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Asanas in varied contexts. Left to right, top to bottom: Eka Pada Chakrasana; Ardha Matsyendrasana; Padmasana; Navasana; Pincha Mayurasana; Dhanurasana; Natarajasana; Vrkshasana

An asana is a body posture, originally sitting for meditation,[1] and later in hatha yoga and modern yoga, including reclining, standing, inverted, twisting, or balancing as well as seated poses. The 5th century BC Yoga Sutras of Patanjali define "asana" as "to be seated in a position that is steady but relaxed".[1] Patanjali mentions the ability to sit for extended periods as one of the eight limbs of his system.[2]

The 10th or 11th century Goraksha Sataka and the 15th century Hatha Yoga Pradipika assert that there are 84 asanas; the 17th century Hatha Ratnavali provides a list of 84 asanas, describing some of them. In the 20th century, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya taught a new system of asanas, incorporating systems of exercises as well as traditional hatha yoga, to influential Indian yoga teachers including Pattabhi Jois, founder of Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, and B.K.S. Iyengar, founder of Iyengar yoga. Together they described hundreds more asanas, revived the popularity of yoga, and brought it to the Western world. Many more asanas have been devised since Iyengar's 1966 Light on Yoga which described some 200 asanas; hundreds more were illustrated by Dharma Mittra.

Asanas have been claimed to have beneficial effects in terms of flexibility, strength, and balance; to reduce stress and conditions related to it; and to have specific benefits for some diseases such as asthma[3][4] and diabetes.[5]

Contents

EtymologyEdit

Asana is derived from Sanskrit: आसन āsana "sitting down" (from आस ās "to sit down"), a sitting posture, a seat.[6][7] The word was first used in English to mean a yoga posture in 1834.[8]

ContextEdit

 
A page from Patanjali's Yoga Sutra (4th–2nd century BC), which placed the practice of asanas as one of the eight limbs of classical yoga

Yoga originated in India. In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali describes asana practice as the third of the eight limbs (Sanskrit अष्टांग, ashtanga, from asht, eight, and anga, limb) of classical, or raja yoga.[9] The eight limbs are, in order, the yamas (codes of social conduct), niyamas (self-observances), asanas (postures), pranayama (breath work), pratyahara (sense withdrawal or non-attachment), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (realization of the true Self or Atman, and unity with Brahman, ultimate reality).[10] Asanas are the physical movements of yoga practice and, in combination with the breathing exercises of pranayama constitute hatha yoga.[11][12] Patanjali describes asanas as a "steady and comfortable posture",[13] referring to the seated postures used for pranayama and for meditation. He further states that meditation is the path to samādhi, transpersonal self-realization.[14][15]

HistoryEdit

AncientEdit

 
Mould of Pashupati seal from the Indus Valley Civilization, c. 2500 BC, its central figure in a pose resembling Mulabandhasana. Paśupati, "Lord of beasts", is a name of the later Hindu god Śiva.

The central figure in the Pashupati seal from the Indus Valley Civilization of c. 2500 BC appears to be sitting in Mulabandhasana, a pose said to confer enlightenment, and hence identified as a prototype of the god Śiva. If correct, this would be easily the oldest record of an asana. However, with no proof anywhere of an Indus Valley origin for Śiva, there is no evidence that a yoga pose is depicted in the seal.[16][17]

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (4th–2nd century BC) do not mention a single asana by name, merely specifying the characteristics of a good asana.[18]

MedievalEdit

 
The two seated asanas mentioned in the Goraksha Sataka, Siddhasana and Padmasana, are used for meditation and for pranayama.

