Yoga Asanas

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Back to Basic's Beginner's Workshop

Sukhasana (Easy Sitting or Sage)

Benefits
•Calms the brain
•Strengthens the back
•Stretches the knees and ankles

Contraindications and Cautions
•Knee injury

Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
(tah-DAHS-anna)
tada = mountain

Benefits
•Improves posture
•Strengthens thighs, knees, and ankles
•Firms abdomen and buttocks
•Relieves sciatica
•Reduces flat feet

Contraindications and Cautions
•Headache
•Insomnia
•Low blood pressure

Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)(AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna)
adho = downward
mukha = face
svana = dog

Benefits
•Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
•Energizes the body
•Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
•Strengthens the arms and legs
•Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
•Helps prevent osteoporosis
•Improves digestion
•Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
•Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis

Contraindications and Cautions
•Carpal tunnel syndrome
•Diarrhea
•Pregnancy: Do not do this pose late-term.
•High blood pressure or headache: Support your head on a bolster or block, ears level between the arms.

Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)
veer-ah-bah-DRAHS-anna)
Virabhadra = the name of a fierce warrior, an incarnation of Shiva, described as having a thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and a thousand feet, wielding a thousand clubs, and wearing a tiger's skin

Benefits
•Strengthens and stretches the legs and ankles
•Stretches the groins, chest and lungs, shoulders
•Stimulates abdominal organs
•Increases stamina
•Relieves backaches, especially through second trimester of pregnancy
•Therapeutic for carpal tunnel syndrome, flat feet, infertility, osteoporosis, and sciatica

Contraindications and Cautions
•Diarrhea
•High blood pressure
•Neck problems: Don't turn your head to look over the front hand; continue to look straight ahead with both sides of the neck lengthened evenly

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Trianagle)
(oo-TEE-tah trik-cone-AHS-anna)
utthita = extended
trikona = three angle or triangle

Benefits
•Stretches and strengthens the thighs, knees, and ankles
•Stretches the hips, groins, hamstrings, and calves; shoulders, chest, and spine
•Stimulates the abdominal organs
•Helps relieve stress
•Improves digestion
•Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
•Relieves backache, especially through second trimester of pregnancy
•Therapeutic for anxiety, flat feet, infertility, neck pain, osteoporosis, and sciatica

Contraindications and Cautions
•Diarrhea
•Headache
•Low blood pressure
•Heart Condition: Practice against a wall. Keep the top arm on the hip.
•High blood pressure: Turn the head to gaze downward in the final pose.
•Neck problems: Don't turn your head to look upward; continue looking straight ahead and keep both sides of the neck evenly long.

Prasarita Poddotanasana (Wide Legged Forward Bend)
pra-sa-REE-tah pah-doh-tahn-AHS-anna)
prasarita = stretched out, expanded, spread, with outstretched limbs
pada = foot
ut = intense
tan = to stretch or extend (compare the Latin verb tendere, "to stretch or extend")

Benefits
•Strengthens and stretches the inner and back legs and the spine
•Tones the abdominal organs
•Calms the brain
•Relieves mild backache

Contraindications and Cautions
•Lower-back problems: Avoid the full forward bend

Utkatasana (Chair)
(OOT-kah-TAHS-anna)
utkata = powerful, fierce

Benefits
•Strengthens the ankles, thighs, calves, and spine
•Stretches shoulders and chest
•Stimulates the abdominal organs, diaphragm, and heart
•Reduces flat feet

Contraindications and Cautions
•Headache
•Insomnia
•Low blood pressure

Virabhadrasana (Warrior I)

Benefits
•Stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders and neck, belly, groins (psoas)
•Strengthens the shoulders and arms, and the muscles of the back
•Strengthens and stretches the thighs, calves, and ankles

Contraindications and Cautions
•High blood pressure
•Heart problems
•Students with shoulder problems should keep their raised arms parallel (or slightly wider than parallel) to each other.
•Students with neck problems should keep their head in a neutral position and not look up at the hands.

Vrksasana (Tree)
(vrik-SHAHS-anna)
vrksa = tree

Benefits
•Strengthens thighs, calves, ankles, and spine
•Stretches the groins and inner thighs, chest and shoulders
•Improves sense of balance
•Relieves sciatica and reduces flat feet

Contraindications and Cautions
•Headache
•Insomnia
•Low blood pressure
•High blood pressure: Don't raise arms overhead

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

Benefits
•Calms the brain and helps relieve stress, anxiety and mild
•Stimulates the liver and kidneys
•Stretches the hamstrings and calves
•Strengthens the thighs
•Improves digestion
•Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
•Helps relieve headache and insomnia

