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Whether you use Hatha yoga to relieve stress, Kundalini yoga to strengthen the body and mind, or Bikram yoga to lose weight, there's no denying that yoga is a total-body workout that results in a lithe, lean and strong body. Each type of yoga sequence is composed of yoga poses, or asanas, which vary in complexity. Achieving a basic understanding of yoga practice requires an understanding of the five categories of yoga pose.
While some seated poses are extremely basic and simple, others require significantly more effort. And while it might seem like sitting on your behind is a bit lazy, these poses are actually meant to exercise several parts of the body, including the back, abdomen, core, legs and arms. The simplicity of seated poses such as Easy, Bound Angle, Lotus and Staff allow you to quietly sit and meditate, while providing an easy workout for your core muscles. Twisting seated poses, such as Bharadvaja's Twist and Marichi's pose, provide a gentle stretch for the back and hips. A more advanced seated pose such as Full Boat requires you to balance your body weight on your sitting bones; it's an effective strengthening exercise for your arms, legs, core muscles and spine.
The majority of traditional yoga poses are categorized as standing poses. But while they all fall into the same category, they are quite different from one another. Some poses -- such as Mountain -- require simply standing straight with your feet together, while other poses -- such as Big Toe -- require bending forward at the waist and grasping onto your big toes. And Downward-Facing Dog is even more different, requiring you to bend at the waist, extending your legs and arms and balancing your body weight evenly between your feet and hands. Other standing poses include Half Moon, Lord of the Dance and the Warrior poses.
Many yoga enthusiasts work diligently toward successfully performing arm balance poses, which tend to be quite challenging. For these poses, the core and arm muscles do a majority of the work. The simpler poses -- such as Plank, Dolphin Plank and Four-Limbed Staff -- let you keep your feet on the ground. The more advanced poses require you to balance your body weight on just your hands and arms. These advanced poses include Eight-Angle, Firefly, Peacock and Side Crane.
The inverted yoga poses tend to be the most difficult and are primarily found in intermediate and advanced yoga sequences. They involve not only inverting your body, but also maintaining your balance during the pose. Plow and Supported Shoulderstand use the head, shoulders and arms to provide balance, while Handstand uses just the hands. In Feathered Peacock you balance on the forearms while lifting the head off the ground.
Restorative yoga poses -- sometimes called meditative poses -- are very simple to perform, yet they play a very important role in a yoga sequence. They allow the body and mind to rest, which allows for easy blood flow to all areas of the body. Since the body is not moving, your mind can focus on a peaceful and relaxing thought or image. These poses are often performed at the end of a yoga sequence. They should also be used if you begin to feel dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous during the practice. Corpse pose involves lying flat on your back, while Legs-Up-the-Wall pose requires you to lie on the floor with your legs extended straight up a wall. Child's pose involves sitting on the floor with your knees bent and butt on your heels. Once in this position, bend forward at the waist and bring your forehead to the floor in front of your knees.