrit word for ‘pose’ or ‘seat’ or a sitting meditation pose. This definition has changed and evolved, but as it was originally defined by Patanjali, the author of The Yoga Sutras, an asana was simply a seated meditation type position. As yoga has evolved and changed over the centuries, the interpretation of asana has also changed. In current times, the word asana and pose are essentially interchangeable.
Seated mediation, the original of Asana
It could be said that the change in the way asana is defined was instigated by Hatha yoga practitioners who began to define asana a bit differently in that any pose could be described as an asana. Whereas Patañjali, the sage believed to have authored the Yoga Sutras and The 8 Limbs of Yoga who lived in India around mid 2nd century BCE and thought to have authored of a number of Sanskrit works, wrote about the term asana in a way that many have interpreted to mean a pose with a straight spine that allows a person to be motionless and upright for many hours to enable a person to rise up above body-consciousness. To perform the pose the way it was originally described by Patañjali, a person would essentially be sitting in the traditional meditative type seated position.
What Does Asana Mean, Really
If you’re interested in finding out more about what asana means, keep reading to learn more about:
- The History of the word Asana
- The Benefits of Practicing Asanas
- Different Types of Asanas
- Virabhadrasana 1
History of Asana
Archaeological records have shown that the word asana came from the ancient Sanskrit language. In the 15th century, various poses, known as asanas became part of the birth of the style of yoga known as Hatha yoga, which combines movements and yoga techniques. The classic texts of Hatha yoga refer to 84 different asanas.
It is only in the past few decades that the meaning of asana has developed tremendously. This change comes at the same time as yoga’s increasing popularity in the Western world. Today, the term asana encompasses a very wide range of yoga poses.
Benefits of Practicing Asanas
Performing asanas have a vast range of benefits – both physical and spiritual. While asanas in themselves were not perhaps originally intended to be intense and rigorous physical exercises, they help improve flexibility, strength, and balance and can actually be quite rigorous and intense!
To fully understand the benefits of asana, we must think about what does asana mean? According to Yogapedia, asana is now the most popular aspect of yoga, but really, it is only one part of yogic philosophy.
Asanas, in the Hatha tradition of yoga, often involve a lot of breathing exercises to help improve focus. This also reduce stress and anxiety levels. If you’re suffering from chronic pain or hypertension, asanas can help you relieve pain and improve blood circulation in the body!
Some asanas have also been known to reduce fatigue, enhance the quality of sleep, and improve mental clarity. Really, there are many asanas that are incredibly beneficial in terms of what they can do for your mind and body.
Different Types of Asanas
Now that you know more about how the term asana is defined in modern times, below are a few common asanas to help you become more familiar with a few yoga poses or asanas.
Tadasana is also known as mountain pose. To do this asana, you must stand with your toes together and heels, just slightly apart and your arms beside your torso. This asana is excellent for improving focus and concentration. This is a standing pose, where you are quite literally simply standing up straight as a board and stiff as an arrow. By consciously engaging all muscles including the quadriceps, shoulders, glutes, and triceps, tadasana can actually be a fully engaged pose.
2. Virabhadrasana 1
This asana is a standing yoga pose that helps build power, stability, and focus. This is a foundational pose of yoga that helps to build strength in the legs, core, and back. To execute this pose begin in mountain pose and then place your feet about 3.5 feet apart with heel to arch alignment and lunge into the front leg to get it as close to parallel to the floor as possible. The front foot remains positioned straight forward while the back foot is at about a 45-degree angle. The upper body shines forward towards the front foot with the hips staying as square and level as possible as well. Raise your arms to the sky until they touch (is possible) and protract the shoulders down while keeping the spine as upright as possible. This is a full-body engagement pose.
This asana is also known as chair pose. When performed correctly, this pose strengthens your leg, torso, and arm muscles and can energize your body. To do this pose, stretch out your arms above your head without bending your elbows. Then bend your knees, mimicking the position you would be in if you were sitting on a chair. Sit back until your legs are as close to parallel to the floor as you can get them while keeping your spine as upright as possible.
As you have learned, the word asana is up to interpretation and its definition continues to evolve right along with the art of yoga itself!
Be sure to check out the rest of our blog for more ideas to elevate your practice and enhance your life!