Contraindications and Cautions
Avoid this pose with lower back or neck injuries

Chatturanga Dandasana (Four Limbed Staff)
(chaht-tour-ANG-ah don-DAHS-anna)
chaturanga = four limbs (chatur = four
anga = limb)
danda = staff (refers to the spine, the central "staff" or support of the body

Benefits
•Strengthens the arms and wrists
•Tones the abdomen

Contraindications and Cautions
•Carpal tunnel syndrome
•Pregnancy

Salabhasana (Locust)
(sha-la-BAHS-anna)
salabha = grasshopper, locust

Benefits
•Strengthens the muscles of the spine, buttocks, and backs of the arms and legs
•Stretches the shoulders, chest, belly, and thighs
•Improves posture
•Stimulates abdominal organs
•Helps relieve stress

Contraindications and Cautions
•Headache
•Serious back injury
•Students with neck injuries should keep their head in a neutral position by looking down at the floor; they might also support the forehead on a thickly folded blanket.

Urdhva Muka Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog)
(OORD-vah MOO-kah shvon-AHS-anna)
urdhva mukha = face upward (urdhva = upward
mukha = face)
svana = dog

Benefits
•Improves posture
•Strengthens the spine, arms, wrists
•Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen
•Firms the buttocks
•Stimulates abdominal organs
•Helps relieve mild depression, fatigue, and sciatica
•Therapeutic for asthma

Contraindications and Cautions
•Back injury
•Carpal tunnel syndrome
•Headache
•Pregnancy

Bhujangasana (Cobra)
(boo-jang-GAHS-anna)

bhujanga = serpent, snake

Benefits
•Strengthens the spine
•Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen
•Firms the buttocks
•Stimulates abdominal organs
•Helps relieve stress and fatigue
•Opens the heart and lungs
•Soothes sciatica
•Therapeutic for asthma
•Traditional texts say that Bhujangasana increases body heat, destroys disease, and awakens kundalini.

Contraindications and Cautions
•Back injury
•Carpal tunnel syndrome
•Headache
•Pregnancy

Setu Bandha, sarvangasana (Bridge)
(SET-too BAHN-dah)
setu = dam, dike, or bridge
bandha = lock

Benefits
•Stretches the chest, neck, and spine
•Calms the brain and helps alleviate stress and mild depression
•Stimulates abdominal organs, lungs, and thyroid
•Rejuvenates tired legs
•Improves digestion
•Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
•Relieves menstrual discomfort when done supported
•Reduces anxiety, fatigue, backache, headache, and insomnia
•Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and sinusitis

Contraindications and Cautions
Neck injury: avoid this pose unless you are practicing under the supervision of an experienced teacher.

Dandasana (Staff)

Benefits
•Strengthens the back muscles
•Stretches the shoulders and chest
•Improves posture

Contraindications and Cautions
•Any wrist or lower back injury

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Paripurna Navasana (Full Boat)
par-ee-POOR-nah nah-VAHS-anna)
paripurna = full, entire, complete
nava = boat

Benefits
•Strengthens the abdomen, hip flexors, and spine
•Stimulates the kidneys, thyroid and prostate glands, and intestines
•Helps relieve stress
•Improves digestion

Contraindications and Cautions
•Asthma
•Diarrhea
•Headache
•Heart Problems
•Insomnia
•Low blood pressure
•Menstruation
•Pregnancy
•Neck injury: Sit with your back near a wall to perform this pose. As you tilt your torso back rest the back of your head on the wall.

Balasana (Child's)
(bah-LAHS-anna)
bala = child

Benefits
•Gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles
•Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue
•Relieves back and neck pain when done with head and torso supported

Contraindications and Cautions
•Diarrhea
•Pregnancy
•Knee injury: Avoid Balasana unless you have the supervision of an experienced teacher.

Savasana (Corpse)
(shah-VAHS-anna)
sava = corpse

Benefits
•Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
•Relaxes the body
•Reduces headache, fatigue, and insomnia
•Helps to lower blood pressure

Contraindications and Cautions
•Back injury or discomfort: Do this pose with your knees bent and your feet on the floor, hip-distance apart; either bind the thighs parallel to each other with a strap (taking care not to position the heels too close to the buttocks) or support the bent knees on a bolster.
•Pregnancy: Raise your head and chest on a bolster.

Virasana (Hero's)
(veer-AHS-anna)
vira = man, hero, chief

Benefits
•Stretches the thighs, knees, and ankles
•Strengthens the arches
•Improves digestion and relieves gas
•Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause
•Reduces swelling of the legs during pregnancy (through second trimester)
•Therapeutic for high blood pressure and asthma

Contraindications and Cautions
•Heart problems
•Headache: Practice this pose lying back on a bolster.
•Knee or ankle injury: Avoid this pose unless you have the assistance of an experienced instructor.

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