Sivananda Yoga 12 Basic Postures

These 12 postures set the foundation for a Sivananda yoga class.

Posture 1

Headstand – Sirsasana

Headstand is considered to be the ‘king of āsanas’ due to the remarkable benefits it brings to memory and concentration. Learning to balance upside down can bring you great confidence, but be sure to practice it carefully, only after you have studied all the information about the technique and contraindications.

The headstand is a boon for developing brain power and a healthy heart, and the beauty of it is that nearly anyone can do it. To the surprise of many people, it does not require any special strength or flexibility; all you need to do is respect certain basic considerations and follow the step-by-step guidelines given. Once you have learned it, it feels as natural to stand on your head as it does to stand on your feet.

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Posture 7

Locust – Salabasana

Śalabhāsana supplements and enhances the effects of bhujaṅgāsana (Cobra). The Locust brings flexibility to the cervical region and strengthens the lumbar and sacral regions of the back, thus improving the quality of all sitting and standing activities.  Unlike the other āsanas, which are done slowly, you achieve Locust by making a single powerful muscle contraction, similar to that of a locust jumping.  This simultaneously brings together thought, breath, movement, and prāṇa – vital energy. ‘Śalabha’ means a locust in Sanskrit. When the pose is demonstrated, it gives the appearance of a locust with its tail raised.

posture 8

Bow – Dhanurasana

The Bow is a backward bend in which both halves of the body are raised off the ground at the same time. You can imagine the bent body as being the bow itself, with the stretched (straight) arms as the bowstring. Dhanurāsana combines and enhances the benefits of both the Cobra and the Locust. The three āsanas are usually practiced together, forming a valuable set of backward-bending exercises. The Bow may be seen as a counter-pose to halāsana and paścimottānāsana. It is a full backward bend to supplement these two forward-bending exercises.  In the Bow, all parts of the back are worked simultaneously, increasing suppleness in the spine and hips. While holding the pose, the arms are held taut; this helps to stretch the neck, leg, arm and shoulder muscles. This posture focuses on spinal flexibility rather than strength, as it is not achieved by a contraction of the back muscles, but by the movements of the arms and legs.  Initially, you will find it easier to lift your knees with legs apart; more advanced students should aim to perform the Bow with legs together.

Posture 9

Half Spinal Twist –
Ardha Matsyendrasana

‘Ardha’ means half. This is half a pose. After the forward and backward bending of the spine, the Half Spinal Twist gives a lateral stretch to all the vertebrae, back muscles and hips. The lumbar area does not twist easily; you will mostly rotate the cervical and thoracic areas of your spine. Keeping your chest open and your neck straight is the best basis for a good twist.

posture 10

Crow – Kakasana

Strengthening the arms and the shoulder girdle is a main concern in any physical exercise program. Instead of using weights, the Yogis developed balancing āsanas such as Crow and its variations. In these, the body weight shifts from the feet, legs, and hips to the hands, arms, and shoulders. Although all āsanas are designed as mental as well as physical exercises to prepare the mind and body for meditation,the balancing poses are what give the most noticeable improvement in the powers of concentration. The Crow is one of the most beneficial of balancing poses. This āsana strikingly mimics the posture of a cawing crow – with the body’s weight supported on the elbows and hands and the head thrust well forward. Although the Crow may look difficult at first, it is important to bear in mind that all the previous breathing exercises and postures actually prepare for balancing: controlled breathing allows you to focus your energies on a balancing point and the āsanas have trained your body to fine-tune the contraction and relaxation of muscles.

Posture 11

Standing Forward Bend – Pada Hastasana

Pāda-Hastāsana, whose Sanskrit name literally means “Hand to Foot Pose” (in Sanskrit pāda means ‘feet’ and -hasta means ‘hands’) gives many of the same benefits as paścimottānāsana. It is the first of the standing poses. If it is remembered that “you are as young as your spine,” pāda-hastāsana will be seen as a veritable elixir of youth. Its practice promotes a continued youthful vigor throughout life. If you notice that your legs are stiff from too much sitting on chairs, practice this Standing Forward Bend. Using the pull of gravity, this pose quickly lengthens the muscles and ligaments of the entire posterior side of your body – from your heels to the middle of your back.

posture 12

Triangle – Trikonasana

Since this āsana gives the appearance of a triangle, it bears the name trikoṇāsana. Triangle is a unique āsana. Trikoṇāsana gives very good lateral movements to the spine and stretches and strengthens several muscles on the side of the body at the same time. It also helps with balance. It is the last of the twelve basic āsanas in the cycle.

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