What is Asana?
Asana is the sanskrit term for a body position which can allow and create special mental effects and changes…
With the practice of asana we become aware of what is, of what sensations exist right now in the body and the corresponding thoughts that exist in the mind. This awareness puts us in touch with emotions that might have been ignored and denied… Coming into the present moment over and over again with the practice of asana, either in a class or at home, creates a habit of awareness. This cognitive habit is meditative and is emotionally therapeutic.
Asana can be defined as a physical positioning that coordinates breathing with moving and holding still for the purpose of both stretching and strengthening parts of the body. Because of the very specific positioning, asanas encourage balanced and co-ordinated muscle activity, very important in healthy functioning bodies. In addition, the movements squeeze internal organs, alternatively draining then flooding them with blood and nourishment, leading to a deep state of rest and health. The Three basic movements of asana are backbend, forward bends and twisting movements.
Backbending asanas are beneficial for most yoga students. It restores the normal status of cervical and lumbar curves, the movement into a backbend and the holding of this position against gravity strengthens the posterior (back) muscles. This strength can give better support to the column during normal daily life.
Backbending also opens the chest and can have respiratory benefits… Beckbends gently stress the bones of the back because the muscles attached to the vertebrae pull on those vertebrae during the practice of the posture. This stress stimulates the bones to maintain calcium in their structure.
Back bends are stimulative! They activate the sympathetic nervous system and prepare us for action. Mentally and emotionally they are about opening us to the world, creating confidence and joy. Think of that classic sprint winners posture – arms up, back extended. Back bends give us the strength and courage to be champions of our lives!
This type of movement alternately stretches and strengthens the lateral muscles of the trunk and can be used for a gentle abdominal strengthening as well. in addition, twisting motions compress the abdominal organs such as the intestines, and this alternating pressure seems to add in their function.
Twisting asanas compress the disc of the spinal column, when the twist is released, the disc then takes up the fluid from the surrounding tissues in a process called imbibition, helping the disc to remain full and plump.
“There are many benefits to forward bends, both standing and sitting. They create length and space in the spine, counteracting compression, and their inward nature can promote introspection. Yet forward bends can also be a challenge to many people, especially those with tight hamstrings. Common physical patterns, such as overstretched back muscles and rounded shoulders (most likely from sitting in front of a computer for hours) are often exacerbated in forward bending poses.”