Yoga asanas (‘asana’ literally means posture in which it is pleasurable to remain) have been developed steadily over thousands of years as an aid to good physical and mental health, well-being and self-realization. Many of the postures are named after animals which the yogis imitated in order to gain their strengths. Yoga postures have a number of unique features which set them apart from other forms of exercise:
- They stretch and relax nerves, muscles and joints, creating a pleasant feeling of relaxation, increasing flexibility and promoting the free flow of energy through the body.
- They nourish and tone specific and often neglected organs and glands by directing the flow of blood, lymph and mental concentration to that area.
- The hormones secreted by the endocrine glands control our physical, mental and emotional states. By balancing these hormonal secretions, yoga asanas promote optimal physical and emotional conditions.
- They enable the practitioner to divert the flow of energy to higher centers in the body, giving control over desires and subtlety of awareness.
- Through use of the breath they purify the blood and promote calmness, concentration and depth of perception.
- Through use of balance and motionlessness they promote mental steadiness and calm.
- Through strengthening and cleaning the organs of elimination they make the body free of toxins and the mind clear.
- Through use of concentration they promote mental stability and perception.