The wonderful system of maintaining a free, flexible, strong and healthy body through the practice of specific positions in addition to those involved in normal daily activity, is invaluable. It is based upon natural abilities for movement and the use of positions, the simplest of which can be observed in young children. The full range of body freedom is formalized in the sophisticated, traditional classical Indian Yoga teaching of the 84 Asanas passed down through the centuries.
There are understandably many common name variations to describe them in English, so there will be differences given out in different teaching institutions throughout the modern world. However there is serious attempt to retain the identity of the 84 classical Asanas by referring to the Indian names for them and standardize them for the future. However, as Indian names will be found to vary also, although each will end in ‘asana’, it demonstrates a certain need for identifying Asanas through the image as well as the word.
As there is a great deal to learn about Asanas beyond the more obvious benefits in self help to maintain a healthy body and balanced mind, in our practice we must, as with all things, apply ourselves to starting at the beginning.
So there are many that can be assumed with comparative ease by a beginner and many that are beyond present capacity. It is patient attention to the simple Asanas and the incorporation of the right breathing or pranayama, together with a mental focus upon its purpose that will bring results that will be experienced almost immediately. This will encourage further training.
Every Asana has a basic form, that can be modified to allow those with physical limitations to derive benefit or offers further variations that are more challenging to the serious Hatha Yoga exponent who may seek to proceed to master the full range of the more advanced Asanas.
But we must be reminded that merely to assume Asanas as a demonstration of acrobatic abilities is not in the spirit of Yoga, which is designed for inner mastery of mind and body, so that one’s soul can grow, blossom and expand so that spiritual consciousness can be experienced.
The following images demonstrate a few variations of Asanas with varying degrees of difficulty – all of which, remember, can be modified, and some extended.
The Spinal Twist or Half Twist –Ardha Matsyendrasana – is generally mastered but the Full Twist is extremely difficult.
The Plough or Halasana has many well known variations
Head Knee or Paschimottanasana has several increasingly difficult variations
Lunge , Leg Split or Anjaneyasana has several popular variations