The 10th-11th century Vimānārcanākalpa is the first manuscript to describe a non-seated asana, in the form of Mayurasana (peacock), a balancing pose. Such poses appear, according to the scholar James Mallinson, to have been created outside Shaivism, the home of the Nath yoga tradition, and to have been associated with asceticism.[19][20]

The Goraksha Sataka (10–11th century), or Goraksha Paddhathi, an early hatha yogic text, describes the origin of the 84 classic asanas said to have been revealed by the Hindu deity Lord Shiva.[21] Observing that there are as many postures as there are beings and asserting that there are 84 lakh[a] or 8,400,000[22] species in all, the text states that Lord Shiva fashioned an asana for each lakh, thus giving 84 in all, although it mentions and describes only two in detail: Siddhasana and Padmasana.[21] The number 84 is symbolic rather than literal, indicating completeness and sacredness.[b][23]

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (15th century) specifies that of these 84, the first four are important, namely the seated poses Siddhasana, Padmasana, Bhadrasana and Simhasana.[24]

By the 17th century, asanas became an important component of Haṭha yoga practice, and more non-seated poses appear.[25] The Hatha Ratnavali by Srinivasa (17th century)[26][27] is one of the few texts to attempt an actual listing of 84 asanas,[c] although 4 out of its list cannot be translated from the Sanskrit, and at least 11[d] are merely mentioned without any description, their appearance known from other texts.[27]

The Gheranda Samhita (late 17th century) again asserts that Shiva taught 84 lakh of asanas, out of which 84 are preeminent, and "32 are useful in the world of mortals."[e][28] The yoga teacher and scholar Mark Singleton notes from study of the primary texts that "asana was rarely, if ever, the primary feature of the significant yoga traditions in India."[29] The scholar Norman Sjoman comments that a continuous tradition running all the way back to the medieval yoga texts cannot be traced, either in the practice of asanas or in a history of scholarship.[30]

ModernEdit

 
Man standing in a pose close to Durvasasana, in Thomas Dwight's "Anatomy of a Contortionist", Scribner's, 1889

From the 1850s onwards, there developed in India a culture of physical exercise to counter the colonial stereotype of supposed "degeneracy" of Indians compared to the British,[31][32] a belief reinforced by then-current ideas of Lamarckism and eugenics.[33][34] This culture was taken up from the 1880s to the early 20th century by Indian nationalists such as Tiruka, who taught exercises and unarmed combat techniques under the guise of yoga.[35][36] Meanwhile, proponents of Indian physical culture like K. V. Iyer consciously combined "hata yoga" (sic) with bodybuilding in his Bangalore gymnasium.[37][38]

Singleton notes that poses much like Durvasasana, Ganda Bherundasana and Hanumanasana were found in Thomas Dwight's 1889 article "Anatomy of a Contortionist",[39][29][40] while poses close to Warrior Pose, Downward Dog, Utthita Padangusthasana, Supta Virasana and others were described in Niels Bukh's 1924 Danish text Grundgymnastik eller primitiv gymnastik[41] (known in English as Primary Gymnastics).[29] These in turn were derived from a 19th century Scandinavian tradition of gymnastics dating back to Pehr Ling, and "found their way to India" by the early 20th century.[29][42]

In 1924, Swami Kuvalayananda founded the Kaivalyadhama Health and Yoga Research Center in Maharashtra.[43] He combined asanas with Indian systems of exercise and modern European gymnastics, having according to the scholar Joseph Alter a "profound" effect on the evolution of yoga.[44]

In 1925, Paramahansa Yogananda, having moved from India to America, set up the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles, and taught yoga, including asanas, breathing, chanting and meditation, to tens of thousands of Americans, as described in his 1946 Autobiography of a Yogi.[45]

Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888–1989) studied under Kuvalayananda in the 1930s, creating "a marriage of hatha yoga, wrestling exercises, and modern Western gymnastic movement, and unlike anything seen before in the yoga tradition."[29] Sjoman argues that Krishnamacharya drew on the Vyayama Dipika[46] gymnastic exercise manual to create the Mysore Palace system of yoga.[47] Krishnamachara, known as the father of modern yoga, had among his pupils men who became influential yoga teachers themselves: the Russian Eugenie V. Peterson, known as Indra Devi; Pattabhi Jois, who founded Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in 1948; B.K.S. Iyengar, his brother-in-law, who founded Iyengar Yoga; T.K.V. Desikachar, his son, who continued his Viniyoga tradition; Srivatsa Ramaswami; and A. G. Mohan, co-founder of Svastha Yoga & Ayurveda.[48][49] Together they revived the popularity of yoga and brought it to the Western world.[50][51]

