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Description of the Asanas

Here I have listed over 30 of the most popular asanas, with a brief description of how to perform them, to be used as a guide for those practitioners who wish to become more familiar with some postures, or start to practice at home. I would like to stress that this should be used as a reminder, and that it is not a substitute for coming to class and learning directly from an experienced teacher. Also, please note that asanas have different spelling, sometimes even completely different names, in different styles of Yoga.

Asanas in Alphabetical Order:

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated twist)

Sit, first bend the right leg so that the heel of the right foot is level with the left buttock and the right knee is on the floor. Then bend the left leg and place the foot on the outside of the right knee with the left knee pointed to the ceiling, so that the legs are now crossed. Straighten your back and twist the torso to the left, clasping the right knee with left hand, (or the right foot if able with left elbow on outside of the right knee), and look over the right shoulder gazing as far to the right as possible. Now repeat to the other side.



Baddha Konasana (the butterfly pose)

Sit on the floor and bring the soles of your feet together and bring the heels as close to the groin as you can. Sitting upright use your mind to lower your knees towards the floor, relaxing your hips. Then, keeping your back straight, bend forward to bring your chest to the floor keeping your head looking up. Relax your hips. Come back up to sit upright and this time tuck your chin in and roll down, curving your back, to bring your forehead to your toes. Relax your hips. Roll back up to an upright spine.



Bhujangasana (The cobra pose)

Lie on the floor facing the mat, the feet are hip distance apart and the toes are not tucked under. Lengthen your tailbone, engage your stomach muscles and work at bending from the upper spine. Raise the upper part of the torso either onto straight arms, or with the elbows on the ground if required, push the chest through the upper arms and drop the head back. Ensure that the shoulders are released away from the ears.



Cakrasana (The wheel)

Lie on the floor with your knees bent and place the heels next to the buttocks, hip distance apart. Then place the hands under the shoulders, palm down with fingers pointing towards the body. On an inhale lift the body off the ground into a back bend. Ensure the knees and feet stay in line with the hips, keep the tail bone tucked under and relax the head and neck.



Childs Pose

Sit back on our heels, kneeling on the floor with the knees together and toes touching, and then fold forward to bring your chest onto your thighs and relax your head to the ground. Have your arms resting lightly by the side of the body. This is a resting pose so completely relax your body and sink into the floor.



Dhanurasana (The bow pose)

Lie face down on the mat. Keeping the knees hip distant apart clasp the ankles. Raise the clasped ankles so the legs and chest are off the ground. Hold here, or using your breath, rock back and forward -inhale, forward and exhale, backward, being one round.



Garudasana (The Eagle pose)

Stand an arm’s length from a spot on the wall. Ensure that the spot is at the level of the middle forehead when the knees are slightly bent. Align the left foot with spot, pointing towards the wall, and bend the knee. Life the right leg off the floor and wrap it over the left and tuck the right foot behind the left calf so that the right leg entwines the left. Tuck the tailbone under and pull the navel to spine. Hold the left arm out in front of you with the elbow at 90 degrees. Tuck the right arm under the left and try to place the right palm on the left while keeping the palms in front of the body and the tips of the fingers in line with the middle forehead. Keeping your eyes open gaze at your spot on the wall. Repeat to the right.



Gomukasana (The cow face pose)

Sit on your heels with your knees a fist distance apart, and the toes of each foot slightly apart. Tuck your tailbone under and keep your back straight. First raise the left arm, and bend it at the elbow so the elbow points towards the ceiling and your left hand comes behind your upper back, then bend up the right so that you clasp your hands together behind your back. If you cannot clasp the hands together use a prop like a belt or a sock. Repeat to the other side. The arm should not press against your head.



Halasana (The plough)

Lay on the floor on your back. Raise your legs up and over so that your toes touch the ground over your head, keeping the legs completely straight. Have your arms straight, and parallel with the palms facing upwards pointing in the opposite direction from your head. Relax the back of your neck and work the hips as far over the shoulders as possible to deepen the chin lock.



Janusirsasana (One leg bent seated forward bend)

Sit on the floor with both legs out in front of you. Move the right leg out approximately 45 degrees to the right and bend the left leg so that the sole of the foot touches the right thigh and the left knee moves towards the floor. Take your right hand to your right foot with your chest open towards the ceiling. Move towards the right leg so that the right arm clasps the outside of the right foot and the left arm comes over your head as if to clasp the top of the right foot. Keeping the torso open, use your breath to move towards the right knee. Perform on the other side.



