The third limb described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is the one that most Americans are familiar with: asana, which is Sanskrit for “pose,” although it is also translated to mean “being present in the body.” If you practice yoga, you can see how asana could have this meaning. While performing a pose, you also calm your mind, focus on the here and now, concentrate on your breathing and connect with your body.
There are different categories of yoga asanas. These include:
- Standing Poses: In these poses, your weight is on your feet. This category includes poses like Mountain Pose, Chair Pose, Tree Pose and Warrior I, II and III poses.
- Kneeling Poses: Kneeling poses put your weight on your knees and shins. This category encompasses poses like Child’s Pose, Hero Pose and Camel Pose.
- Sitting Poses: These poses put the weight on your sitting bones and your pelvis. These include Easy Pose, Head-to-Knee Pose, Seated Wide-Angle Pose, Staff Pose and others.
- Prone Poses: In a prone pose, you lie on your front so you are facing the mat. This category includes poses like Bow Pose, Cobra Pose and Locust Pose.
- Supine Poses: In a supine pose, you lie on your back. Some poses in this category are Bridge Pose, Fish Pose and Corpse Pose.
- Arm Balance Poses: These poses put the bulk of your weight on your arms and they are excellent weight-bearing exercises for arm strength. This category includes Downward-Facing Dog Pose, Eight-Angle Pose and Peacock Pose, among others.
The poses can also be broken down differently. For example, twists and inversions can be included within various of the above groups but can also be grouped together into their own categories.
Some American yoga classes only include the asana limb of Ashtanga, while many include a combination of poses, breathing and meditation. You can see from the eight limbs that there is much more to traditional yoga than just the asanas.