What is a yoga asana? Asana is a Sanskrit word meaning a yoga position, pose, or posture. All four terms have the same meaning.

When you do Hatha yoga asanas, you join millions of people around the world in practicing the centuries-old tradition of yoga.

Correct Sequence for a Hatha Yoga Class

A typical Hatha yoga class consists of several series of asanas in the following sequence:

  1. Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation)
  2. Standing forward bends
  3. Standing balance asanas
  4. Seated forward bends
  5. Back bending asanas
  6. Inversions
  7. Twists

History of Hatha Yoga Asanas

Hatha yoga asanas come from a book written in the 15th century called the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It is the oldest known yoga book, and yogis consider this sacred text as yogic scripture.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika contains information on 8,400,000 Hatha yoga asanas. Wow, 8 million! It says a yogi must perform all 8 million asanas before being freed from being reborn into the endless cycle of reincarnation – a core belief of the Hindu religion.

Over the centuries, yogi’s simplified these 8 million Hatha yoga asanas down to a few hundred. The following are the poses you typically find in modern yoga classes.

Hatha Yoga Asana Basics

To perform a yoga asana correctly, simply apply the following guidance that every student and aspiring teacher should know:

  • To perform a yoga asana, move into the described position while applying the breathing protocol specific to the pose.
  • Yogis typically hold an asana between 30 seconds and 2 minutes, but this duration varies widely depending on ability and yoga type.
  • Look at the prescribed drishti point, which might be, for example, your finger tips or a point in front of or behind you.

How long you hold a given pose and the order of the poses are the principal differences among styles of yoga, including Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and Yin yoga. For example, in Yin yoga, holding poses for 2 minutes or more is common.

Hatha Yoga Asanas vs. Exercise

Modern yoga students commonly have the initial intention of taking Hatha yoga classes as exercise. Yoga is not traditionally considered exercise but can be used as such because both help build

  • strength
  • flexibility
  • endurance

Ancient yogi’s actually created Hatha yoga asanas as a path to increased awareness, deeper relaxation, and better concentration, with the ultimate goal of enhancing one’s ability to meditate. “Why is meditation so important to yogis?” Because yogis reach their ultimate goal of enlightenment by meditating.

Reference for Yoga: An Overview of Asanas Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. S.l.: Satyananda Yoga-Zentrum, 2010.

Photo credit: Ramnath Baht