In 1959, Vishnudevananda Saraswati published a compilation of sixty-six basic postures and 136 variations of those postures.[52]

In 1966, Iyengar published Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika, illustrated with some 600 photographs of Iyengar demonstrating around 200 asanas; it systematised the physical practice of asanas. It became a bestseller, selling three million copies, and was translated into some 17 languages.[53]

In 1984, Dharma Mittra compiled a list of about 1,300 asanas and their variations, derived from ancient and modern sources; the Dharma Yoga website suggests that he created some 300 of these.[54][55][56]

Origins of the asanasEdit

 
Headstand (Kapala Āsana) from 1830 manuscript of Joga Pradīpikā

The asanas have been created at different times, a few being ancient.[57][58][59] Some that appear traditional, such as Virabhadrasana I (Warrior Pose I), are relatively recent: that pose was probably devised by Krishnamacharya around 1940, and it was popularised by his pupil, Iyengar.[60] A pose that is certainly younger than that is Parivritta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose): it was not in the first edition of Pattabhi Jois's Yoga Mala in 1962.[61] Viparita Virabhadrasana (Reversed Warrior Pose) is still more recent, and may have been created since 2000.[61] Several poses that are now commonly practised, such as Dog Pose and standing asanas including Trikonasana (triangle pose), first appeared in the 20th century,[62] as did the sequence of asanas, Surya Namaskar (Salute to the Sun). A different sun salutation, the Aditya Hridayam, is certainly ancient, as it is is described in the "Yuddha Kaanda" Canto 107 of the Ramayana.[63] Surya Namaskar in its modern form was created by the Raja of Aundh, Pant Pratinidhi;[64][65][66] K. Pattabhi Jois defined the variant forms Surya Namaskar A and B for Ashtanga Yoga, possibly derived from Krishnamacharya.[67] Surya Namaskar can be seen as "a modern, physical culture-oriented rendition" of the simple ancient practice of prostrating oneself to the sun.[68]

In 1966, Iyengar's classic Light on Yoga was able to describe some 200 asanas,[69] consisting of about 50 main poses with their variations.[70] Sjoman observes that whereas many traditional asanas are named for objects (like Vrikshasana, tree pose), legendary figures (like Matsyendrasana, the sage Matsyendra's pose), or animals (like Kurmasana, tortoise pose), "an overwhelming eighty-three"[70] of Iyengar's asanas have names that simply describe the body's position (like Utthita Parsvakonasana, "Extended Side Angle Pose"); these are, he suggests, the ones "that have been developed later".[70] Mittra illustrated 908 poses and variations in his 1984 Master Yoga Chart, and many more have been created since then.[69] The number of asanas has thus increased with time, as summarised in the table.

Estimates of the number of asanas
No. of asanas Sanskrit Transliteration English Author Date Evidence supplied
2 गोरक्ष शतका Goraksha Sataka Goraksha Sataka Gorakśanātha 10th-11th century Describes Siddhasana, Padmasana;[71][72] 84 claimed[f]
4 शिव संहिता Śiva Saṁhitā Shiva Samhita - 15th century 4 seated asanas described, 84 claimed; 11 mudras[73]
15 हठ योग प्रदीपिका Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā Light on Hatha Yoga Svāmi Svātmārāma 15th century 15 asanas described,[73] 4 (Siddhasana, Padmasana, Bhadrasana and Simhasana) named as important[24]
32 घेरंड संहिता Gheraṇḍa Saṁhitā Gheranda's Collection Gheranda 17th century Descriptions of 32 seated, backbend, twist, balancing and inverted asanas, 25 mudras[28][73]
52 हठ रत्नावली Haṭha Ratnāvali A Treatise On Hatha Yoga Srinivasa 17th century 52 asanas described, out of 84 named[g][26][27]
84 जोग प्रदीपिका Joga Pradīpikā Light on Yoga - 1830 84 asanas and 24 mudras in rare illustrated edition of 18th century text[74]
37 योग सोपान Yoga Sopāna Stairway to Yoga Yogi Ghamande 1905 Describes and illustrates 37 asanas, 6 mudras, 5 bandhas[74]
c. 200 योग दीपिका Yoga Dīpikā Light on Yoga B. K. S. Iyengar 1966 Descriptions and photographs of each asana[75]
908 Master Yoga Chart Dharma Mittra 1984 Photographs of each asana[76]

The graph shows the rapid growth in number of asanas in the 20th century.

