Yoga is a discipline practised by millions of people all around the world. It is one of the most effective and safest ways of achieving physical as well as mental health. Invented in India thousands of years ago, this unique field of health science gained popularity in other parts of the world in the past few decades. Yoga has also undergone several transformations over the years with new yoga types coming to the fore. We will discuss all that along with 50+ yoga positions that new yoga enthusiasts can try to begin their journey of becoming a yoga expert or yoga teacher.
Definition of yoga
The word yoga has its roots in Sanskrit and means “union”. It is actually a traditional Indian discipline more than two millennia old.
What is the purpose of yoga?
In the Modern world, yoga is perceived as gentle holistic gymnastics that combines physical practice, the realisation of postures, which we call asanas, and breathing techniques, called Pranayama. All combining relaxation and meditation.
The reality of Yoga is a way to unify the body and mind, to free oneself from mental automatisms. The ultimate goal is to access “samadhi”, the awakening of the mind.
What are the different types of yoga?
There are different types of yoga. Indeed, the discipline covers a multitude of conceptions and practices that have evolved over time, according to the eras. Here are the class styles most commonly practised in yoga training schools in Bali:
Hatha yoga: in this gentle classic and more traditional form of yoga, the postures are held for 1 to 2 minutes.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga: founded by Pattabhi Jois, Ashtanga is based on a codified series of postures linked by sun salutations in an athletic and very dynamic form.
Yoga Vinyasa: the practice of Vinyasa is based on dynamic sequences (flow) carried out according to an axis of work and the creativity of the yoga teacher.
Bikram Yoga: founded by Bikram Choudhury, the practice of Bikram yoga is based on a series of fixed postures performed in a yoga studio heated to 40 degrees.
Iyengar Yoga: designed by B.K.S. Iyengar yoga emphasises precision, and alignment of the body in the postures (held longer, at least 2 to 3 minutes). Accessories are used (blocks, straps, chairs, blankets, etc.).
Yoga Nidra: the practice of yoga Nidra is likened to guided relaxation (sitting or lying down) which aims to release stress and tension.
Kundalini Yoga: the very spiritual form of Kundalini yoga aims to master the primordial energy (kundalini) present within oneself and housed in the spine. Kundalini yoga combines the practice of asanas, specific breathing (pranayama), and the chanting of mantras (prayers, sacred formulas).
Yin yoga: founded by Paulie Zink, Yin yoga praises slowness. We regenerate the body and stimulate the connective tissues (fascia, tendons, ligaments) in positions held for a long time with gentle and full breathing. Here we regenerate the body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (which calms the body’s functions).
What are the benefits of yoga?
Yoga is a discipline for everyone that takes care of the body and mind. As a physical activity, yoga helps maintain overall health. Practising regular yoga sessions provides many health benefits such as:
- Relieve chronic illnesses and improve quality of life;
- Prevent and relieve back pain;
- Breathe better and fight stress;
- Sleep better;
- Maintain brain health;
- Tone the silhouette;
- Stretch the fascia;
- Work on balance;
- Boost the mind.
Risks associated with Yoga
Yoga remains accessible to everyone provided they choose a practice adapted to their level and physical condition. The yoga teacher is there to suggest posture adjustments in the event of an injury or specific health problem. We therefore do not hesitate to inform him before the session. To practise while respecting your body and its limits, whatever the body, you listen to yourself and do not force yourself to perform postures in which you do not feel comfortable.
Yoga has certain nuances, so it is better to understand the postures and philosophy properly to build a strong foundation. Only expert teachers can help you understand the intricacies associated with yoga. You can find the best yoga teachers in Bali, which is a place known for its scenic beauty and rich heritage. The city is perfect for learning ancient techniques like yoga, and you can find many yoga centers where experienced and expert individuals furnish yoga teacher training in Bali. You can find a suitable yoga center that allows beginners to learn all the details about yoga in a systematic way.
How does a yoga session take place?
From one yoga session to another, the experience and course content vary completely. It is nevertheless possible to identify a framework specific to many types of yoga. A group studio class lasts on average 1 to 2 hours.
The opening of the session: This is either a breathing time or introspection, in the form of a ritual;
The body of the session: Place for postural practice which evolves from one form of yoga to another. The postures follow one another;
Closing the session: Here we let the energy go down. The body settles down for a time of guided relaxation.
What equipment is needed for a yoga session?
To fully enjoy your yoga session, you equip yourself, as with any sport.
