A review of asanas referenced in ancient texts and a brief comparative study of selected asanas
Sriharisukesh N and Subramanya Pailoor
Yoga is a classical philosophy and a way of life that is designed to enable attainment of well being and spiritual perfection in our lives. The well being and spiritual perfection still continues to be in the realm of subjective realisation, there is more requirement of research and study in the documentation on Yoga in various aspects. The antiquity of the yogic tradition is difficult to calculate, but from the data currently available, it has been established that it was prevalent during the early Vedic period. Even though no direct explanation have been discovered to date on the method of Ashtanga Yoga, the concept of yoga is explicitly dwelt on in the Vedic Literature.
Hatha Yoga is one of the important stream of yogic tradition where Asanas find prominence and is defined as the tool to maintaining the body fit, healthy and immune to diseases. The main source for these Asanas are the Hathapradeepika, the Gheranda Samhita, and the Hatharathnavali; texts that describe various types of Asanas. There are references to, and information about, Hatha Yogic practice in Thirumandiram which is a Tamil script written by Thirumula Nayanar. Yoga Rahasya of Nathamuni mentions the names of multiple Asanas, but doesnot elaborate on the method of practicing. Amongst the Puranas, Agni Purana has explained the significance and importance of Ashtanga Yoga. Also the Agamas like Ahirbudhnya Samhitha has mentioned the importance of Asthanga Yoga in following a Spiritual life. Other than Hatha Yogic texts another remarkable source for Asanas is the Rudra Yamala Uttara Tantra.
This present review of the literature explores the scriptural evidence for Asanas, the procedures described therein, and a brief comparative analysis of a few Asanas. There are still more texts to be studied, explored and reviewed to understand the actual antiquity of Yoga and the procedure for various Asanas and their impact.