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[1] Lie flat on the back and then lift the legs up in the air until the body is in a "shoulder stand." The trunk can be supported with the arms raised from the elbows. There is no mention of this posture in the traditional literature. For complete details see the volume on Asanas, by Srîmat Kuvalayãnanda, pp. 73-5.

A complementary posture given to me to be practised with sarvãñgãsana was matsyãsana (fish posture, see illustration). It is described in the Gheranda Samhitã, ii, 21: "Make the Padmãsana posture without the crossing of the arms; lie on the back, holding the head by the two elbows. This is the Matsyãsana (Fish posture), the destroyer of diseases."

[2] Lie in a supine position as in sarvãñgãsana and then slowly lift the legs and extend the feet beyond the head. This bends and stretches the entire spinal cord and should be done cautiously. This posture is not given in the texts being compared. See Srîmat Kuvalayãnanda, Asanas, pp. 78-81.

[3] See Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, i, 30-1: "Having stretched the legs on the ground, like sticks and having grasped the toes of both the feet with both the hands, when one sits with his forehead resting on the thighs, it is called Pascimottãnãsana. This foremost of Asanas, Pascimottãnas, carries the air from the front to the back part of the body (i.e. to the susumnã). It kindles gastric fire, reduces obesity and cures all diseases of men."

Compare Gheranda Sumhitã, ii, 26: "Stretch the two legs on the ground, stiff like a stick (the heels not touching), and place the forehead on the two knees, and catch with the hands the toes. This is called the Pascimottãnãsana."

Compare Siva Samhitã, iii, 92-4: "Stretch out both the legs and keep them apart; firmly take hold of head by the hands and place them on the knees. This is called Ugrãsana (the stern-posture), it excites the motion of the air, destroys the dullness and uneasiness of the body, and is also called Pascimottãnãsana (the posterior crossed posture). That wise man who daily practises this noble posture can certainly induce the flow of the air per viam posteriori. Those who practise this obtain all the Siddhis; therefore, those, desirous of attaining powers, should practise this diligently. This should be kept secret with the greatest care, and not be given to anybody and everybody. Through it, Vãyu Siddhi is easily obtained, and it destroys a multitude of miseries."

[4] Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, i, 32-3: "Place the palms of both the hands on the ground, and place the navel on both the elbows and balancing thus, the body should be stretched backward like a stick. This is called Mayurãsana. This ãsana soon destroys all diseases and removes abdominal disorders, and also those arising from irregularities of phlegm, bile and wind, digests unwholesome food taken in excess, increases appetite and destroys the most deadly poison."

Compare Gheranda Samhitã, ii, 29-30: "Place the palms of the two hands on the ground, place the umbilical region on the two elbows, stand upon the hands, the legs being raised in the air, and crossed like Padmãsana. This is called the Mayurãsana (Peacock posture [see illustration]). The Peacock posture destroys the effects of unwholesome food; it produces heat in the stomach; it destroys the effects of deadly poisons; it easily cures diseases like Gulma (enlargement of the spleen) and fever; such is this useful posture." I found this posture particularly useful when flushing the colon after doing basti (a mudrã to be described later). When I used it for this purpose the legs were spread apart in order to relax the anal sphincters.

[5] Gheranda Samhitã, ii, 39: "Lie on the ground face downwards, the two hands being placed on the chest, touching the ground with the palms, raise the legs in the air one cubit high. This is called the Salabhãsana (Locust posture)." A variation of this posture is described in ibid., ii., 40; "Lie on the ground face downwards, the chest touching the earth, the two legs being stretched; catch the head with the two arms. This is Makarãsana, the increaser of the bodily heat."

[6] Ibid., 42-3: "Let the body, from the navel downwards to the toes, touch the ground, place the palms on the ground, raise the head (the upper portion of the body) like a serpent. This is called Bhujañgãsana (Cobra posture). This always increases the bodily heat, destroys all diseases, and by the practise of this posture the serpent-goddess (the kundalinî force) awakes."

[7] Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, i, 27: Having caught the big toes of the feet with both the hands and carried them to the ears by drawing up the body like a bow, it becomes Dhanurãsana."