A good yoga mat is essential, to be chosen according to your practice and your needs;
Straps and bricks are two other accessories used by yogis that can be found in yoga training schools. Very useful, they facilitate postures and help to maintain good postural alignment.
As for outfits, we opt for yoga clothing adapted to the practice.
Upward Facing Dog Position or Urdhva mukha Svanasana
This posture is part of the sun salutation… It can be practised separately to soften the front of the body.
Posture: Lying face down on the floor, legs hip-width apart. Place both hands flat on each side of your chest and straighten your arms, keeping your legs on the ground and barely lifting your pelvis. Stretch the head in line with the spine. Take 5 deep breaths.
Benefits: quite a stretch for the front of the body.
Standing Leg Raise Pose or Uttita Hasta Padangusthasana
This dynamic asana requires standing on one leg.
Posture: Firmly placed on your legs. Place your hands on your hips and slightly bend your left knee. And grab the big toe while bending your leg. Stretch it, using the force between the leg on the ground and the one raised. Bring your straight leg back in front of you. Your hips should remain at the same height. The torso remains still and the foot on which you are resting serves as support for the entire body.
Take 5 deep, full breaths. Change legs.
Benefits: Better anchoring to the ground and toning of the legs.
Extended Side Angle Pose or Utthita Parsvakonasana
This posture is part of the series of dynamic lateral stretches.
Posture: With your feet apart, bend your right knee, with your foot turned 90 degrees. Stretch your spine to the right, placing your right hand flat on the mat, outside your right foot. The knee presses strongly on the right armpit, while the left arm stretches upwards to keep the chest open, in alignment with the bust and left leg to create a straight line. Turn your head toward your left armpit. While the legs work in a square position to support the entire body, the spine forms a straight line with the back leg and front arm.
Take 5 deep breaths!
Benefits: promotes complete stretching of the groin and spine.
Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend Pose or Prasarita Padottanasana
Posture: Legs wide apart, arms outstretched. Roll your shoulders back, lower your arms, and clasp your hands behind your back. Stretch your arms, trying to move them away from your buttocks. Bend your knees slightly, and lean your torso forward from your hips. Aim to place your head on the mat, between your feet. Tuck your chin towards your sternum, and bring your arms as close to the ground as possible behind you. Stay “hanging” from your hips so as not to fall.
Take 5 deep breaths.
Benefits: A stretching posture, legs/back, and a softening of the joints, hips/shoulders.
Reclining Angle Pose or Supta Konasana
This is an advanced posture.
Posture: Lie on the ground, remaining toned. Rotate your arms towards you, placing your hands flat on the mat, next to your thighs. Raise your legs in the air. Take off the bottom of the buttocks and the back. Roll onto your shoulders, and swing your legs over your head. Grab the big toes and roll forward to rest on your buttocks, on the point of balance. The chin is drawn in towards the sternum. Open your chest, and stay balanced for at least one breath.
Benefits: a posture for balance, back toning, and abdominals. Without forgetting the opening of the upper body.
Headstand or Shirshasana
In this posture, your body is completely upside down, supported only by the strength of the shoulders and arms.
The posture: Beginners do it against a wall, or helped by someone. Once vertical, push hard on the forearms and point the toes, tuck in the lower ribs. Look at your nose.
Take at least 5 deep breaths to start, but ideally, you should take 25 deep breaths.
Benefits: the nadis, or energy circuits of the brain and sense organs, are purified by the flow of blood into the head. In this position, your vital energy is strengthened.
Lotus pose or Padmasana
This is the classic yoga posture, which ends a session.
Posture: Sit on the floor, and fold your legs into a lotus position (or cross-legged) for those who are just starting out. Bend your right leg, bringing the heel towards the pubis. Inhale, then as you exhale, bend your left leg under your right leg. Tilt the pubis forward. Stretch your spine and join both hands in front of your chest as a sign of unity. Then place them on your knees, palms facing the sky. The spine is straight, the gaze is fixed on a fixed point and the attention is turned inwards, on the breathing.
Take around fifteen breaths.
Keep in mind that while doing the lotus pose, half lotus, or cross-legged pose, your back should remain straight and your hands on your knees. Inhale deeply then exhale while leaning forward until your head comes as close to the ground as possible without excessive force. Straighten up while inhaling, then exhale slowly once you return to the starting position.
Benefits: helps with the positioning of organs, stimulates the nerves of the abdomen, strengthens the lumbar region, and promotes the proper functioning of the intestines.
