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The Bodily Postures, or Asanas

Before mental concentration is attempted, the body must be placed in a favorable and comfortable position, and one in which it can remain for a long time unheeded and in which the different centers, or points where the gross and subtle bodies are joined, are placed in a definite relative position to one another. Each living species is characterized by a difference in the relative positions of these centers and this can be represented by a geometrical figure. If we deliberately place the centers of the body in a given relative position, creating the geometrical figure characteristic of a certain species, we enter into contact with the cosmic entity which manifests itself in that particular species. Many of the bodily postures are therefore associated with different beings or animals.

Although very great, the number of all possible relative positions of these centers is limited. The total number of possible species, according to this Hindu theory, is eighty-four times one hundred thousand. It is said that, in the beginning, Shiva by taking all the postures created the species.

The bodily postures help to strengthen the body and stabilize the mind. That posture in which a man can remain longest without effort is for him the best. The very word "asana" means "easy, comfortable", and so the postures should be to have their full effect.

"To remain motionless for a long time without effort is an asana." (Yoga Darshana 2, 46.)

The aim of the bodily postures is secured when "the physical reactions of the body are eliminated and the mind dissolves into the Infinite." (Yoga Darshana 2, 47.)

To feel its effect it is necessary to remain in one posture motionless for one watch (of three hours). Even adepts need usually no less than eight hours to reach the state of identification (Samadhi).

"Then, one is no longer affected by all that goes by pairs, [i.e. heat and cold, pleasure and pain, etc.]" (Yoga Darshana 2. 48.) and one gains mastery over all the elements. "He who masters the postures conquers the three worlds." (Trishikhi Brahmana Up. 52.)

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