What is a yoga asana?
Asana is another word for posture. More traditionally translated as “comfortable seat,” a seated pose generally used as a form of meditation. In recent years, it has become more well-known by yogis as any physical pose of Hatha yoga.
Hatha Yoga is one branch of yoga that solely focuses on a system of different physical yoga techniques. When translated, The Ha in hatha means “sun” while represents the moon, this type of yoga emphasizes the importance of yin and yang. Being able to perfectly balance these two energies with deep breathing exercises and yoga postures, allows the yogi to better clear their mind and maximize energy flow through the body.
“Asana is an integral part of yoga practices as it looks after the physical body.” – Ritely
Being physically healthy allows the mind to broaden spiritually. The regular, daily practice of asana can have a vast range of physical, emotional and mental benefits. Being active in all aspects of the mind and body allows the mind to focus on meditation and spiritual enlightenment.
Practicing asanas on an empty stomach is thought to be the most beneficial. Yoga asanas should be a relaxed activity, without any excessive pressure on your body or mind. Being mindfully aware when practicing asanas, permits the mind to focus on the alignment and unity of the body and its chakras.
5 Yoga Asanas that can help with detoxification of the mind
- Nadi Shodhana(nah-dee show-DAH-nah)
When broken down, Nadi Shodhana is translated to channel cleansing. Nadi = channel and shodhana = cleansing.
This asana focuses on clean breathing. This type of breathing can be excellent for the brain and for managing energy flow throughout the body. As breaths are slowly taken in and out, the heart should begin to slow, and any anxiety should begin to dissipate.
To begin, sit comfortably on the floor with legs crossed and back straight, yet relaxed. For this asana, you can use a pillow or some other kind of bolster to support the elbow if struggling to maintain the pose.
Start by taking the right thumb to the right nostril, gently closing the nostril. Breathe in through the left nostril, and then close the left nostril using the ring or little finger. Open the right nostril and slowly exhale.
Inhale through the right nostril, and then gently close the nostril, again with the right thumb. Gently remove the ring or little finger from the left nostril and exhale slowly. This is classed as one cycle of channel breathing. Repeat the cycle 3 to 5 times. Once the cycle has been repeated, resume a normal breathing pattern.
The Nadi Sodhana asana is designed purely for the focus of controlling breathing. By monitoring your breathing, you are better able to channel each breathes through the body, thus relaxing the mind.
- Paschimottanasana (POSH-ee-moh-tan-AHS-anna)
paschimottana = intense stretch of the west
pashima =west and uttana = intense stretch
The Paschimottanasana pose is a great asana for those wanting to feel revitalized. This asana, also known as the seated forward bend, can boost blood supply, thus having a calming effect on the mind.
To begin, fold a blanket and place it on the floor. Sit on the blanket with your legs straight out in front, pressing down and through the heels. Alternate rocking from each buttock, pulling the other buttock away with the same-side hand. Turn both thighs in slightly and push downwards towards the floor. Using your hands, press your fingertips into the floor and lift the sternum up towards the ceiling. Your thighs should come off the ground as you are pushing up.
Next, pull the groin muscles inwards. Breathe in, keep the upper body straight and lean forward from the hips. Straighten the tailbone, moving away from the back of the pelvis. If possible, grab the sides of your feet, placing your thumbs on the bottom of the feet. Fully extend the elbows, making sure they are not bent.
Once comfortable in this position, lengthen the torso and ease into the pose. Keeping your head high. If you have hold of your feet, bend the elbows and lift the elbows away from the floor. Ensuring your grip is gentle, walk your hands forward, making sure your arms are still stretched out. The lowest part of the stomach should make contact with the thighs first, followed by the ribs and then the head.
With each breath in and out, you should lift and extend the torso just slightly. By doing this, the torso oscillates. With enough practice, you may be able to eventually have your arms out further than your feet.
This asana should be held for between 1 and 3 minutes. When ending this pose, lift the chest away from the thighs and re-straighten the elbows, if they were bent.
- Padmasana (PAD-mah-sar-NAH)
Padma = lotus and Sana = throne
The Padmasana pose, also known as the lotus pose, is a great asana for beginners. This asana is perfect for those days when you need to reconnect with your body and relax the mind. It is known to help relax the body enough to unwind from any challenges that you are currently facing. Any muscular tension that you are carrying should wash away after practicing the Padmasana.
To begin, sit on a yoga mat, in the middle of the floor. Legs should be stretched out in front of you, and not crossed. The back should be held straight, yet relaxed, but not bent.
Start by bending the right leg and bringing the right foot up and onto the left thigh. The sole of the foot should be flat against the thigh with your feet pointing upwards. The heel should be brought up as close to the groin as is able.
Repeat this previous step, but now with the left leg up and onto the right thigh.
Your hands should now be placed into a mudra. The classic chin mudra is a popular choice for the lotus pose. To do the chin mudra, bring the index finger and thumb together, forming a circle. Ensure they are only very lightly touching. The rest of your fingers on that hand should be kept as straight as possible. It is important that your back is straight through this, to help the energy flow through your body.
Breathe in and out deeply, with long and slow breaths. Stay in this pose for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Setubandhasana (SET-too-BAHN-dah)
setu = bridge and bandha = lock
The Setubandhasana, also known as the bridge pose, can be luxuriously restorative. As like most of the other asana’s listed, it is fantastic for boosting blood supply and aids in chakra flow. For those who suffer from migraines, the Setubandhasana can aid in reducing the frequency and severity of them.
Firstly, lie on the floor, supine, with a blanket under the shoulders if needed to give extra padding for the neck. Both feet should be placed on the floor, lined up with the hips and flat to the ground.
Breathe out and push your hands and feet into the floor. Lift the tailbone upwards towards your hips. Buttocks should be held firmly and slightly lifted off the floor. Feet and thighs should be parallel at all times. Place hands just below the pelvis and stretch your arms so that you are staying on the tops of your shoulders.
Keeping the thighs parallel to the floor, lift up the buttocks. Knees should be kept directly over the heels but pushed forwards and away from the pubic bone. Stretch the tailbone to meet the back of your knees. Elevate your hips towards your bellybutton.
You should hold this pose from 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Bhramari Pranayama
Also known as humming bee breathing, this asana is perfect for relaxation and calming the mind.
Find a quiet spot and assume the lotus pose. Close your eyes and breathe in and out.
Using your index fingers, place them on your ears, between the cheek and the ear. Inhale deeply, fully engaging the diaphragm. When exhaling, press gently down on the cartilage.
While pushing gently on the cartilage, make a humming sound. Higher pitched sounds are known to be more beneficial, but either hum is fine.
Repeat process of inhaling and exhaling 4 – 5 times.
Overall, after completing just one of these five useful yoga asanas, you are sure to feel relaxed as well as experiencing a clear mind.
Isabel Speckman is a North Carolina-based freelance writer and work-from-home mother of three. In her 10 years as a professional writer, she’s worked in proposal management, grant writing, and content creation. Personally, she’s passionate about teaching her family how to stay safe, secure and action-ready in the event of a disaster or emergency.