Yoga theory applied

Application and adaptation of yoga techniques and philosophy

Yoga Poses

There are many yoga poses. It is said that there are as many poses as species of living beings. Traditionally this means 840.000 poses. Among these, one pose describes 100.000 poses, which are its variations and modifications. So Lord Shiva taught 84 poses. Gheranda-Samhita (a 17th century text about Yoga) describes 32 of these poses and Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika (another text about Yoga from the 15th century) describes only 15.

 

We are going to show you some of these poses, trying to organize them according to some parameters, such us their shape, function, symmetry or intensity. 

This organization was presented by Claude Maréchal and the download of this classification is available for free with the purchase of "Viniyoga Europe - 6" or the article "The Sequence of Âsana (2)".

Are you looking for a detailed study of postures?

Our new Viniyoga publication presents the study of the postures published in the original Belgian Viniyoga magazine. Go to Postures >>>

One way to classify postures

Yoga âsana can be classified according to diverse parameters, such us their shape, function, symmetry or intensity.

1. “Ordinary” poses (samânya)

We stay close to every-day positions.
Systematically the body is brought to a vertical, straight, slightly stretched and symmetrical position.

This group (samânya) has many exercises related to everyday poses tending to bring the body to a vertical and straight position; ordinary poses and movements are done in a conscious way, instead of automatically.

These movements of rotation of the trunk associated to the breath and bent arms, stay within the scope of amplitude of day-to-day life. The difference here is that there is awareness of the movements and sensations, as well as deep breath synchronized with the movements.
We stay close to every-day positions.
Systematically the body is brought to a vertical, straight, slightly stretched and symmetrical position.

This group (samânya) has many exercises related to everyday poses tending to bring the body to a vertical and straight position; ordinary poses and movements are done in a conscious way, instead of automatically.

These movements of rotation of the trunk associated to the breath and bent arms, stay within the scope of amplitude of day-to-day life. The difference here is that there is awareness of the movements and sensations, as well as deep breath synchronized with the movements.
We stay close to every-day positions.
Systematically the body is brought to a vertical, straight, slightly stretched and symmetrical position.
● They are close to everyday positions.
● The body is brought systematically to a vertical, straight, slightly stretched, symmetrical position.
 
 This group (samânya) has many exercises related to everyday postures tending to bring the body to a vertical and straight position; ordinary poses and movements are done in a conscious way, instead of automatically.
These movements of rotation of the trunk associated to the breath and with bent elbows, stay within the range of amplitude of day-to-day life. The difference here is not only the awareness of movements and sensations, but also deep breath synchronized with the movements. 
 
 
 

2. “Extraordinary” poses (vishesha)

 

 ● These poses imply progressive, regular training, accompanied by an instructor, as well as an adequate lifestyle which sometimes can be austere.

● They present real risk not only in the short term but also in the long term.
● They should be practiced preferably by young and robust people, under the supervision of a competent instructor.
● They present real risk not only in the short term but also in the long term. 
 
● They should be practiced preferably by young and robust people, under the supervision of a competent instructor. 
 Among the joints at work in this kind of pose, the hip is frequently required. In this position there can also be flexion of the trunk forward or backwards, in a wide range of positions and variations. The effect at the level of the lower abdominal organs is strong; in the long term however this kind of pose can be dangerous.
 
 
 “Hyper back bending” of the vertebral column in a standing position is part of this group of acrobatic poses. Here the vertebral column is bent back to its maximum: the anterior part of the body is submitted to an exceptionally intense stretch. The risk is due to the fact that gravity is acting in the same direction of this movement, possibly allowing the acceptable limits to be exceeded.
 

3. Asymmetrical poses (parshva)

 

● All the aspects of the left and right sides of the body are explored through the practice of exercises on each side.

● Breath, its amplitude and duration, as well as the sensations that it produces give precious information.

● These poses should be introduced wisely in a sequence. Usually they are not used as counter poses.

Here is a sophisticated variation of the Cobra: this kind of exercise requires great attention, because of the multiple mobilizations of the limbs in unusual directions.

