Not necessarily my favourites, but a sampling of asanas that are significant and/or interesting to me and why.
Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I “ veer-ah-bah-DRAHS-unnuh”) Okay, this one is a favourite. I love it because it as a pose that brings a deep feeling of outer power and inner strength. When I am having one of those practices (and it happens to all of us!) where I’m “just not feeling it”, getting into Warrior 1 and holding for several breaths usually does the trick. There are three Warrior poses: 1 represents the warrior rising from the ground, 2 represents the warrior sighting their enemy, and 3 represents warrior heading into battle. In teaching, I like that this pose has a very solid foundation, and with a bit of guidance is accessible even by novice students so they can experience the strong feeling of potency that can come from a pose. [download asana tip sheet: Warrior 1]
Triangle (Trikonasana “trik-cone-AHS-unnuh”) I have a love-hate relationship with Triangle. It’s just one of those poses my body doesn’t easily let me do… I think it’s the combo of waist fold and torso rotation. In my yoga teacher training program, it became a bit of a running joke and whenever Triangle came up in a practice teach they would all grin at me. But yoga teaches us many things in many ways, and I keep doing this pose, tweaking and learning about how my body moves. Eventually I found a better way to enter it, which was from Extended Side Angle pose: I would lower my upper arm and tuck it behind my back, straighten my front leg and move the supporting block near my shin, all the while retaining the twist, and then untuck my upper arm raising it to form a straight line with the lower supporting arm to end up in a good approximation of Triangle that both honoured the pose and respected my body. [download asana tip sheet: Triangle]
Side Plank (Vasisthasana “vah-sish-TAHS-unnuh”) This pose looks like it requires a lot of strength, and it does need some degree of arm muscle, but more than anything it is about engaging your body core to be stable, squeezing your legs together, and having your shoulders stacked above each other. The classic pose is to reach straight up, or it can also be a side bend variation (pictured) for a satisfying stretch. Said to connect earth with sky, Side Plank is associated with the Solar Plexus chakra, which is our seat of Identity, Ego, Inner Strength and Self-Control. To hold Side Plank for several breaths brings a feeling of confidence, and is more a matter of technique and mindset than raw strength. [download asana tip sheet: Side Plank]
Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana “sar-van-GAHS-unnuh”) I wanted to include an inversion is this list, and this pose has several variations to lessen the difficulty/intensity but all of them still get you into an inverted position. The supported shoulderstand variation (not shown) has the hands placed on back to prop help prop up the torso. Shoulderstand pose is symbolic of new perspective, and that it is for both the physical body and the mind. This is one of those poses which require a bit of work and tactics to get into position, and then once you finally get into your expression of Shoulderstand, the actual challenge it offers you is to now settle and just “be” for a few breaths. [download asana tip sheet: Shoulderstand]
Upward-facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana “OORD-vah MOO-kah shvon-AHS-unnuh”) This pose requires some caution… in fact it can sometimes be more risky to people with highly flexible spines than stiff-backed folks like me… but it is a lovely and graceful pose in both how it looks and how it feels. Said to open the body to compassion, love, gratitude, Upward-facing dog is a beautiful pose inside and out. And being cautious about how we enter and maintain the pose is an excellent exercise in mindfulness and tuning in to our body sensation on both a macro and micro level. [download asana tip sheet: Upward-facing Dog]
Disclaimer: nothing on this page, including the documents it links to, is intended as yoga instruction.