Compare Gheranda Samhitã, ii, 18: ". . stretching the legs on the ground like a stick, and catching hold of (the toes of) the feet with the hands, and making the body like a bow, is called the Dhanur5sana (Bow posture)." The posture taught to me as the bow posture is described here as ustrãsana. See 41: "Lie on the ground face downwards, turn up the legs and place them towards the back, catch the legs with the hands, contract forcibly the mouth and the abdomen. This is called the Ustrãsana (Camel posture)."

[8] Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, i, 28-9: "Having placed the right foot at the root of the left thigh, let the toe be grasped with the right hand passing over the back, and having placed the left foot on the right thigh at its root, let it be grasped with the left hand passing behind the back. This is the ãsana, as explained by Sri Matsyanãtha. It increases appetite, and is an instrument for destroying the group of the most deadly diseases. Its practice awakens the Kundalinî, and stops the nectar shedding from the moon in people." I was given this posture as the complete lotus posture (baddha padmãsana).

Compare Gheranda Sumhitã, ii, 22-3: "Keeping the abdominal region at ease like the back, bending the left leg, place it on the right thigh, then place on this the elbow of the right hand, arid place the face on the palm of the right hand and fix the gaze between the eye-brows. This is called the Mãtsyendra posture." The posture taught to me under this name was different from those described in the texts. Place the left foot at the root of the right thigh, then put the right foot on the other side of the left thigh, and catch hold of the left knee with the left hand. Next rotate the body to the right and arrange the upper portion of the left arm so that it is on the right side of the right knee, which is used as a fulcrum to help twist the body. Place the right arm around the back as far as possible, looking out over the right shoulder. The reverse of this is also practised.

[9] See Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, i, 37-45: "Press firmly the heel of the left foot against the perineum, and the right heel above the male organ. With the chin pressing on the chest one should sit tight, having restrained the senses, and gaze steadily at the space between the eyebrows. This is called Siddhãsana, the Opener of the Door of Salvation. This Siddhãsana is performed also by placing the left heel on the Medhra (above the male organ) and then placing the right one on it. Some call this Siddhãsana; some Vajrãsana. Others call it Muktãsana or Guptãsana. Just as sparing food is among Yamas, and Ahimsã among the Niyamas, so is Siddhãsana called by adepts the chief of all ãsanas. Out of the 84 ãsanas Siddhãsana should always be practised, because it cleanses the impurities of 72,000 nãdis [nerves]. By contemplating on oneself, by eating sparingly, and by practising Siddhãsana for 12 years, the Yogi obtains success. Other postures are of no use, when success is achieved in Siddhãsana, and Prãna Vãyu [breath] becomes calm and restrained by Kevala Kumbhaka [a form or breath suspension to be discussed later]. Success in Siddhãsana alone becoming firmly established one gets Unmanî [mindlessness] at once, and the other three seats (Bandhas) are accomplished of themselves. There is no ãsana like the Siddhãsana and no Kumbhaka like the Kevala. There is no Mudrã like the Khecarî and no Laya like the Nãda (Anãhata Nãda-Heart Sound)."

Compare Gheranda Samhitã, ii, 7: "The practitioner who has subdued his passions, having placed one heel at the anal aperture should keep the other heel on the root of the generative organ; afterwards he should rest his chin upon the chest, and being quiet and straight, gaze at the spot between the two eyebrows. This is called the Siddhãsana which leads to emancipation."

Compare Siva Samhitã, iii, 85-7: "The Siddhãsana that gives success to the practitioner is as follows:- Pressing with care by the heel the Yoni, the Yogi should place the other heel on the Lingam he should fix his gaze upwards on the space between the eyebrows, should be steady, and restrain his senses. His body particularly must be straight and without any bend. The place should be a retired one, without any noise. He who wishes to attain quick consummation of Yoga, by exercise, should adopt the Siddhãsana posture, and practise regulation of the breath. Through this posture the Yogi, leaving the world, attains the highest end and throughout the world there is no posture more secret than this. By assuming and contemplating in this posture, the Yogi is freed from sin."

