The third limb of the 8 limbs of yoga is Asana. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the only instruction Patanjali states for practicing asana is “Sthira Sukham Asanam” which translates to the posture should be steady, stable and comfortable. Yoga is defined as the control of the modifications of the mind field so that self-realisation can occur. In order to practice the meditation that allows this, the posture must be steady and comfortable.
There are several guidelines to practicing asanas such as practicing on an empty stomach and controlling the breath.
Surya Namaskar is a sequence of asanas commonly practiced in many forms of yoga and can be translated to Sun Salutation or Salutations to the Sun. The origin can be found in India where its Hindu population worships Surya, the Hindu solar deity. It is often practiced as the beginning sequence within a longer yoga sequence. Like most asanas, Surya Namaskar is recommended to be practiced on an empty stomach. Shavasana is done at the end of practice for rest and Pranayama is co-ordinated with the asanas.
There are many benefits to practicing asanas. Physically, it can improve flexibility, strength, balance and posture. Stress and anxiety can be reduced. Physical health will be improved and it can also help in losing weight. It also has therapeutic effects on some medical conditions such as hypertension, insomnia, sciatica and diabetes.