 
GS=Goraksha Sataka; ShS=Shiva Samhita; HYP=Hatha Yoga Pradipika; HR=Hatha Ratnavali; GhS=Gheranda Samhita; JP=Joga Pradipika; YS=Yogasopana; LoY=Light on Yoga; DM=Dharma Mittra

PurposesEdit

SpiritualEdit

 
The lion pose, Simhasana, is named for an avatar of Vishnu in the form of the man-lion Narasimha. India, 12th Century

The asanas of hatha yoga originally had a spiritual purpose within Hinduism, the attainment of samadhi, a state of meditative consciousness.[77] The yoga scholar and practitioner Theos Bernard, in his 1944 Hatha Yoga: The Report of a Personal Experience, stated that he was "prescribed .. a group of asanas calculated to bring a rich supply of blood to the brain and to various parts of the spinal cord .. [and] a series of reconditioning asanas to stretch, bend, and twist the spinal cord" followed when he was strong enough by the meditation asanas.[78] Theos named the purpose of Hatha Yoga as "to gain control of the breath" to enable pranayama to work, something that in his view required thorough use of the six purifications.[79]

Asanas work in different ways from conventional physical exercises, according to Satyananda Saraswati "placing the physical body in positions that cultivate awareness, relaxation and concentration".[80]

Iyengar observed that the practice of asanas "brings steadiness, health, and lightness of limb. A steady and pleasant posture produces mental equilibrium and prevents fickleness of mind." He adds that they bring agility, balance, endurance, and "great vitality", developing the body to a "fine physique which is strong and elastic without being muscle-bound". But, Iyengar states, their real importance is the way they train the mind, "conquer[ing]" the body and making it "a fit vehicle for the spirit".[81]

Names of asanas illustrating spiritual evolution[82]
Asana Level
Vishnu's Couch,
Salute to the Sun
Gods
Virabhadra,
Matsyendra
Heroes,
sages
Dog Mammals
Pigeon Birds
Cobra Reptiles
Fish,
Frog
Aquatic
animals
Locust Invertebrates
Tree Plants
Mountain Inanimate

Iyengar saw it as significant that asanas are named after plants, insects, fish and amphibians, reptiles, birds, and quadrupeds; as well as "legendary heroes", sages, and avatars of Hindu gods, in his view "illustrating spiritual evolution".[82] For instance, the lion pose, Simhasana, recalls the myth of Narasimha, half man, half lion, and an avatar of Vishnu, as told in the Bhagavata Purana.[83] The message is, Iyengar explains, that while performing asanas, the yogi takes the form of different creatures, from the lowest to the highest, not despising any "for he knows that throughout the whole gamut of creation ... there breathes the same Universal Spirit." Through mastery of the asanas, Iyengar states, dualities like gain and loss, or fame and shame disappear.[82]

Sjoman argues that the concept of stretching in yoga can be looked at through one of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, 2.47, which says that [asanas are achieved] by loosening (śaithilya) the effort (prayatna) and meditating on the endless (ananta). Sjoman points out that this physical loosening is to do with the mind's letting go of restrictions, allowing the natural state of "unhindered perfect balance" to emerge; he notes that one can only relax through effort, "as only a muscle that is worked is able to relax (that is, there is a distinction between dormancy and relaxation)."[84] Thus asanas had a spiritual purpose, serving to explore the conscious and unconsious mind.[85]