Seated Forward Bend Pose or Paschimottanasana
Posture: lying on your back, feet together with arms alongside your body, hands resting on the side of your thighs, inhale deeply. Straighten up as you exhale and then grab your ankles or toes. Bring your head closer to your knees without bending your legs. Return to the starting position by inhaling then exhale while completely relaxing before starting the exercise again.
Benefits: the spine is relaxed (preventing sciatica), the abdominal muscles are strengthened, and intestinal disorders are cured.
Head-to-Knee Forward Bend Pose or Janu Sirsasana
Posture: sitting, extend one leg and fold the other with the foot placed against the groin. Hold your position and inhale, then exhale while bending over the straight leg. Get as close to your knee as possible and try to touch it with your knee. Inhale as you return to your starting position, then exhale and switch sides.
Benefits: the posture relaxes the spine and strengthens the oblique muscles of the abdomen.
Head to Knee Pose or Vakrasana
Posture: Sit and place one foot against your buttocks and the other in front of the knee which you bend to the ground. Place one hand on the (opposite) foot in front of you. The other hand will be placed flat on the floor behind you. As you rotate your hips, align your shoulders with your legs. Hold your head straight and look behind you, keeping your back straight. Breathe regularly.
Benefits: the posture relaxes the spine and corrects any deviations.
Spinal Twist Pose or Trikonasana
Posture: Remember to turn your torso towards the ceiling and not towards the ground. Easier option: look at the ground.
Benefits: This yoga posture strengthens the legs, mobilises the hips, stretches the torso and opens the chest to increase your breathing capacity.
Plow Pose or Halasana
Posture: lying on your back, hands flat along your body, straighten your legs vertically and lift your pelvis off the ground. Raise your straight legs until your feet touch the floor behind your head. Stay in position (no more than 15 minutes) breathing slowly and regularly. Return to the starting position by repeating the same process in reverse. Relax to the ground and slowly get up.
Benefits: posture has a good effect on the spine and helps prevent fat deposits.
Legs Up The Wall Pose or Viparita Karani
Posture: lying on your back, place your hands flat on the ground alongside your body. Straighten and bring your legs together. Straighten them vertically and free the pelvis from the ground. Breathe with your abdomen and hold the position as long as it is not painful. Slowly lower yourself back down and relax on the ground before slowly getting back up.
Benefits: it helps to avoid but also cure varicose veins, while being favourable for the heart.
Shoulder Stand Pose or Sarvancasana
Posture: repeat the same process as for the half-candle, but change your final position by keeping your legs vertical to the ground.
Benefits: helps to avoid but also cure haemorrhoids and varicose veins.
Fish Pose or Matsyasana
Posture: sitting with your legs extended or cross-legged, tilt your torso back until the top of your head touches the ground. Stay in this position and relax by breathing slowly and evenly. Finally, lie on your back and rest.
Benefits: helps in the healing of respiratory tract infections with a good effect on the entire throat region.
Tree Posture or Vrikshasana
Posture: Place the sole of your foot firmly on the ground, keep your hips at the same height, then open your chest and breathe gently, fixing a point in front of you to maintain balance. Raise one of your legs and place the feet on the other leg near the knee area, making a triangle kind of shape.
Benefits: It is a posture that allows you to work on balance and concentration while toning the entire body.
Bow Pose or Dhanurasana
Posture: Lie flat on your stomach, and place your arms alongside your body. Bring your heels to your buttocks then grab your ankles, arching as much as possible without exaggerating the movement. Breathe slowly and evenly throughout the exercise. Slowly return to a lying position.
Benefits: Helps maintain a good and flexible physique.
Locust Pose or Salabhasana
The posture: Lie on your stomach and put your hands under your thighs (easy), palms facing the ground, along the body (intermediate), or in front of you (difficult). Inhale as you straighten your two legs together. Breathe slowly and evenly. Slowly return to the floor.
Benefits: strengthens the back (particularly the lower part).
Downward Facing Dog Pose or Adho Mukha Svanasana
Posture: It looks like a dog stretching. If your heels don’t touch the ground, no problem. Think about raising your hips toward the ceiling. Look at your stomach and breathe deeply into your abdomen. Remember to turn your shoulders outwards.
Benefits: It is excellent for the back and softens the legs.
Warrior Posture 1 or Virabhadrasana I
Posture: This is a standing position where you have to straighten the pelvis by moving the hip of the back leg forward and slightly moving the hip of the front leg back. Tuck the navel towards the lumbar (vertebrae of the lower back) and let the coccyx fall towards the ground. Take deep breaths and switch legs.
Benefits: Helps tone the body.
