Yoga Poses and Their Health Benefits

A selection of some common asana techniques and their health benefits
Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

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Benefits:
  • Develops strength and endurance of the quadriceps, hamstrings and spine
  • Assists in strengthening the arches of the foot
  • Promotes stability for the pelvic girdle and scapula
  • Stimulates internal organs such as abdominals, diaphragm and heart
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from headache, insomnia, low blood pressure

Intense Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

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Benefits:
  • Increases flexibility in the hamstrings, gluteals and erector spinae
  • Promotes pelvic stability and enhances ability to fold the hips
  • Begins to adapt the body for inversion
  • Increases blood flow to the brian
  • Assists in relieving stress
  • Improves digestion and circulation
  • Therapeutic for asthma, high blood pressure, infertility, osteoporosis and sinusitis
Precautions:
  • Take caution if you have a back injury. Modify the pose by bending the knees
Tree Pose (Vrksasana)

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Benefits:
  • Increases balance and proprioception
  • Increases muscular control and precision in a standing position
  • Develops strength and stability in the ankles
  • Strengthens the quadriceps and gluteals
  • Assists in mobilising and opening of the hips
  • Strengthens the muscles around the hips and pelvis
  • Can help improve concentration
  • Helps to relieve some cases of sciatica
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from migraine, insomnia, low blood pressure
  • If suffering from high blood pressure do not raise arms above head
Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

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Benefits:
  • Strengthens the muscles around the feet, legs, ankles and torso
  • Increases flexibility in the hamstrings and pectorals
  • Stabilises the scapula and pelvic girdle
  • Assists in mobilising and opening of the hips
  • Strengthens back, neck and abdominals
  • Stimulates abdominal organs, aiding in digestion
  • Therapeutic for stress, anxiety, infertility, flat feet, neck pain, osteoporosis, sciatica and symptoms of menopause
  • Can help relieve backache, especially during pregnancy
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from migraine, diarrhea, low or high blood pressure, or neck and back injuries
  • Avoid if suffering from low blood pressure, migraine, diarrhea, headache, insomnia
Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana)

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Benefits:
  • Strengthens the muscles around the feet, legs, ankles and torso
  • Increases flexibility in the hamstrings and pectorals
  • Stabilises the scapula and pelvic girdle
  • Assists in mobilising and opening of the hips
  • Stimulates abdominal organs
  • Helps relieve constipation, low backache, menstrual discomfort as well as pains caused by osteoporosis and sciatica
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from headache, insomnia, high or low blood pressure
Warrior Pose 1 (Virabhadrasana 1)

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Benefits:
  • Increases flexibility in the hip flexors and quadriceps
  • Stabilises the scapula and pelvic girdle
  • Strengthens the erector spinae and deltoids
  • Assists opening of the chest
  • Therapeutic for sciatica
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from high blood pressure; heart problems
  • If suffering from shoulder problems keep arms raised parallel (or slightly wider than parallel) to each other
  • If suffering from neck problems keep head in a neutral position and do not look up at the hands
Warrior Pose 2 (Virabhadrasana 2)

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Benefits:
  • Strengthens the feet, ankles and legs muscles
  • Increases flexibility in the quadriceps and adductors
  • Stabilises the scapula, ankles and pelvis
  • Assists in opening of the chest
  • Stimulates abdominal organs
  • Helps to relieve backaches, especially through second trimester of pregnancy
  • Therapeutic for carpal tunnel syndrome, flat feet, infertility, osteoporosis and sciatica
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from diarrhea, high blood pressure
  • If suffering from neck problems don’t turn head to look over the front hand; continue to look straight ahead with both sides of the neck lengthened evenly
Warrior Pose 3 (Virabhadrasana 3)

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Benefits:
  • Strengthens the muscles of the feet, ankles, legs and core
  • Increases flexibility in the hamstrings of the supporting leg
  • Strengthens the hamstring of the extended leg
  • Increases both strength and flexibility of the gluteals
  • Stabilises the pelvic girdle and scapula
  • Improves balance and proprioception
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from high blood pressure
Eagle Pose (Garudasana)

