• Bren

What Are The Types of Poses In Yoga?

There are 6 types of poses in yoga asana. These 6 types are: Forward Bend, Back Bend, Side Bend, Twist, Balance, and Inversion.

Many poses fit into more than one category, and some don't fit into any!

This is important to know if you are starting to put sequences and classes together, because incorporating all six types in an asana session will ensure optimum stimulation of endocrine glands, nervous system, musculo-skeletal system and respiratory system.

If you've been wondering how your yoga teacher can make you feel so deeply balanced, this may be how.

Yes, it is best to have some of each of these types in a single Hatha Yoga class.

Yes, it is still yoga if not all 6 are included. For example, in Yin Yoga, my other specialty, Balance and Inversion are rarely included, focusing instead on the Four Directions of Spinal Mobility.

And of course depending on the students present for class, certain types of poses may be inappropriate. Always check in with your students regarding health concerns, physical limitations and doctors orders.

Let's dive in to each type individually.

Forward Bends

This is any position with flexion of the hips. Technically, sitting down is a forward bend!

Forward bends are calming and good for letting go. Include forward bends in your evening stretches. They can sooth the nervous system, calm the mind, improve circulation and lymphatic flow, and stimulate internal abdominal organs like liver and kidneys.

Some forward bend poses are stated in the name, like Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold), Prasarita Padottanasana (Standing Wide Leg Forward Fold) and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold.)

A couple other examples are Balasana (Child's Pose), Janu Sirsasana (Head to Knee Pose), and Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose).

Bonus: Downward Dog and Boat Pose are also Forward Bends!


Ardha Uttanasana

Utthita Balasana

Back Bends

Back bends are positions where we extend the spine. They are energizing, so don't do a back-bending practice right before bed. Back Bends also improve lung capacity and increase spinal flexibility.

Some examples of back bending postures are Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute), Raja Kapotanasana (King Pigeon), Anjaneasana (Lunge) and of course Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose).

Urdhva Hastasana

Raja Kapotanasana Variation


Side Bends - my favourite?!

Side bending postures have us move the spine laterally. Side Bends can tone the spinal nerves, stimulate the mind and build focus and willpower. Side Bending postures often strengthen the core muscles as well.

A couple side bends are Nitambasana (Fountain Stretch), Parighasana (Gate Pose), and Parsva Sukhasana (Seated Side Bend).

Nitambasana variation


Parsva Sukhasana


Twisting the spine brings numerous health benefits. Twists are known to improve digestion, stimulate the lymphatic system and abdominal organs, and are balancing and calming.

Reclined twists are often used at the end of a class to bring equilibrium to the body before Savasana.

There are twisting variations of many postures, a couple examples being Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose), Parivritta Anjaneasana (Lunge Twist), and Parivritta Balasana (Child's Pose Twist or Eye of the Needle Pose).

Ardha Matsyendrasana

Parivritta Anjaneasana variation

Parivritta Balasana

Balance - ooh my other favourite!

Balance postures are almost any standing posture, even Tadasana (Mountain Pose) is a balance. Some seated poses as well, like Navasana (Boat Pose) are balances.

Balance poses develop mental focus and stamina, build core strength, stability, and coordination. They are also said to connect left and right hemispheres of the brain.

Some balance postures are Vrksasana (Tree Pose), Garudasana (Eagle Pose), and Eka Pada Utkatasana (One-Legged Chair Pose).

Vrksasana Variation

Navasana variation

Eka Pada Utkatasana


Inverted yoga postures have a long list of health benefits, and are generally thought of as positions in which the head is below the heart.

Benefits of inversions include increased circulation, increased lymphatic flow (and stronger immune system), stimulate pineal and pituitary glands, improve memory, and change perspective.

Examples include Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose), Sarvangasana (Shouldterstand), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog), and Uttanasana and its variations (like Ragdoll Forward Fold.)

Setu Bandhasana

Ardha Sarvangasana

Prasarita Padottanasana

Knowing the types of yoga poses can help to put together your own sequence, and to deepen your awareness of what's going on during an asana class.

Have you noticed any of these benefits in your own practice? What would you like to incorporate more of now that you know? Comment below or reach out to me on Instagram @practicewithbren

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