There are numerous modern physical culture systems designed to develop the muscles through mechanical movements and exercises. As Yoga regards the body as a vehicle for the soul on its journey towards perfection, Yogic physical exercises are designed to develop not only the body. They also broaden the mental faculties and the spiritual capacities.
The Yogic physical exercises are called Asanas, a term which means steady pose. This is because the Yoga Asana(or posture) is meant to be held for some time. However this is quite an advanced practice. Initially, our concern is simply to increase body flexibility.
The body is as young as it is flexible. Yoga exercises focus on the health of the spine, its strength and flexibility. The spinal column houses the all-important nervous system, the telegraphic system of the body. By maintaining the spine’s flexibility and strength through exercise, circulation is increased and the nerves are ensured their supply of nutrients and oxygen.
The Asanas also affect the internal organs and the endocrine system (glands and hormones).
Traditionally, Yogis practice Surya Namaskar, the sun salutation, before the Asanas. Although there are many Asanas (8,400,000 according to the scriptures) the practice of the 12 basic postures brings out the essence and all major benefits of this wonderful system.
These 12 Basic Postures are:
1. Headstand (Sirshasana)
2. Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
3. Plough (Halasana)
4. Fish (Matsyasana)
5. Forward bend (Paschimothanasana)
6. Cobra (Bhujangasana)
7. Locust (Shalabhasana)
8. Bow (Dhanurasana)
9. Spinal twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana
10. Crow pose (Kakasana) or Peacock pose (Mayurasana)
11. Standing forward bend (Pada Hasthasana)
12. Triangle (Trikonasana)
At the end of the session one must do a deeper, final relaxation.
Sitting postures for meditation and Pranayama include the lotus pose.