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Benefits:
  • Increases flexibility in the upper back
  • Releases tightness from the shoulders
  • Strengthens the muscle of the feet, ankles, legs and core
  • Improves balance and proprioception
  • Therapeutic for asthma, low backache, sciatica
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from knee injury
The Lord of the Dance Pose (Natarajasana)

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Benefits:
  • Strengthens the muscles of the legs and gluteals
  • Increases stability in the ankles and knees
  • Increase flexibility in the hip flexors, shoulders and chest
  • Improves balance and proprioception
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from low blood pressure
Low Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana)

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Benefits:
  • Opens and increases flexibility in groin (psoas) and hips
  • Increases flexibility in the quadriceps
  • Strengthens abductors, adductors gluteals and shoulders
  • Improves scapular stability
  • Improves balance and proprioception
  • Therapeutic for sciatica
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from heart problems

 

Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

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Benefits:
  • Strengthens the whole of the spine, hamstrings, calves and gluteals
  • Increases flexibility in the quadriceps, psoas, chest and abdominals
  • Stimulates the organs of the abdomen and neck
  • Helps relieve constipation
  • Improves circulation to the brain; can help reduce fatigue and anxiety
  • Helps to relieve menstrual discomfort in women
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from migraine, insomnia, high blood pressure, or neck and back injuries
Childs Pose (Balasana)

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Benefits:
  • Resting position
  • Stress relieving
  • Can help to relieve back and neck pain when done with head and torso supported
  • Gentle stretch of hips, thighs and ankles
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from diarrhea, knee injury
  • Avoid during pregnancy
Plank Pose (Utthita Chaturanga Dandasana)

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Benefits:
  • Strengthens the arms and wrists
  • Increase core strength
  • Stabilises and realigns shoulder girdle
  • Releases tension from shoulder blades
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome
Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

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Benefits:
  • Increases flexibility in the calves, hamstrings, shoulders and erector spinae
  • Strengthens the muscles of the arms and upper back
  • Increases blood flow to the brain
  • Helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Energizes the body
  • Helps relieve symptoms of menopause
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Improves digestion
  • Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain and fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome; diarrhea
  • During pregnancy – do not do this pose late-term
Upward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) 

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Benefits:
  • Strengthens the arms, shoulders and whole of the spine
  • Opens and increases flexibility in the chest, abdominals and hip flexors
  • Helps improve overall posture of the body
  • Can help relieve depression
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from back injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, headache
  • Avoid during pregnancy
Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

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Benefits:
  • Strengthens the upper and lower back, arms and legs
  • Increases flexibility in the chest, shoulders and abdominals
  • Massages and tones abdominal organs and improves digestion
  • Helps relieve constipation, flatulence, indigestion and fatigue
  • Prepares body for deeper back bends
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from headache, serious back injury
  • People with neck injury should keep their head in a neutral position by looking down at the floor
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)


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Benefits:
  • Strengthens the muscles in the spine, hamstrings, calves, gluteals and triceps
  • Increases mobility in the spine
  • Opens and increases flexibility in the shoulders, chest and abdominal area
  • Stimulates the digestive organs
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Reduces fatigue and stress
Precautions:
  • Avoid if pregnant, have fractured ribs or wrists, or recently underwent abdominal surgeries, such as for hernia
  • Avoid if suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

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Benefits:
  • Strengthens the whole of the spine, hamstrings, calves and gluteals
  • Increases flexibility and mobility in the spine
  • Improves posture
  • Increases flexibility in the quadriceps, psoas, chest and abdominals
  • Stimulates the organs of the abdomen and neck
  • Assists in relieving anxiety and fatigue
  • Therapeutic for constipation, respiratory ailments, mild backache, menstrual discomfort
PRECAUTIONS:
  • Avoid if suffering from high or low blood pressure, migraine, or insomnia
  • Avoid in case of serious lower-back or neck injury
Boat Pose (Navasana)