Jivabalasana

Stand with your feet hip distance apart and bend your knees while keeping the feet firmly planted in the floor. Keeping the upper body upright and your tailbone tucked in raise your arms so that they are straight out in front of your body with your palms facing towards the ceiling and hands shoulder width apart. Keeping the spine straight and breathing deeply into the belly.



Matsyasana (the fish pose)

Lie on your back with your legs straight out and feet hip width apart. Keeping your hips on the floor, raise your chest off the ground and roll onto the top of your head. Now relax your arms to your side and release your shoulders.



Nabhyasana (The boat pose)

Lie with your back on the floor. Raise your legs to 45 degrees (or higher- the higher you raise them the easier the pose), then lift your shoulders off the floor, leaving your lower back on the ground and take your hands to the level of your knees but not touching your legs. Keep your legs slightly separate and pull in strongly with the stomach muscles. To work up to the full pose, begin by only raising one leg at a time.



Padahastasana (The standing forward bend.)

Stand with the legs straight, bend from the hips, relax the back, shoulders and neck, feet hip distance apart, hands resting where is comfortable but ideally flat on the floor, or on the legs for support.



Pascimottanasana (The seated forward bend)

Sit on the floor with the legs straight out and hip width apart. Keep the legs flat on the floor and the knees straight with the toes pointing straight up. Bend forward from the hips and rest the hands where is comfortable of the legs but ideally grasping your feet. Relax the back, shoulders and neck. Use your breath to release even further into the pose. Try and increase your time in this posture.



Parsvakonasana – (the extended side stretch)

Stand with your legs wide, a leg length and a half apart, turn your left foot out 90 degrees to face the side wall and turn your right foot in 45 degrees, ensure that the heal of your left foot is in line with the instep of your right foot. Keeping your hips facing towards the front, bend your left knee. Initially you can work with your left elbow resting on your left knee, after practice start to bring your left hand to the floor. Take your right shoulder back to open up your chest and then take your right arm up and over your head and turn up to face your right hand. Sink into the right hip and breath deeply. Feel a straight line from fingertips to foot. Perform to the other side.



Parsvottanasana

Start with your legs one leg length apart and turn your left leg 90 degrees to face the side wall and your right foot is turned in sharply to 75 to 80 degrees towards the side wall, with the heel in line with the instep. Turn your hips to face the sidewall. Clasp your elbows, or perform namaste behind your back, open your chest as you inhale look up, then exhale and bend forward from your hips to bring your head towards your knee. Repeat to the other side.



Pavana Muktasana

Lie on your back and pull your knees into your chest. Try and keep your legs and feet separated by about an inch and pull your knees as close to the chest as they will go. Lift your head and neck off the ground and bring them into your knees.



Sahaja Agnisara Dhauti (Gastric massage)

Stand with your feet double hip width apart, bend your knees and bend over from the hips until the upper body is roughly 45 degrees from upright. Clasp your waist with the thumbs on the back and all the fingers pointing towards the navel (but not actually touching the navel). Massage deeply, first clockwise and then anti-clockwise using all fingers each way, ensure even repetitions to each direction.



Sarvangasana (The shoulder stand)

Lie on the floor facing the ceiling. Move your shoulders down from your head and create space in the back of your neck. Raise your legs and torso off the floor and support yourself using your hands on your lower back. (For the half head stand stay here and work at moving the hips further over the head). Move your hands up your back to get your body into a straight line, keeping your stomach engaged and feet hip width apart. Try to keep your weight over your shoulders and not in your hands.



Shalabasana (The locust pose)

Lie on the floor, face down. Make your hands into fists and place the right first under the right hip and the left fist under the left hip with the fingers against the floor. Have your forehead on the ground and raise the legs off the ground, keeping them straight. Keep your stomach muscles engaged.



Sirsasana (The head stand)

This posture is the King of postures due to the high regard for the benefits from its practice in Yoga. In this posture in particular, the proper practice should be learned from a teacher and so the explanations here is limited.

Start kneeling on the floor, make a triangle with your arms and clasp your fingers together. Place your forehead on the ground next to your hands, pull in your stomach muscles and create space in the shoulders while straightening the legs and walking the feet towards the head. Then take the legs off the floor and raise them in a straight line above the head. The feet should be slightly separated.