ExerciseEdit

Since the mid-20th century, asanas have been used, especially in the Western world, as physical exercise. In this context, their "overtly Hindu" purpose is masked but its "ecstatic .. transcendent .. possibly subversive" elements remain.[86] That context has led to a division of opinion among Christians, some like Alexandra Davis of the Evangelical Alliance asserting that it is acceptable as long as they are aware of yoga's origins,[87] others like Paul Gosbee stating that hatha yoga's purpose is to "open up chakras" and release kundalini or "serpent power" which in Gosbee's view is "from Satan", making "Christian yoga .. a contradiction".[87]

In a secular context, the journalists Nell Frizzell and Reni Eddo-Lodge have debated (in The Guardian) whether Western yoga classes represent "cultural appropriation". In Frizzell's view, yoga has become a new entity, a long way from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and while some practitioners are culturally insensitive, others treat it with more respect. Eddo-Lodge agrees that Western yoga is far from Patanjali, but argues that the changes cannot be undone, whether people use it "as a holier-than-thou tool, as a tactic to balance out excessive drug use, or practised similarly to its origins with the spirituality that comes with it".[88]

From a Hindu perspective, the practice of asanas in the Western world as physical exercise is not necessarily seen as problematic, as long as their use in this way is not confused with yoga as a path.[89]

Benefits and contraindicationsEdit

Claimed benefitsEdit

 
The Indian Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, joining a programme of yoga for pregnant women in 2018

The asanas of hatha yoga have been popularized in the Western world by claims about their health benefits.[90] The history of such claims was reviewed by William J. Broad in his 2012 book The Science of Yoga. Broad argues that while the health claims for yoga began as Hindu nationalist posturing, it turns out that there is ironically[91] "a wealth of real benefits".[91]

Physically, the practice of asanas has been claimed to improve flexibility, strength, and balance; to alleviate stress and anxiety, and to reduce the symptoms of lower back pain.[3][4] Claims have been made about beneficial effects on specific conditions such as asthma,[3][4] chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,[3][4] and diabetes.[5] There is evidence that practice of asanas improves birth outcomes[4] and physical health and quality of life measures in the elderly,[4] and reduces sleep disturbances[3] and hypertension.[92][93] Iyengar yoga is effective at least in the short term for both neck pain and low back pain.[94]

ContraindicationsEdit

Light on Yoga cautions that people with high blood pressure or displaced retina should avoid inverted poses such as Sirsasana and Sarvangasana.[95] It also cautions that women should avoid asanas, especially inverted poses such as Sirsasana, during menstruation and the first month after giving birth. It states that they may practise asanas during the first three months of pregnancy, avoiding pressure on the abdomen, and that they may practise Baddha Konasana and Upavistha Konasana throughout pregnancy.[95]

The Yoga Journal provides separate lists of asanas that it states are "inadvisable" and should be avoided or modified for each of the following medical conditions: asthma; back injury; carpal tunnel syndrome; diarrhoea; headache; heart problems; high blood pressure; insomnia; knee injury; low blood pressure; menstruation; neck injury; pregnancy; and shoulder injury.[96]

Common practicesEdit

 
The Yoga Sutras state that asanas, like Natarajasana, should be "steady and comfortable".[2]

In the Yoga Sutras, the only rule Patanjali suggests for practicing asana is that it be "steady and comfortable".[2] The body is held poised with the practitioner experiencing no discomfort. When control of the body is mastered, practitioners are believed to free themselves from the duality of heat/cold, hunger/satiety, joy/grief, which is the first step toward the unattachment that relieves suffering.[97]

Traditional guidanceEdit

Light on Yoga provides the following guidance for performing asanas:[95]

  • The stomach should be empty, or asanas can be practised an hour after "a very light meal".[95]
  • The bladder and bowels should also be empty.[95]
  • A bath or shower before the asanas makes them easier.[95]
  • The best time for asanas is early in the morning or late in the evening.[95]
  • The breath should not be restrained during the asanas. Some movements, such as jumping the legs apart for Trikonasana, are to be taken on an inbreath; some, such as bending the trunk sideways for Trikonasana, on an outbreath.[95]
  • Lie down in Savasana for ten to fifteen minutes after practising asanas.[95]

