Asana, meaning 'sitting posture' is associated with the art of yoga practice. Asana can be defined as the seating posture that is firm and relaxed. In the western communities, yoga asana is considered as a physical exercise or an integral part of alternative therapies. On the other hand, practising yoga asana is believed to be a spiritual meditation art in the eastern nations.
There are different types of yoga asanas, classified on basis of levels such as beginner, intermediate and advanced categories. According to Shastras, there are 84 lakh yoga asanas. Evolved years ago, it was quite important to hold positions for a specific duration based on the posture, ranging from a few seconds to few hours. On an average, asana is held for two to three minutes. In this span, the body has to be steady and should be at comfort.
Advaita Yoga Ashrama categorises yoga asana into three types, namely meditative, relaxing and cultural postures. Meditative postures, as the name suggest, are used for exercising meditation and pranayama. In the relaxing yoga asana, relaxation of mind is the foremost aspect. The practitioner holds meditative asana for a long span without getting distracted.
In the cultural yoga asana, muscles are worked upon. Some muscles relax, while some get stretched and some are contracted. The practice involves three groups, wherein two relax while one in contracted. While practising cultural posture, one must ascertain that muscles are stretched to the limit. During stretching, the practitioner should never experience the discomfort of any kind. Moreover, breath should always be kept under control.
Sirsana, Sarvangasana, Matsyasana, Bhujangansana, Dhanurasana, Ardha Matsyendrasana, Pada Hastasana and Savasana are among most practised yoga asana.
The primary objective of practising yoga asana is to render freedom from physical as well as mental discomfort. Yoga asana must provide comfort that rejuvenates body organs and helps in proper functioning of body mechanisms. An ideal asana should bring all the requisites of yoga into action, namely practice, breathing and concentration.
Among benefits of practising yoga asanas daily regimen is an improvement in flexibility, providing strength, reducing stress, reducing backache concerns, treating asthma, decreasing fatigue, lowering sleep disturbance and decreasing hypertension.