[10] In Gheranda Samhitã they are described separately. See ii, 12: "Make the thighs tight like vajra and place the legs by the two sides of the anus. This is called the Vajrãsana (thunderbolt posture - see illustration). It gives psychic powers to the Yogin." This posture may also be done in the supine position (see illustration). A further development of this posture is to incline the trunk backward until the head rests on the floor (see illustration), then return the body to an erect sitting position. In the beginning I used my arms to let the trunk down slowly, finally resting on my elbows. After ten seconds in this position, I returned my body to its former position with the aid of my arms. I repeated this exercise ten times, and after a few weeks I was able to execute it without the use of the arms.

Ibid., 11: "Place the left heel at the root of the organ of generation and the right heel above that, keep the head and the neck straight with the body. This posture is called the Muktãsana (free posture). It gives Siddhi (perfection)."

Ibid., 20: "Hide the two feet between the knees and thighs, and place the anus on the feet. This is known as the Guptãsana (hidden posture)." Some teachers call it samãsana, or the symmetrical pose.

[11] See Gheranda Samhitã, ii, 27: "Let the toes touch the ground and the heels be raised in the air; place the anus on the heels; this is known as the Utkatãsana [hazardous posture]."

Ibid., 28: "Placing the left foot and the leg on the ground, surround the left foot by the right leg; and place the two hands on the two knees. This is the Samkatãsana [dangerous posture; see illustration]."

Ibid.: "Place the heels contrariwise under the scrotum, stiffen (or keep at ease) the head, neck and body. This is called the [Kûrmãsana] Tortoise posture." Compare Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, i, 24: "Placing the right ankle on the left side of the anus, and the left ankle on the right side of it, making what the Yogis call Kûrmãsana."

Ibid., 34: "Carry the feet towards the back, the toes touching each other, and place the knees forwards. This is called the [Mandukãsana] Frog posture."

Ibid., 35: "Assume the Frog posture, holding the head by the elbows, and stand up like a frog. This is called the Uttãnamandukãsana."

Ibid., 37: "Place the legs and the thighs on the ground press it, steady the body with the two knees, place the two hands on the knees; this is called the Garudãsana [Garucda is a mythical bird]."

Ibid., 38: "Place the anus on the right heel, on the left of it place the left leg crossing it opposite way, and touch the ground. This is called the [Vrsãsana] Bull posture."

Ibid., 16: "The two feet to be placed on the ground, and the heels to be placed contrariwise under the buttocks; the body to be kept steady and the mouth raised, and sitting equably; this is called the Gomukhãsana: resembling the mouth of a cow." Compare Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, i, 22: "Placing the right ankle on the left side of the back and the left ankle on the right side, makes Gomukhãsana, causing the appearance of the mouth of a cow."

[12] See Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, i, 46-51: "Place the right foot on the left thigh and the left foot on the right thigh, and grasp the big toes firmly with the hands crossed over the back. Press the chin against the chest, and gaze on the tip of the nose. This is called Padmãsana, the destroyer of the diseases of the Yamîs (practisers). [This was given to me as the perfected lotus posture, called baddha Padmãsana - see illustration.]

"Place the feet on the thighs, with the soles upwards, and place the hands on the thighs, with the palms upward, gaze on the tip of the nose, keeping the tongue pressed against the root of the two upper central teeth, and the chin against the chest, and raise the air up, i.e. pull the apãna-vãyu gently upwards. This is called the Padmãsana, the destroyer of all diseases. It is difficult of attainment, but can be learned by intelligent people in this world. Having kept both the hands together in the lap, performing the Padmãsana firmly, keeping the chin fixed to the chest and contemplating on Him in the mind, be drawing the apãna-vãyu (performing Múla Bandha) and pushing down the air after inhaling it, joining thus the prãna and apãna in the navel, one gets the highest intelligence by awakening the Sakti (kundalinî) thus. The Yogi who, sitting in Padmãsana, can control breathing, there is no doubt, is free from bondage."

Compare Gheranda Samhitã, ii, 8: "Place the right foot on the left thigh and similarly the left one on the right thigh, also cross the hands behind the back and firmly catch hold of the great toes of the feet so crossed. Place the chin on the chest and fix the gaze on the tip of the nose. This posture is called the Padmãsana (Lotus posture). This posture destroys all diseases."