This practice offers great interest in certain cases of reeducation. 

One of the most classical starting positions of the group parshva is this standing posture; it roughly represents the walking attitude. The back foot is turned outwards, as it is when we walk. 

In this position several exercises of flexion, backwards bending, side bending and rotation of the trunk can be combined.

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4. Forward bending / posterior stretching poses (paschimata)

● The back part of the body is stretched and placed in such a way that we can perceive our deep breath well.

● Contraction and compression of the belly are often associated. The breath intensifies the effects at the abdominal level.

● Posterior stretching always includes the stretching of the nape, the chin staying close to the chest (jâlandhara bandha).

Here are some examples of forward bending: some are simple, others are intense.

 

5. Back bending / anterior stretching poses (pûrvata)

● The relevant action is in the middle of the back, in order to bend it backwards: it is straightened and the muscles are fortified. 

● Anterior stretching happens thanks to the elongation of the front of the body. That can only happen if it is possible to straighten the middle of the back and if it is really beneficial to the practitioner. 

● There is a double danger:

a. using gravity in order to bend the body back can accidentally stretch areas, muscles, joints and tissue already too lax or flaccid;

b. it can intensify certain vertebral curvatures already too accentuated.

These examples show that in every case the middle of the back is straightened or even bent back. But the pose can be done against the pull of gravity or with its help.Back to top

 

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6. Twisted poses (parivritti)

● Here parivritti refers to the action of turning or side bending the vertebral axis.

● This action can be done in standing, lying or sitting poses. However the sitting pose allows us to have a better perception of the place on the vertebral column where the twisting or side bending takes place.

● In order to practice these poses in a static way, we have to prepare them well. They are followed by counter poses (usually forwards movements along the axis of the body).

Some examples of twisting:

 and some examples of side bending:

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7. Inverted poses (viparîta)

 ● Inverted poses consist in reversing completely the position of the body in relation to ordinary situations: the head is down and the hips up. Usually this position is practiced in a static way for several minutes, with deep slow breathing.

● There are several counter indications to the practice to these exercises. These poses have to be practiced with the supervision of a competent instructor.

● In the case of permanent counter indications, the instructor proposes modifications that allow the practitioner to obtain the favorable effects of classical inversion without its drawbacks.

● With the two main inverted poses (shîrshâsana and sarvângâsana) as starting positions, there are multiple variations that develop strength, deftness and agility; however they are not pure inversions.

 

Some examples of positions starting in shîrshâsana:

 

 and in sarvângâsana:

 Yoga also suggests certain positions where the head is below the hips, matching the concept of viparîta. However these poses are not real inversions.

 They are often used to prepare classical inversions and they successfully replace them in certain cases where there are counter indications.

 

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8. Sitting poses (âsana)

● Sitting poses should be stable and comfortable and the trunk straight and vertical.

● They are used in the practice of different exercises: reading, breathing, chanting, praying, meditation, etc. 

 

 ● They are associated to several specific locks (bandha), especially the stretching of the nape with the chin close to the chest (jâlandhara bandha) in the practice of breath control exercises (prânâyâma).

● Sitting poses have sophisticated variations that intensify certain effects; however they must remain comfortable. 

 

 ● Nowadays, in the West and even in several places in India, there is the need of some relevant modifications, due to modern lifestyle, which is very different from the ancient one.

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9. Symbolic gestures or energetic locks (mudrâ)

Mahâ-mudrâ: main characteristics

 

● This is a position that requests great precision; it subtly combines several aspects of the actions mentioned in the eight preceding groups: stretching of the posterior part of the body, straightening of the back, effect on the laterality, etc. 

● These elaborate and precise mudrâ accompanied by specific locks (bandha) can become a regular exercise for motivated and trained practitioners.

 

● Adequately modified versions of Mahâ-mudrâ originate many therapeutic applications. They have a double action: they correct the vertebral column and stimulate the abdominal organs.

This example shows how this mudrâ when modified becomes a basic exercise for straightening the vertebral column.

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