Sivasana (The corpse pose)

Lay on your back with your feet parted so that they fall out to the side and the your legs can relax. Take your arms slightly out from your body, palms upwards, in a position that allows your arms and shoulders to relax. Lastly attempt to release any tension in your back and lengthen your neck so that the whole body is released and you have no muscles tensed. Close your eyes, breath deeply into your belly and relax.



Sun Salutations

        

        

        

Supta Padangustasanna (Leg flex on floor)

Lay on your back straighten your legs and raise your left leg towards the ceiling. Keep your left leg straight and relax the left foot so that the heel stretches towards the ceiling, use a belt and pull the leg towards the head. Keep the right leg straight and strong and on the floor. Repeat on other side.



Svanasana (Downward dog)

Have your hands shoulder distance apart on the floor, with your fingers spread and shoulder blades spreading to release your head and neck. Have your feet hip distance apart and parallel while facing forwards. Raise the tailbone to the ceiling, and straighten your arms trying to move the head and shoulders towards the mat. Stretch your heals towards the floor, pull up on your knees and straighten your legs.



Talasana (The tree pose)

Standing with your feet hip width apart, knees pulled up, tailbone tucked under and arms straight up with the upper arm brushing the ears, the palms should be facing each other and relaxed but the hands still near vertical keeping your core muscles strong lift into your pelvis.



Trikonasana (The Triangle pose)

Uttihta - Stand with your feet one leg length apart, feet parallel, and hips and shoulders facing forward. Raise your left arm to point towards the ceiling with your left palm facing away from your head. Bend sideways, sliding your right hand down the right leg as far as is comfortable. Keep the head in line with the spine and keep the weight off the lower arm. Keep the top hand relaxed but still pointing upwards, working the whole arm and keeping your stomach muscles strong. Repeat on right side.







Parivritta – This is the twisted version of Trikonasana. Start with the same foot position and keep your legs straight and knees lifted, stomach strong as you take your left hand to the outside of your right foot/leg and open your right shoulder to twist the spine. Then raise your right arm so that fingers point to the ceiling and look to your right hand. Repeat on the other side.





Uddiyana Bandha (The stomach lock)

Stand with feet just wider than hip width, take a full breath in, then exhale fully while folding your body forward and bending your knees. Without inhaling have your hands on your knees and raise the upper body while locking the stomach up under the rib cage. Hold the lock as long as possible then release the belly before inhaling, and hold the inhale for as long as possible once performed. You may take a couple of breaths in between each performance if necessary.



Vajrasana (The diamond pose)

Kneel with your knees a fist width apart and your feet flat with the toes pointing towards each other but not touching. Have a straight back with tailbone tucked under and head balanced straight on shoulders. Place the hands in the crease between the thigh and the torso, at the hip, with fingers pointed towards the groin and the thumb pointed towards the back. Tuck your tailbone under to stop you stomach from coming forward.



Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1)

Stand with your feet one and a half leg lengths apart, with your left foot turned out 90 degrees to point towards the side wall and the right foot in 45 degrees in the direction of the left. Turn your hips to face the sidewall, in line with the left foot (this is a major difference between the two warrior poses shown here) and bend your left knee. Keep your upper body upright and facing towards the sidewall while working into your right leg and keeping the outside of the right foot in contact with the mat. Raise your arms above your head and press your palms together, keeping your arms straight, and drop your head back to look up to your palms. Repeat to the other side.



Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior pose 2)

Stand with your feet one and a half leg lengths apart, with your left foot turned out 90 degrees to point towards the side wall and the right foot in 45 degrees in the direction of the left. Keep your hips facing toward the front as you bend your left leg. Maintain an upright upper body facing towards the front, relax your shoulders and raise your arms parallel to the floor. Work into the arms and look along your left arm. Repeat to the other side.



Vrksasana (The balancing tree pose)

(You can build up to this posture by practicing some basic balances where you lift your knee off the floor and raise it to the front, side and back). Begin by rooting down through your standing leg, your left leg, and lifting your left knee. Then pick up your right foot and either have the toes resting against the floor and heal against the left ankle, OR rest the right foot against the left knee, OR the right foot resting against the left inner thigh, depending on your ability. Then raise your hands above your head and press your palms together and straighten your arms. Repeat to the other side.



Warrior Pose - (Full Sequence)

        

        

     



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