I grew up in the Spiritual city of Varanasi in India. The City attracts a lot of tourists due to Kashi Vishwanath Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
In the yogic culture, Shiva is known as the Adiyogi or the first yogi – the originator of yoga.
Yoga is one thing that attracts travelers as well as the residents of Varanasi.
Besides the traditional Yoga centers, there are many institutional Yoga centers at Varanasi.
I had seen my father do Yoga every day but I had never considered “Teaching Yoga” as a profession. At the age of 26, Post Pregnancy I became very regular with my workouts, largely because I wanted to get rid of the twenty kilos that I had gained during pregnancy.
With a lot of hard work and immense support from my family within eight months, i got back to my pre-pregnancy weight. The whole process fortified my trust in Yoga. I liked the way yoga made me agile not only physically but also mentally.
Having completed 500 hours teacher’s training course from Yoga Alliance International I find immense pleasure spreading happiness and positivity through fitness.
In this post I will be introducing you to the physical aspect of Yoga, which is called as Asana, and their benefits (To learn all other aspects you can touch base with me 😉 on Youtube as well as Instagram).
There are over 200 postures in Yoga with every posture having several variations.
I made a list of 10 asanas or postures that are as good for the beginners as for the advanced practitioners. They are so simple that you can do them during your travels as well.
Note: You don’t have to be able to do all these poses exactly as pictured. ALWAYS listen to your body and modify if needed.
1. Vajrasana (The Thunderbolt)
A Very simple yet very effective Asana.
To do this pose just kneel down and slowly bring your hips to your heels as you exhale. Try to sit in position as long as possible. As you keep practicing you will be able to sit longer in Vajrasana.
Key benefits of Vajrasana (The Thunderbolt)
- Vajrasana stretches the entire front part of the legs including the thigh muscles or quadriceps.
- Sitting in this posture automatically corrects the lumbar curve (the curve in the lower spine) consequently helping relieve back pain.
- It also restricts the blood flow to the lower portion of the body, thereby increasing the circulation to the torso, which houses the digestive organs.
- This in turn results in improving efficiency of the digestive system. People with weak digestion are highly benefited by Vajrasana.
2. Utkat-konasana (Goddess pose)
This pose is very similar to Sumo-squat.
Start by standing with your legs wider than the hips and toes pointing out. Now bend both the knees (90 degrees if possible). You can keep your arms at shoulder level or you can keep your hands in prayer pose. Try to hold this for 10 seconds initially.
Key benefits of Utkat-konasana (Goddess pose)
- Goddess pose helps in strengthening the inner thigh muscles and stretching the small muscles around the groin area thereby opening up the hips and improving the circulation around the genitourinary areas (and improves the libido ;)).
- Holding this pose also takes the heart rate up which means you are also working on your cardiovascular system.
3. Ardhachandra asana (Crescent of the moon
- To perform the crescent pose, place your legs in lunge position (one leg forward and one leg back).
- Keep the heel of your back leg up, off the floor while your front foot is firmly grounded.
- Bend the front knee as much as you can (exhale) and as you inhale raise your arms above your head and palms together in prayer pose.
- With the next exhale start bending backward from your lower spine first, then the middle spine and lastly your uppermost part of the spine.
- Hold this pose as long as comfortable.
Key benefits of Ardhachandra asana (Crescent of the moon)
- Holding a low lunge like the one in this pose strengthens the leg muscles.
- At the same time, because you push your torso away from the hip, crescent pose beautifully opens the hip flexors (which become tight by prolonged sitting).
- By inverting the thoracic curve the pose also acts as a heart opener and by stretching the arms over the head the shoulders too get a nice stretch. In shot, it just opens up the entire torso.
- After a long road travel this hip opener is a must!
4. Prasaritapadottan asana (wide legged forward fold):
- As the name suggests, stand with your legs wide apart, firmly grounding your feet as you inhale.
- Keeping your hands on the waist, exhale and maintaining the length of the torso, bend forward from the hip joints.
- Keep going down and let your body decide where to stop. Now relax your neck and feel the weight of your head stretching the neck muscles.
- Bring your hands to the ankles and gently try to pull your torso little more closer to your legs. Hold as long as possible and keep breathing.
- Touching the crown of your head to the floor will be the final stage of this forward bend.
Key benefits of Prasaritapadottan asana (wide legged forward fold)
- This one is an intense yet very relaxing stretch for the back, neck and hamstrings.
- People who frequently travel by road or even by air can benefit from this pose, as it will relax that stiff neck and those tight hamstrings.
- Like all forward folds, this pose also massages the abdominal organs and improves the blood circulation in that area.
- Because the torso is inverted, the blood rushes to the head so mild headaches also get relieved.
5. Trikonasana (triangle pose)
- Trikonasana is a standing side bend.
- To perform it stand with your feet wider apart than your shoulders with your right foot turned outwards and the left foot pointing forward. Now, lift both arms at shoulder level.
- As you exhale start bending to the right keeping your arms wide and shoulders stacked.
- Depending on your flexibility, rest your right hand on your shin, ankle, or outside the right foot on the floor.
- Remember to keep your chest wide open. Gently come back up and repeat the same on the other side.
Key benefits of Trikonasana (triangle pose)
- It is an amazing stretch for the hips, hamstrings, calves, chest, and shoulders.
- The triangle also stretches the obliques (which is the muscle right under those love handles.) and helps in developing sideways mobility of the spine, which is very essential but is often neglected.
Video on Yoga flow for opening up the tight hips, hamstrings and inner thighs.
6. Virbhadra asana (warrior pose)
- True to its name, this is a very strong and yet graceful pose and has numerous variations.
