Yoga postures are also known as the asanas. Literal translation is the position of the body in order to discover unity of the body in mind with the supreme self (Self). These positions of the body can be maintained for some time without any strain. Their primary goal is to improve the keep up of your well-being and help you increase vitality and flexibility of your body. Another meaning of the word asana is the place where a yoga practitioner sits.
Physical side of yoga includes 84 asanas and 84 dynamic variations of these exercises. There are also several body locks (known as bandhas). Depending on a school and the yoga teacher there are even more asanas and the possible variations of the postures. Yoga practice is always followed with proper breathing and these breathing techniques are known as Pranayama techniques (since the pranayama is the control of breathing). Yoga also teaches about neuromuscular control. Mudra (or mudras) is the placement of the hand(s) which can affect the brain and the muscles, bringing the relief from some tension or pain. There are also enhanced neuromuscular controls (mahamudras) and some purificatory techniques, known as Shatkarmas.
Yoga postures are divided into three different categories: meditative, relaxation and cultural positions.
Cultural postures usually got the name from some animals or life forms. By doing so, they suggest that there are certain qualities and characteristics of these birds, mammals or other animals which we want to follow.
These positions are always practices with the straight spine. The rest of the body should stay calm and without nervousness, and the mind is supposed to stay committed.
Relaxation should rest the entire body and mind, from any kind of physical uneasiness. These postures are developed to provide complete relaxation.
There is another division of yoga asanas, to the method they are practiced. A person can stand, sit, lay, kneel or do some abdominal, hand and head asanas.
Standing asanas are practiced in the standing position. The common asanas are the tree (Vrukshasana), palm tree (Tadasana) or eagle pose (also known as Garudasana).
Sitting asanas include meditative positions, such as easy pose (Sukhasana) or the lotus pose (Padmasana).
Laying positions (sometimes also called supine asanas) are the fish (Matsyasana), the plough (Halasana) or the corpse position (Shavasana).
Kneeling asanas are the thunderbolt position (Vajrasana) or the camel pose (Ushtrasana).
Abdominal or prone asanas include the flexion of the spine, and these are positions like the cobra (Bhujangasana), the bow (Dhanurasana) or the locust (Shalabhasana).
Hand asanas are those where the body relies mostly to the hands. Such poses are: swan (Hamsasana) and peacock pose (Mayurasana).
Head asanas are performed on the head, and the well known head posture is the head stand (Sheersasana).