Warrior Posture 2 or Virabhadrasana II
Posture: Remember to align your heels on an imaginary line at the level of your mat. The knee of the front leg is below the ankle (not in front or behind it) and the navel is drawn in towards the vertebrae of the lower back (the lumbar). Stretch your arms out to each side and press the outer edge of the back foot as if to press it into the ground. Breathe obviously!
Benefits: Do you need strength and energy? Do this standing pose that strengthens the entire body.
Warrior Pose 3 or Virabhadrasana III
Posture: Breathe calmly, fixate on a point in front of you or look at the ground (easier), and straighten your back leg as if your foot were pushing back an imaginary wall. Keep hips level (turn the outer thigh of the lifted leg toward the floor).
Benefits: If you want to strengthen your legs and abdominal muscles, Warrior 3 is a very good posture that also works on your balance.
Reverse Warrior Pose or Viparita Virabhadrasana
The posture: Here is a variation of the Warrior 2 posture.
Benefits: The posture strengthens the legs, back, and stomach while opening the chest.
Camel pose or Ustrasana
Posture: Easier option, keep your hands on your hips and raise your sternum towards the ceiling by tightening your shoulder blades at back level. If you have neck tension, keep your chin towards your chest.
Benefits: Camel pose is very beneficial. It stretches the back, works the rib cage and softens the shoulders.
Eagle Pose or Garudasana
Posture: Remember to fixate on a point in front of you to keep your balance. Crossing your arms and hands stretches your back and shoulders.
Benefits: You will work on your balance while toning your ankles and softening your hips.
Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana
Posture: Remember to bring your elbows towards your chest and keep your shoulders away from your ears. The coccyx is turned towards the ground and the pubic bone presses on the mat. Breathe obviously!
Benefits: Stretching the back, opening the chest, and stimulating the digestive organs… the cobra has it all!
Cat Pose or Marjariasana
Posture: When you inhale, release your stomach towards the ground and raise your head slightly (the back hollows). When you exhale, hold the navel to the spine and relax the head (the back rounds). Repeat these two movements around ten times.
Benefits: Ideal if you have back pain! The cat pose softens the spine and strengthens the transverse, the deep muscle of the abdomen.
Half Moon Pose or Ardha Chandrasana
Posture: For ease, look at the ground or place your hand flat on a brick.
Benefits: You work on your balance in this posture while strengthening your legs, abdomen, and back.
Boat Pose or Navasana
Posture: Remember to breathe and relax your face. Easier option: keep your knees bent, and calves parallel to the floor.
Benefits: Here is one of the best yoga postures to strengthen your abdominal muscles. It also works the muscles of the lower back.
Turtle Pose or Kurmasana
The posture: In this advanced yoga position, the back resembles the shell of a turtle. This allows for a deep stretch of the lower back and relaxation of the abdominal organs. You will feel like you are in a bubble.
Benefits: one effect is very soothing.
Pigeon pose or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Posture: You can lower your torso forward for a more intense stretch while breathing deeply.
Benefits: This posture can relieve sciatica and lower back pain because it stretches the back and softens the glutes and legs.
Chair Pose or Utkatasana
Posture: Remember to tuck in your lower stomach and relax the facial muscles (forehead, eyebrows, jaws) while breathing gently.
Benefits: This posture strengthens the muscles of the legs and arms while softening the hips.
Half-bridge Pose or Ardha-setu-bandhasana
Posture: Breathe with your abdomen and keep your chin towards your chest throughout the posture (do not turn your head to the right or left).
Benefits: Excellent for the back, the posture strengthens the lumbar area and the rib cage while stretching the abdominals.
Wheel pose or Chakrasana
Posture: First start by doing the half-bridge. If you are comfortable, practise the full wheel.
Benefits: This posture opens the chest and softens the spine while toning the upper back muscles. It is also a good way to improve digestion.
Child’s pose or Balasana
Posture: The hands placed near the feet allow a stretch in the shoulder blades. Breathe with your stomach, move your shoulders away from your ears… Guaranteed anti-stress effect!
Benefits: A great yoga posture to relax and stretch your back.
Crow Pose or Bakasana
Posture: This position (also called “the crane”) is a posture of balance. Breathing, concentration and the right distribution of body weight are essential to succeed in this posture. Remember to move your shoulders away from your ears and look ahead.
Benefits: it strengthens the entire body.
Cow Pose or Gomukhasana
Posture: Keep both glutes on the ground and lean into this posture. If you can’t catch your hands, take a strap or a cloth. For a more intense stretch, lean your torso forward while breathing deeply.