- The preparation is very similar to the triangle pose. So stand with your feet wide apart and rotate your right foot outward at 90 degrees.
- The heel of the right foot should be perfectly aligned with the center of the left foot. Your arms must be parallel to the ground, lifted at shoulder level, and your palms should be facing upwards.
- Exhale and bend your right knee, such that your knee and ankle form a straight line.
- Rotate your head to the right and fix your gaze at the horizon. Keep stretching your arms, finding more length. (This is called as Warrior-2)
Key benefits of Virbhadra Asana (Warrior Pose)
- Warrior pose helps in building ones endurance.
- By holding the pose for 20 seconds or longer, the leg muscles become stronger.
- The asana also strengthens and tones the lower back and arms. It is a challenging asana where your chest is expanded, your lungs are opened up, and you feel a sense of vigor.
7. Paschimottan asana (seated forward fold)
Paschim is a Sanskrit word which means back.
- Sit with your legs extended forward and lift both the arms over the head. Your palms should be facing each other and as you inhale try to lengthen your spine as much as you can.
- Making sure that your back is not rounded.
- Exhale and start bending forward.
- Feel the fold from your hip joints and move your chin towards your toes to keep your neck long.
- Try to reach the furthest you can, possibly touching your toes.
Key benefits of Paschimottan Asana (seated forward fold)
- This pose is an intense stretch for the entire chain of muscles that run along the back of your body.
- Therefore neck, shoulders, spine, hamstrings and calves all are relieved.
- All visceral organs including kidneys, liver, uterus, and ovaries are massaged and thereby activated.
8. Setubaddha asana (bridge pose)
- Begin by lying flat on your back.
- Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor hip-width apart. Make sure that your ankles and knees are in a straight line, with your arms resting by the sides of your body.
- As you inhale, slowly lift your back (first lower, then middle and in the end upper) off the floor.
- Roll in your shoulders, and lock your chin in your collarbone. Let your shoulders, feet, and arms support your weight, thereby decompressing your spine.
- Now, interlock your fingers and push your arms more into the ground to lift your torso higher.
- Simultaneously tighten your hips.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds.
Key benefits of Setubaddha Asana (Bridge pose)
- The bridge pose helps in strengthening the muscles around you spine.
- It is also a gentler back bend so the spine is decompressed and the blood flow to the intervertebral discs is improved.
- Therefore its a must do asana if you travel constantly. The pose greatly benefits pregnant women and can be practiced from the first trimester itself.
- The heart is placed higher than the head in this pose, so it is considered a mild inversion.
- Yet, it gives you all the benefits of an inversion like relief from fatigue, stress, insomnia and headaches.
9. Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation)
This is not a single pose but a sequence of twelve poses that stimulate the entire body.
- The flow starts from standing tall with your hands in prayer pose and your feet firmly grounded (Tadasana).
- In the next step reach out with your arms stretching overhead and bend backwards (Hastottanasana).
- Exhale and do the standing forward fold, bending from the hips and placing your hands on the floor (Padahastasana).
- Inhale and step your right leg back into a low lunge and push your hip forward (Ashwasanchalana).
- Now take the left leg back and bring the whole body in a straight line (Dandasana).
- From here rest your chest and chin on the floor and raise your hips a little. The two palms, two feet, two knees, chest and chin (eight parts of the body) should touch the floor (Ashtanaga dandasana).
- From there, slide forward and raise the chest up into the Cobra pose. Keep your elbows bent and the shoulders away from the ears. Look up towards the ceiling (Urdhva Mukha svanasana).
- Exhale and lift the hips up to bring the body into an inverted ‘V’ pose, pushing your heels firmly into the floor (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Look at your naval.
- Next, bring the right foot forward in between the hands and bring the left knee down to the floor. Push the hips forward and look up (Ashwasanchalana).
- Exhale and bring the left foot forward and keep the palms on the floor (Padahastasana).
- You may bend the knees, if necessary. Inhale and roll the spine up reach out with your arms stretching overhead and bend backwards, pushing the hips slightly forward (Hastottanasana).
- As you exhale, first straighten the body and then bring the arms back in prayer pose (Tadasana).
- That completes one set of Surya Namaskar.
Key Benefits of Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation)
It is a total body workout that enhances strength as well as flexibility and also serves as a great cardiovascular exercise thereby aiding weight loss.
10. Padmasana (lotus pose)
This pose is used as a base for meditation and pranayama.
- To do Padmasana, sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in the front.
- Now bend the right leg and with the help of your hands place the right foot on left thigh.
- Next bend the left leg and bring your left foot to the right thigh using your hands.
- If this is not possible for you simply try to put any one foot on the opposite thigh and sit cross legged.
Key Benefits of Padmasana (lotus pose)
- Padmasana stretches the ankles, knees and thighs and simultaneously opens up the hips.
- Practicing to sit correctly in this pose will slowly improve the posture.
- Padmasana is used as a base pose for meditation because it is known to increase mental and physical awareness.
yoga flow Video for beginners to intermediate level practitioners.
This flow is a full body workout in itself. You can hold the postures longer to build endurance and stamina and increase the number of repetitions of Surya Namaskar to work on your cardiovascular fitness.
This sequence can be done every day at the beginning or the end of your workout.
What happens when wanderlust calls? Unlike your local Gym, your Yoga (knowledge of Yoga Poses) can travel with you wherever you go.
So if you like being fit and happy, take some time out and learn yoga!
Did you enjoy this article? Do you have questions regarding Yoga or something else to say? I would love to hear it from you in the comments.
If you have some questions regarding Yoga and are embarassed to ask you will find the answer to many of them in this post – 13 Beginner Yoga FAQs Answered