84: Origins and Tradition
"The 84" is an ever illusive idea, commonly thought to be a traditional or original sequence of asanas. However, the number 84 holds sacred or symbolic significance both in the ancient and modern eras, but does not actually refer to any set list of postures.
Gudrun Buhnemann writes in her book Eighty-four Asanas in Yoga, that 84 is a "number frequently invoked as authentic by ancient and modern authorities....However, nothing is known about an original set of eighty-four asanas” (Buhnemann, p. 2). She explains, “It is therefore apparent that the number eighty-four traditionally signifies completeness, and in some cases, sacredness” (Buhnemann, p. 27).
The number is found in various traditions. For example, in Buddhism it is thought that 84,000 stupas (meaning "heap" or burial mound) are said to have been built by Asoka and there are 84,000 kinds of enlightenment.
We will see in the following blogs that the number 84 and variations on it are invoked in texts on yoga, however this does not refer to the actual number of postures, nor does it refer to a sequence.
Next time we'll see passages about "84" in hathayoga texts. Then we'll look at the expansion of asana in the 20th century that leads to long lists of postures, many of which weren't considered asanas prior to this period. We'll finish this series with examining the idea of a sequence and physical cultures that highly influence yoga. Stay tuned!
Buhnemann, G. (2011). Eighty-Four Asanas in Yoga: A Survey of Traditions. DK Printworld.
Leave a Reply.
Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are scholars as well as practitioners of yogic postures, breath control and meditation. They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga.
- The 113 Postures of Ghosh Yoga
- Make the Hamstrings Strong, Not Long
- Understanding Chair Posture
- Lock the Knee History
- It Doesn't Matter If Your Head Is On Your Knee
- Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- 5 Reasons To Backbend
- Origins of Standing Bow
- The Traditional Yoga In Bikram's Class
- What About the Women?!
- Through Bishnu's Eyes
- Why Teaching Is Not a Personal Practice