Yoga Poses (Asanas) by Category & Action

The foundation of modern yoga lies in the practice of asanas or yoga poses. These are the primary technique taught in yoga classes throughout the world. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t require intricate pretzel-like contortions or high levels of flexibility. In fact, yoga poses can range from simple to complex and can be practiced by yoga practitioners of all ages and abilities. If you are brand new to yoga, check out our guide to the basic yoga poses to get started.

What are yoga asanas?

Asana is defined as “posture or pose;” its literal meaning is “seat.” Originally, there was only one asana–a stable and comfortable pose for prolonged seated meditation. There are now hundreds of asanas, each with its unique benefits and challenges. They are typically performed on a yoga mat, held for 1-8 breaths, are taught in a sequence of linked positions, and are often accompanied by controlled breathing techniques. Asanas are often used as a form of exercise or a holistic approach to physical and mental health and well-being, but can also be used as a spiritual practice to achieve enlightenment or spiritual awakening.

Yoga Pose categories

While there is no definitive way to categorize yoga postures, there are four main physical orientations that can be helpful for researching and sequencing asanas. In general, these groups of yoga asanas will share similar energetic and physical effects.

Yoga instructors will teach a yoga session using several positions in one of these major categories to create an intelligent sequence that is safe, effective, and balanced. By incorporating positions from each orientation, they create a well-rounded sequence that targets different muscle groups and benefits the entire body. By becoming familiar with these primary groups of postures, both teachers and yoga students can deepen their understanding of how different postures work together harmoniously in a yoga class.

Seated Poses

Energetic Effect: Grounding & Balancing
Physical Effect: Improves flexibility in the hips, lower back, and hamstrings

Standing Poses

Energetic Effect: Uplifting & Opening
Physical Effect: Builds strength in leg muscles and improves stability, and balance in the lower body

Supine Poses

Energetic Effect: Nurturing & Integrating
Physical Effect: Improves flexibility in the hips, hamstrings, and lower back

Prone Poses

Energetic Effect: Warming & Calming
Physical Effect: Increases back & core strength, opens front of body

Types of postures

The above main categories of yoga poses can also be categorized into the yoga pose types below. You can also filter by these posture types on the above main pose category pages.

Backbending Poses

Energetic Effect: Energizing & Opening
Physical Effect: Strengthens back & core, opens chest

Balancing Poses

Energetic Effect: Invigorating & Focusing
Physical Effect: Strengthens arms & legs, boosts focus and concentration

Core Strength Poses

Energetic Effect: Stabilizing, Warming & Empowering
Physical Effect: Strengthens abs and back muscles

Forward Bending Poses

Energetic Effect: Calming & Introspective
Physical Effect: Stretches hamstrings & back muscles

Hip Opening Poses

Energetic Effect: Surrendering & Releasing
Physical Effect: Opens hips and stretches legs

Twisting Poses

Energetic Effect: Unwinding & Letting Go
Physical Effect: Stretches back muscles and massages abdominal organs

Side Bending Poses

Energetic Effect: Harmonizing & Clarifying
Physical Effect: Stretches the sides of torso and IT band

Shoulder Opening Poses

Energetic Effect: Unbinding & Releasing
Physical Effect: Opens the shoulder joint and stretches the upper body

Exploring the asanas

We have compiled a comprehensive library of asanas to help you explore and deepen your yoga practice. Each pose is accompanied by detailed instructions, including modifications and variations, to ensure that you can safely and effectively perform each asana. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced yogi, you can find asanas that suit your level of practice and help you to advance and improve. Learning the sanskrit name and pronunciation of each asana is also important, as it helps you connect with the ancient roots of yoga.

Our comprehensive asana library will help you refine, support, and build your yoga practice. You will learn the pose level, category, and Sanskrit name and pronunciation. You will also receive clear step-by-step instructions, benefits, contraindications, modifications, and vinyasa suggestions for each pose. A premium membership to YogaBasics will provide you access to additional yoga pose instructions.

Tips for practicing poses

  1. Begin where you are, and set expectations accordingly.
  2. Gather or purchase any accessories and yoga props you might need.
  3. Decide when, where, and how long you want to practice.
  4. Create a clean and comfortable spot for your yoga practice.
  5. Choose a yoga sequence or list of poses to practice.
  6. Read and understand the instructions for each pose before attempting
  7. If something is confusing or too difficult, seek advice from a yoga teacher.
  8. Know your physical limits and listen to your body.
  9. Breathe deeply and steadily throughout the poses, and focus on your breath to help you stay present and centered.
  10. Hold each pose for an appropriate amount of time and use modifications or props as needed to make the pose more accessible or challenging.
  11. Practice with patience and consistency, and don’t get discouraged if progress seems slow.
  12. Take breaks as needed to rest or stretch, and stay hydrated throughout your practice.
  13. End your practice with savasana, or relaxation pose, to allow your body and mind to fully integrate the benefits of your practice.
  14. As you progress, challenge yourself with more intermediate and advanced poses, but remember to always prioritize safety and proper alignment.
  15. Regularly assess your progress and adjust your practice as needed to continue challenging yourself and growing in your yoga practice.

How to use our yoga pose index

We have categorized our yoga poses into the main physical orientations (seated, standing, supine, and prone) to help you quickly find poses or discover new ones. Exploring these main categories will also be helpful with creating a yoga sequence as you will want to practice similar poses in your sequence. Our yoga pose index is further categorized into posture types based on the type and location of their primary movement.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced yogi, our asana library has something for everyone. From foundational poses like Downward-Facing Dog and Warrior I to more advanced postures like Crow and Wheel, our library offers a wide range of poses to challenge and inspire you.

Asana is just the beginning

Asana practice is just the beginning of your yoga journey. Practicing yoga poses can boost your physical vitality, calm your mind and balance body’s systems, but the subtle yoga practices of mudra, bandha, pranayama, and meditation will take you even further to attaining the benefits and rewards of hatha yoga.

Yoga Basics