Traditional Yoga, as set out by Patanjali in his Yoga sutras, consists of eight ‘paths’. The first five are called bahiranga sadhana (external aids to Yoga), and the last three are called antaranga sadhana (internal aids to Yoga).
The third path is asana, this is the most familair path to those in the Western world who associate Yoga with the postures.
Asanas can be divided into three categories
Meditative postures are designed to ensure the spine is straight and the lower body is stable. The meditative postures are developed to minimise fidgeting and distractions.
Cultural postures stretch and strengthen the body in all directions. Preparing the body and the mind for meditation and relaxation.
Relaxation postures are intended to enable the whole body to relax and feel at rest. They allow the body and the mind to feel peace and quiet.
The postures fall into the following broad types based on the anatomical focus:
- Side bends
- Forward bends
- Backwards bends
- Arm balances
Traditional Yoga postures are often named after animals and characters in hindu mythology such as:
- Bharadvaja’s Twist – Bhardvaja was one of the seven seers who wrote the hymns in the Vedas
- Garudasana – Garuda = the mythic “king of the birds,” the vehicle of Vishnu
- Pincha Mayurasana (Feathered Peacock Pose)
The fourth path, pranayama, is often integral to the practice of asana and I will outline this in my next post.