Surya NamaskarEdit

 
Adho Mukha Svanasana, downward-facing dog pose, is performed at least once and often twice in Surya Namaskar, the Salute to the Sun.[98]

Surya Namaskar, the Salute to the Sun, commonly practiced in most forms of yoga, links up to twelve asanas in a dynamically expressed yoga series. A full round consists of two sets of the series, the second set moving the opposing leg first. The asanas include Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward dog), the others differing from tradition to tradition with for instance a choice of Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward dog) or Bhujangasana (cobra) for one pose in the sequence.[99] Schools, too, differ in their approaches to the sequence; for example, in Iyengar Yoga, variations such as inserting Maricyasana I and Pascimottanasana are suggested.[100]

StylesEdit

In the Western world, asanas are taught in differing styles by the various schools of yoga. Some poses like Trikonasana are common to many of them, but not always performed in the same way. The approaches of schools whose ways of executing the pose have been documented are described below.[101][102]

 
Utthitha Trikonasana, an important pose in Iyengar yoga, using a prop, a yoga brick

Iyengar Yoga "emphasises precision and alignment",[103] and prioritises correct movement over quantity, i.e. moving a little in the right direction is preferred to moving more but in other directions. Postures are held for a relatively long period compared to other schools of yoga; this allows the muscles to relax and lengthen, and encourages awareness in the pose. Props including belts, blocks and blankets are freely used to assist students in correct working in the asanas.[103][102] Beginners are introduced early on to standing poses, executed with careful attention to detail. For example, in Trikonasana, the feet are often jumped apart to a wide stance, the forward foot is turned out, and the centre of the forward heel is exactly aligned with the centre of the arch of the other foot.[101]

Sivananda Yoga practices the asanas, hatha yoga, as part of raja yoga, with the goal of enabling practitioners ""to sit in meditation for a long time".[101] There is little emphasis on the detail of individual poses; teachers rely on the basic instructions given in the books by Sivananda and Swami Vishnu-devananda.[101] In Trikonasana, the top arm may be stretched forward parallel to the floor rather than straight up.[101] Sivananda Yoga identifies a group of 12 asanas as basic.[104] These are not necessarily the easiest poses, nor those that every class would include.[105] Trikonasana is the last of the 12, whereas in other schools it is one of the first and used to loosen the hips in preparation for other poses.[101]

 
Eka Pada Bakasana (One-legged Crane), one of the asanas in the Advanced series of Ashtanga vinyasa yoga

In Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, poses are executed differently from Iyengar Yoga. "Vinyasa" means flowing, and the poses are executed relatively rapidly, flowing continuously from one asana to the next using defined transitional movements.[101][102] The asanas are grouped into six series, one Primary, one Intermediate, and four Advanced. Practice begins and ends with the chanting of mantras, followed by multiple cycles of the Sun Salutation, which "forms the foundation of Ashtanga Yoga practice", and then one of the series.[106][107] In Trikonasana, the feet are held closer together, the back foot is at right angles rather than turned in slightly, and the lower hand grasps the big toe of the forward foot, rather than reaching to the ground. Ashtanga Vinyasa practice emphasises aspects of yoga other than asanas, including drishti (focus points), bandhas (energy locks), and pranayama.[101]

Kripalu Yoga uses teachers from other asana traditions, focussing on mindfulness rather than using effort in the poses. Teachers may say "allow your arms to float up" rather than "bring up your arms".[101] The goal is to use the asanas "as a path of transformation."[101] The approach is in three stages: firstly instruction in body alignment and awareness of the breath during the pose; secondly, holding the pose long enough to observe "unconscious patterns of tension in the body-mind";[101] and thirdly, through "deep concentration and total surrender", allowing oneself "to be moved by prana".[101] In Trikonasana, the teacher may direct pupils' attention to pressing down with the outer edge of the back foot, lifting the arch of the foot, and then experimenting with "micro-movements", exploring where energy moves and how it feels.[101]

