Postures, which are performed during the physical activity of Yoga, are called asanas. These postures have been developed over many thousands of years. Initially Yoga practice used meditation, rituals in addition to chanting in order to form a connection to the divine.
However, in later years as Yoga became more accessible to the masses, teachers introduced postures so that the layman could connect through something tangible – in other words, his body – and from his body move onto the heart, intellect as well as the mind.
Based on their focal point, asanas are divided into different groups. These are the following:
- Sun salutations
- Standing postures
- Forward bends
- Arm balances
What are counter poses in Yoga?
Counter poses function to keep the body balanced. They ensure a safe and effective practice and create a well-rounded Yoga session. This type of pose usually takes the body in the opposite direction to the posture that it is currently in.
It is best to adopt a neutral or recovery pose before going into a full opposite asana. Two counter postures may then be needed in order to gradually move the body out of one position and into the next.
One of the most commonly used recovery poses is Balasana (or Child’s Pose) as it functions to:
- Gently stretch the hips, thighs and ankles,
- Calm the brain and assist with relieving stress and fatigue, and
- Relieve back and neck pain when done with the head and torso supported.
Here’s how to do this asana:
- Kneel on the ground. Make sure that your big toes touch each other and that you’re sitting on your heels. After this, separate your knees about as wide as your hips are.
- Exhale. Lay your torso down between the thighs. Widen your sacrum over the back of your pelvis. Narrow your hip points toward your navel so that they nestle down onto your inner thigs. Elongate your sit bone away from the back of your pelvis at the same time as you lift your skull far from the back part of your neck.
- Put your hands on the floor on either side your torso with your palms facing upwards. Drop the fronts of your shoulders toward the ground. Notice how the weight of the front of your shoulders pulls the shoulder blades wide across your back.
- Stay in this position anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes.
Counter poses are fantastic to use when practising sequences as they ease the body from one posture to the next so limiting the possibility of injury. These should usually be held for about a third of the time except in the case when back or neck hyper-extensions are involved. In this case, the counter pose is held for a fifth of the time.
The benefits of yoga asanas
The correct practice of Yoga asanas has a number of overall beneficial effects on physical stability, balance, flexibility and strength.
- Yoga helps keep the body clean, flexible and well lubricated thus reducing cell deterioration and slowing down the ageing process. It also improves blood circulation as well as breathing.
- The regular practice of asanas assists with boosting the immune system. In addition, it assists with respiratory disorders, high blood pressure, pain management, back pain and arthritis.
- It helps to regulate the metabolism which assists with weight issues.
- Yoga assists with toning, stretching and strengthening the muscles which increases flexibility and reducing the risks of injury.
Laboratory tests have proved that regular practitioners of Yoga have an increased ability to consciously control autonomic or involuntary functions. These include temperature, heartbeat as well as blood pressure. This reduces susceptibility to many diseases and health disorders.
In addition to this are many psychological benefits such as:
- Self-awareness and increased self-knowledge
- Increased mental performance and clarity
- Increased body awareness
- Improved relaxation and concentration
- Improved vitality
- Better stress management, ability to calm self and moods
- More spiritual awareness and inner peace
- Better coping mechanisms – love and acceptance of self and others.
There is something for everyone in Yoga no matter your flexibility or fitness levels. Give it a try and see what you’ll gain from it!