Compare Siva Samhitã, iii, 88-91: "I describe now the Padmãsana which wards off (or cures) all diseases:- Having crossed the legs, carefully place the feet on the opposite thighs (i.e., the left foot on the right thigh, and vice versa); cross both the hands and place them similarly on the thighs and sight on the tip of the nose; pressing the tongue against the root of the teeth (the chin should be elevated, the chest expanded), then draw the air slowly, fill the chest with all your might, and expel slowly, in an unobstructed stream. It cannot be practised by everybody; only the wise attain success in it. By performing and practising this posture, undoubtedly the vital airs of the practitioner at once become completely equable and flow harmoniously through the body. Sitting in the Padmãsana posture, and knowing the action of the Prãna and Apãna, when the Yogi performs the regulation of the breath, he is emancipated. I tell you the truth. Verily, I tell you the truth."

An associated posture is vîrãsana (hero posture; see illustration), Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, i, 23: "One foot is to be placed on the thigh of the opposite side; and so also the other foot under the opposite thigh. This is called Vîrãsana."

Compare Gheranda Samhitã, ii, 17: "One leg (the right foot) to be placed on the other (left thigh, and the other foot to be turned backwards. This is called Vîrãsana (Hero posture)."

[13] The Yoga Sutras of Patañjali, ii, 47: Vyãsa is one of the outstanding commentators on the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali.

[14] Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, i, 25: "Taking the posture of Padmãsana and carrying the hands between the knees and the thighs, when the Yogi raises himself above the ground, with his palms resting on the ground, it becomes Kukkutãsana."

Compare Gheranda Samhitã, ii, 31: "Sitting on the ground, cross the legs in the Padmãsana posture, thrust down the hands between the thighs and the knees, stand on the hands, supporting the body on the elbows. This is called the Kukkutãsana (Cock posture)."

Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã, i, 26: "Having assumed Kukkutãsana, when one grasps his neck by crossing his hands behind his back, and lies in this posture like a tortoise, with his back touching the ground, it becomes Uttãnakúrmãsana."

Compare Gheranda Samhitã, ii, 33: "Assume the Cock Posture, catch hold of the neck with the hands, and stand stretched like a tortoise. This is the Uttãnakúrmakãsana."

Ibid., 44-5: "Turn the feet upwards, place them on the knees; then place the hands on the ground with the palms turned upwards; inspire, and fix the gaze on the tip of the nose. This is called the Yoga Posture assumed by the Yogins when practising Yoga."

Ibid., 45: "Place the two palms on the ground, raise the legs in the air upward, the head not touching the earth. This awakens the Sakti, causes long Life, and is called Vajroli by the sages."

Ibid., iii, 84: "Throw the two legs on the neck towards the back, holding them strongly together like a Pãa (a noose). This is called Pãsini Mudrã; it awakens the Sakti (Kundalinî)."

[15] See Hatha Yoga Pradîpikã. iii, 78-81: "Above the navel and below the palate respectively, are the Súrya and the Chandra. The exercise, called the Viparîta Karanî [inverted body], is learnt from the gurus instructions. This exercise increases the appetite; and, therefore, one who practises it, should obtain a good supply of food. If the food be scanty, the fire will burn him at once. Place the head on the ground and the feet up into the sky, for a second only the first day, and increase this time daily. After six months wrinkles and grey hair are not seen. He who practises it daily, even for three hours, conquers death." To obtain these benefits one must be an accomplished Yogi.

Compare Gheranda Samhitã, iii, 33-5: "The sun (the solar Nãdî or plexus) dwells at the root of the navel, and the moon at the root of the palate; as the sun eats up the nectar man becomes subject to death. The process by which the sun is brought upwards and the moon carried downward is called Viparîtakaranî. It is a sacred Mudrã in all the Tantras. Place the head on the ground, with hands spread, raise the legs up, and thus remain steady. This is called Viparîtakaranî."

Compare Siva Samhitã, iv, 45-7: "Putting the head on the ground, let him stretch out his legs upwards, moving them round and round. This is Viparîta Karanî, kept secret in all the Tantras. The Yogi who practises it daily for three hours, conquers death, and is not destroyed even in the Pralaya [Dissolution of the Universe at the end of a world period]. He who drinks nectar becomes equal to Siddhas; he who practises this Bandha becomes an adept among all creatures."

[16] This variation is not mentioned in the traditional literature. For further details see Asanas, pp. 69-72.