In Bikram Yoga, as developed by Bikram Choudhury, there is a fixed sequence of 26 poses,[102] in which Trikonasana is ninth, its task to focus on opening the hips. The Bikram version of Trikonasana resembles Parsvakonasana as executed in Ashtanga or Iyengar Yoga, since the forward leg is bent "until the back of the leg is parallel to the floor".[101] The position of the feet is seen as critically important, along with proper breathing and the distribution of weight: about 30% on the back foot, 70% on the front foot.[101]

Types of asanaEdit

Asanas can be classified in different ways, which may overlap: for example, by the position of the head and feet (standing, sitting, reclining, inverted), by whether balancing is required, or by the effect on the spine (forward bend, backbend, twist), giving a set of asana types agreed by most authors.[108][109] Mittra uses his own categories such as "Floor & Supine Poses".[54] Yogapedia and Yoga Journal add "Hip-opening"; Rhodes, Yogapedia and Yoga Journal also add "Core strength".[110][111] The table shows an example of each type of asana, with the title and date of the earliest document describing (not only naming) that asana.

GS = Goraksha Sataka; HY = Hemacandra's Yogaśāstra; HYP = Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā; JP = Joga Pradīpikā; TK = Tirumalai Krishnamacharya

Types of asana, with dates and examples
Type Described Date Example English Image
Standing TK 20th C. Parsvakonasana Side angle
Sitting GS 1:10-12 10th-11th C. Siddhasana Accomplished
Reclining HYP 1:34 15th C. Śavāsana Corpse
Inverted HY 11th C. Sirsasana Yoga
headstand
Balancing HYP 1:26 15th C. Kukkutasana Rooster
Forward bend HYP 1:30 15th C. Paschimottanasana Seated Forward Bend
Back bend HYP 1:27 15th C. Dhanurāsana Bow
Twist HYP 1.28-29 15th C. Ardha
Matsyendrasana
Half Lord of
the Fishes
Hip-opening HYP 1:20 15th C. Gomukhasana Cow Face
Core strength TK 20th C. Navasana Boat

See alsoEdit

  • Karanas, transitions in classical Indian dance
  • Yoga piracy, the practice of claiming copyrights on yoga techniques

NotesEdit

  1. ^ A lakh is 100,000
  2. ^ 84's symbolism may derive from its astrological and numerological properties:[23] it is the product of 7, the number of planets in astrology, and 12, the number of signs of the zodiac, while in numerology, 7 is the sum of 3 and 4, and 12 is the product.[23]
  3. ^ The Hatha Ratnavali's list of 84 asanas is
  4. ^ The 11 are Karmukasana, Hamsasana, Cakrasana, Kurmasana, Citrapitha, Goraksasana, Angusthasana, Vyaghrasana, Sara(la)bhasana, Krauncasana, Drdhasana.
  5. ^ The 32 "useful" asanas of the Gheranda Samhita are: Siddhasana, Padmasana, Bhadrasana, Muktasana, Vajrasana, Svastikasana, Simhasana, Gomukhasana, Virasana, Dhanurasana, Mritasana, Guptasana, Matsyasana, Matsyendrasana, Gorakshanasana, Paschimottanasana, Utkatasana, Sankatasana, Mayurasana, Kukkutasana, Kurmasana, Uttanakurmakasana, Uttanamandukasana, Vrikshasana, Mandukasana, Garudasana, Vrishasana, Shalabhasana, Makarasana, Ushtrasana, Bhujangasana, and Yogasana.[28]
  6. ^ The number 84 is symbolic not literal: it is the product of 7, the number of planets in astrology, and 12, the number of signs of the zodiac, while in numerology, 84=(3+4)×(3×4).[23]
  7. ^ 84 names of asanas are listed; not all can now be identified.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Verse 46, chapter II, "Patanjali Yoga sutras" by Swami Prabhavananda, published by the Sri Ramakrishna Math ISBN 978-81-7120-221-8 p. 111
  2. ^ a b c Patanjali (c. 300–200 BC) Yoga sutras, Book II:29
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