The different Yoga postures and their benefits for body and mind
September 28, 2020
In previous posts we have talked about the importance of balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system to avoid situations of stress, anxiety, depression, etc. In general terms, yoga provides this balance, as well as other more specific benefits that are detailed below.
When you practice asanas you experience many changes that you feel mainly in the body. In fact, this is what you notice most clearly at first.
The body starts to wake up and feel different sensations that for many people are totally new. Mobility improves, flexibility increases, you become more aware of movement and there is an improvement in breathing capacity. If you suffer from insomnia you will experience a great change in your sleep from the first few weeks.
These are undoubtedly the first sensations that a person feels when he or she begins the practice of asanas. But as you get into it, you can observe other deeper changes and others that we often do not realise. Yoga takes care of transforming you inside in a very subtle way, almost imperceptible at first.
Depending on the work you do in your sessions, the postures have an important effect on your body and mind. We can distinguish several groups of asanas with specific work for the spine and for the organs and, of course, for the nervous system. This is both simple and complex.
All of them have to be practised with a great alignment and always in a specific order to be ready for the postures that follow. It is essential that this is taken into account in order to get the most out of the benefits that the postures will bring you.
Main benefits of the different groups of postures:
- Standing postures: these are asanas that really have an invigorating power. They work the hamstrings, among other things, and this in turn will make it easier for your pelvis to move and thus improve blood circulation in this area and the functioning of all your organs.
- Forward bending postures: these are calming postures for the nervous system. If the first group of postures (standing) are performed correctly or at least there is a continuous practice of them, forward bending will be easier to perform. The correct position that the pelvis adopts in this type of posture will make the spine stretch perfectly and in this way you can access the sternum with enough space and an opening in the chest to improve breathing.
- Extension postures: practising this type of posture stimulates the nervous system, the best way to deal with stress. These postures are highly recommended for people who suffer from depression, as they open the chest deeply and unblock the tensions that may be present there. Thanks to them we can have an invigorating sensation and have a lot of energy when we practice them.
- Twisting postures: these are asanas that liberate and soothe the nervous system, thus calming the mind and giving the spine great flexibility and movement, unblocking the back muscles and therefore avoiding possible tensions. The organs are affected by its wonderful benefits, as they receive a great massage improving their functions.
- Inverted postures: these are incredibly beneficial for the whole body. There are many benefits when practised regularly. The endocrine organs are bathed in a large amount of clean blood that absorbs all the nutrients to improve the functioning of the whole body. By being in the inverted position and the brain being bathed with a large amount of blood, headaches are prevented and for those who suffer from migraines these postures are ideal! The resulting effect of the inverted position on the organs of the digestive system prevents constipation, so that your body is cleansed and freed of toxins.
- Passive postures: they are very important in the practice of yoga. They are asanas that balance you and help you recover from a hard day, illness or disease. For menstrual cramps or pregnancy they are ideal, as they help to soothe discomfort and help you prepare for childbirth; they are also highly recommended for postpartum recovery..
- Pranayama (breathing): you can't miss it when you do your practice. Pranayama is the most subtle part of yoga, the one that keeps you in touch with your soul and your body. Just as the asanas teach the correct position of the body to receive all its benefits, it also teaches you to prepare the Pranayama, which will make the body fit for the movement of inhalation and exhalation. In this way you keep your attention clearly fixed on your body and mind. When you practice pranayama the lungs get a rhythm in the movement you do and this will make a good circulation of the blood inside the lungs, kidneys, stomach and skin. Thanks to this practice the lungs remain clean and oxygenated avoiding any bacterial disease. Pranayama tones the nerves, protects the internal organs and rejuvenates the cells. It also tones the brain and heart muscles. When practised regularly it prevents disease. So I encourage you to supplement your asana practice with Pranayama at least once a week.
As you can see it is essential to have a certain "mastery" or knowledge of the postures so that they can improve your quality of life. Remember to always be in contact with an experienced teacher as the benefits are multiple but you have to know how to do the practice as there are also contraindications in them which I will talk about in the following posts.
Below I recommend some books where you can find more information about benefits, contraindications and Pranayama:
- Light on Yoga by B K S Iyengar
- Light on Pranayama by B K S Iyengar
- The keys to yoga by Danilo Hernandez
Access our online yoga courses where you can receive classes from Silvia Jaén: