After describing the 6 obstacles and 6 necessary qualities for success, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (~1500 CE) goes on to describe 15 postures, the largest number to that point in history.
The first 5 postures are below. Many of these old (traditional?) postures have gone out of style and practice in the last hundred or so years. Others are still with us.
"Place both soles of the feet inside the thighs and knees. Sit up straight."
This is a great posture for breathing and meditation practice, stable but less challenging than the full Lotus. Sadly, as modern western yoga practice has become less seated, the posture has fallen out of popularity.
"Put the right ankle on its left side beside the buttock. Likewise, put the left ankle on its right side." (a)
"Place the right ankle next to the left buttock and the left (ankle) next to the right (buttock)." (b)
The two instructions above are from different translations of the same verse. The slightly different translations of right and left lead to completely different instructions for the posture. By far the more common usage is the second translation, which is pictured above, with the knees crossed on top of each other. It is unclear, though, which translation is actually accurate or correct.
"Place one foot on top of one thigh, and the other thigh on top of the other foot."
In modern yoga practice, this posture has taken on many forms which correspond to this description in varying degrees. The best we can tell, this is describing a Half-Lotus sort of position.
"Cover the anus with the crossed ankles."
The instruction in the text is quite clear, as pictured above. This posture has fallen completely out of practice as far as we know. The name Kurmasana has been adopted to describe another position for the past 100 or so years, a deep forward bend with the shoulders underneath the knees, pictured below.
"Settle in Padmasana. Put the hands between the knees and thighs. Place the hands on the earth. Lift into the sky."
Of these first 5 postures in this important text, only Kukkutasana is both crystal clear in its instruction and still practiced the same way today.
a) Translation by Brian Dana Akers. Published by yogavidya
b) Unknown translator. Commentary by Swami Muktibodananda. Published by Yoga Publications Trust.
Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga. This blog is about their experience with yoga practice, study and teaching.
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