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Benefits:
  • Increases strength of the abdomen, hip flexors and spine
  • Tones the leg and arm muscles
  • Improves digestion
  • Can assist in stress relief
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from low blood pressure, severe headache, migraine, asthma or heart problems
  • Avoid in case of a history of chronic diseases or spinal disorders in the recent past
  • Avoid during pregnancy and the first two days of the menstrual cycle
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

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Benefits:
  • Strengthens the whole of the spine, hamstrings, calves and gluteals
  • Increases mobility of neck and spine
  • Increases flexibility in the quadriceps, psoas, chest and abdominals
  • Improves digestion
  • Can help relieve stress, anxiety and depression
  • Helpful in asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and sinusitis
  • Prepares for deeper back bends
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from neck or back injuries
Wheel Pose (Chakrasana)

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Benefits:
  • Increases flexibility in the chest, abdominals, quadriceps, hip flexors and shoulders
  • Increases strength in the arms, wrists, legs, buttocks and the spine
  • Stimulates the thyroid and pituitary gland
  • Energizes the body
  • Therapeutic for asthma, back pain, infertility and osteoporosis
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from back injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, diarrhea, headache, heart problems, high or low blood pressure
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)

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Benefits:
  • Increase flexibility in the hip flexors, abdominals, front of the neck and intercostal muscles
  • Strengthens the muscles of the upper back and posterior neck region
  • Provides relief from respiratory disorders by encouraging deep breathing
  • Tones the parathyroid, pituitary and pineal glands
  • Helps to regulate emotions and stress
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from migraine, insomnia, low or high blood pressure, or neck and back injuries
Plough Pose (Halasana)

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Benefits:
  • Increases strength and stimulates abdominals
  • Increases flexibility in the shoulders, hamstrings and spine
  • Stimulates the thyroid gland
  • Reduces stress and fatigue
  • Therapeutic for backache, headache, infertility, insomnia, sinusitis
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from diarrhea, neck injury, asthma, high blood pressure
  • Avoid during menstruation or pregnancy
Lying down Abdominal Twist (Jathara Parivritti)

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Benefits:
  • Increases flexibility and mobility of spine
  • Increases flexibility and strength in the hip abductors
  • Strengthens the abdominals
  • Releases toxins from the body
  • Brings relaxation to body and mind
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from spinal injuries
Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)

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Benefits:
  • Increases strength in the legs and abdominals
  • Increases flexibility in the shoulders and neck
  • Reverses the effects of gravity on the body
  • Stimulates the thyroid gland
  • Relieves pressure on the valves in the veins
  • Nourishing brain with more blood
  • Brings relief from constipation and indigestion
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from neck injuries, high blood pressure, cervical spondylosis, arteriosclerosis, kidney problems
  • Avoid during menstruation
Supported Head Stand (Sirasana)

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Benefits:
  • Increase strength in the arms, legs, shoulders, abdominals and spine
  • Reverses effect of gravity on the body
  • Stimulates the pineal and pituitary gland
  • Helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Improves digestion
  • Tones the abdominal organs
  • Helps relieve symptoms of menopause
  • Relieves pressure on the valves in the veins
  • Therapeutic for asthma, infertility, insomnia and sinusitis
Precautions:
  • Avoid if suffering from back or neck injury, headache, heart condition, high or low blood pressure
  • Avoid during pregnancy or menstruation
  • Avoid if inexperienced in practising this pose and without the supervision of experienced yoga teacher
Corpse Pose (Shavasana)

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Benefits:
  • Allowing restoration of body after asana practice
  • Aids relaxation
  • Acts as a bridge to meditation
  • Helps reduce blood pressure, headache, fatigue, anxiety and insomnia
Precautions:
  • If suffering from back injury or discomfort do this pose with your knees bent and your feet on the floor, hip-distance apart
  • If pregnant raise your head and chest on a bolster

 

 

 

 

References:

1. Section 4 Asana Techniques – Dimploma in Teaching Yoga Level 3 Student Manual – HFE, Health & Fitness Education
2.http://www.artofliving.org/yoga
3. http://www.yogajournal.com

Image credits:

1. https://yogainternational.com
2.http://rachel-and-yoga.blogspot.co.uk/

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