Benefits: Here is an excellent yoga posture to avoid back pain and relieve the famous sciatica.
Downward facing dog, leg raised
Posture: From the classic downward-facing dog posture, raise your leg towards the sky while keeping your hips aligned. Don’t forget to practise with the other leg afterwards.
Benefits: This posture strengthens the entire body.
Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend or Prasarita Padottanasana
Posture: If your hands do not touch the floor, put a chair in front of you and place your hands on it. Relax your head and inflate your stomach while inhaling, then release as you exhale. Straighten up gently by rolling out each vertebrae one after the other, head last.
Benefits: It is an excellent stretcher for the legs and back!
Plank pose or Kumbhakasana
Posture: Lie on your stomach, but make sure to support yourself on your hands and on the tips of your toes, legs, and arms well straight.
Benefits: It is an excellent stretcher for the legs and back
Eight Angle Pose or Astavakrasana
Posture: Balance is found by practising gradually and regularly. Courage, this is an advanced posture!
Benefits: This intense twist strengthens the wrists, arms, and shoulders.
Goddess pose or Kona utkatasana
Posture: Remember to breathe well, tuck your navel towards your spine, and lower your tailbone towards the ground.
Benefits: It’s a toning and energising standing posture!
Upward Plank pose or Purvottanasana
The posture: This yoga posture is ideal after practising forward bends (like the pincer posture for example).
Benefits: The inclined plane shapes the entire body.
Belly Twist Pose or Jathara Parivritti
Posture: Try to keep both shoulders on the ground. The legs fall on one side of the body and the head on the opposite side. Breathe deeply into your stomach in this posture. Practice twisting on the other side to harmonise the body.
Benefits: This twist deeply stretches the back.
Standing Forward Bend Pose or Uttanasana
Posture: If you have back problems, keep your knees bent. In all cases, remember to bring your stomach closer to your thighs and breathe gently with your stomach while releasing your head. Visualise the spine as a waterfall falling over the edge of the pelvis. Keeping your head tilted forward brings fresh blood to the brain. Straighten up very gently with a deep breath.
Benefits: This forward bend is very good for stretching the hamstrings (muscles at the back of the thighs) and the back.
Standing Half Forward Bend Pose or Ardha Uttanasana
Posture: If you suffer from a herniated disc, bend your knees instead. Easier option: place your hands on your knees or thighs, or on a chair in front of you. Try to lengthen your spine forward.
Benefits: You will stretch your legs and your back thanks to this posture.
Dancer’s pose or Natarajasana
Posture: Strength, balance, and grace! This beautiful posture is at an advanced level of yoga. Look straight ahead.
Benefits: It is excellent for softening the hips and stretching the back.
Pigeon Pose or Kapotasana
The posture: Practise this posture slowly and only if you already have a good level of yoga.
Benefits: It is excellent for the back.
Half Lotus Toe Balance Pose – Padangustha Padma Utkatasana
The posture: This is an advanced posture so practice slowly and remember that if you fall, it’s normal! Just breathe and start again gently.
Benefits: Balance, flexibility of the ankles and hips but also opening of the heart!
Tiger Pose or Vyaghrasana
Posture: You will stretch like a tiger! Don’t forget to work both legs.
Benefits: This posture softens the muscles and works on balance.
Half Moon Pose (variation) – Ardha Chandra Chapasana
Posture: After performing the half-moon pose, you can make the stretch more intense by grabbing your foot.
Benefits: It opens the hips and promotes balance.
Butterfly Pose or Badhakonasan
Posture: In a seated position, bend your knees and position the soles of your feet against each other; make sure you sit on your sit bones (pointed butt bones). Straighten the spine. You can then lean your torso forward, without arching.
Benefits: This yoga posture tones the back muscles and softens the entire pelvic region.
Mountain Pose or Tadasana
Posture: In this anchoring posture, remember to move the shoulders away from the ears, stretch the spine, and slightly tilt the glutes towards the ground for a gentle tilt of the pelvis. Breathe well!
Benefits: You learn to stand up straight.
Garland Pose or Malasana
Posture: Imagine that you have a weight attached to your tailbone to bring it down further towards the ground. Also, visualise that you push one hand flat on your head to grow taller. If this bothers you in the knees, don’t push it.
Benefits: This squatting posture is beneficial for the lower back, hips, and ankles.
That was all about the yoga positions, so if you have not started yoga yet, then you should, and that too with the aforementioned yoga poses. Do share your experience and the changes yoga has brought into your life in the comment section.
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