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The Practice of the Different Postures

During the practice of all the main sitting postures the spine, head and neck should be kept erect, the eyes either closed or fixed on the tip of the nose or in the middle of the brows.

Of the theoretical eighty-four times one hundred thousand postures, eighty-four only are generally known and specially important, and, of these, thirty-three only are said to give good results, and two only can be practiced by anyone.

Different asanas are described in detail in different books of yoga. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika describes 14, the Yoga Pradipa 21, the Gheranda Samhita 32, the Vishva Kosha 32, the Anubhava Prakasha 50. All however agree that the number of the chief postures is 84, although there exist some technical differences in defining them. Four only of the asanas are very generally practiced. They are the Posture of Attainment (Siddhasana), the Lotus posture (padmasana), the Auspicious posture (Svastikasana) and the Lion posture (Simhasana). The Auspicious posture is sometimes replaced by the Posture of Prosperity (Bhadrasana).

"Siddha, Padma, Simha and Bhadra are the four main bodily postures. Best is he who ever sits without effort in Siddhasana." (Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1, 34.)

The Ishvara Gita (also quoted in Yoga Sara Sangraha, p. 23) however says:

"The best postures are said to be the Auspicious posture, the Lotus posture and the Half-posture (Ardhasana)."

And the Shiva Samhita (3, 100) gives as the four main postures: the posture of Attainment, the Lotus posture, the Fearful posture (Ugrasana) and the Auspicious posture.

Svastikasana and Padmasana are more specially written about in connection with mantra yoga. In the Bhagavad Gita, asana is ordained by Lord Krishna as follows:

"On a pure spot he shall set for himself a firm seat neither over high nor over-low, made of kusha grass, with, above it, a deerskin and a cloth. On this couch he shall seat himself, with thought intent, and, the workings of the mind and senses brought into control, he shall practice yoga, to purify his inner faculties. Firm, holding body, head and neck in unmoving equipoise, gazing on the end of his nose, and looking not round about him, his soul at peace, void of fear, abiding under the vow of chastity, careful, with mind restrained and thought set on me, so shall he sit given over to me." (Chapter 6, 11-14.)

A similar injunction is given in the Bhagavata Purana (chapter 14).

The various postures have different effects according to the state of development of the individual who practices them. The postures should therefore be learned from a qualified teacher. There exist in different schools some variations in the definition of several of the postures. To have their full effect, they must be accompanied by hand gestures (mudras), (see below) breath control (pranayama) and the utterance of hermetic formulae (mantras).

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