History of Yoga Asanas
Though it was Maharishi Patanjali, who for the first time mentions yoga asanas, the history of these postural patterns goes back even earlier than the days of Patanjali. There are references in the Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and the earlier Upanishads about these practices. Besides, Lord Shiva and the Buddha are often portrayed sitting in the Padmasana; thus, indicating that yoga asanas were practised in ancient India as well.
Types of Yoga Asanas
Yoga asanas can be classified by considering their features and effects, into three major groups, and one minor group that contains only two asanas. Of the major three, the classification into cultural asanas and meditative asanas is a contemporary innovation.
Indian Texts and Yoga Asanas
Indian texts have frequently referred to Yoga in general and Yoga asanas in particular in several contexts. Several special Indian texts have been written and compiled with the sole purpose of educating practitioners about the practice of Yoga asanas.
Yoga asanas were first recorded in the Atharva Veda (1500 BCE), which uses the term asana in a specifically Yogic context. Several Yogis spanning many generations scrutinized their relative merits by analytical comparisons and thus formulated a complete course of posture training. A few early postures, mostly meditative, in turn passed through a series of modifications before the Yogic system of physical education was finally perfected by the early Hatha Yogis.
Benefits of Yoga Asanas
Yoga Asanas are the practices to culture body and mind for further higher practices of yoga like pranayama, pratyahara, dhyana and so on. Asanas make body and mind healthy and these are trained in such a way that a necessary equilibrium is established in overall functions. Yoga Asanas motivate the physical, mental and spiritual growth of a person. It not only enhances the physical beauty, but also the inner beauty of a person. It allows a person to perfectly balance the physical, mental and emotional stress. They tackle the root cause of the imbalance in other functions of the body. Thus, yoga asanas mould the body and mind and make them strong and healthy.
Practice of Yoga Asanas
Daily practice of yoga increases a person's tranquillity, sensitivity, intuition and awareness. Yoga has to be done with breath and with awareness. Yoga asanas are a major part of yoga practice and prepare the practitioner for the higher reaches of yoga. They have themselves been refined and perfected over the years through the continued efforts of yogic saints and theorists.