Asanas or yoga postures are the basic axis of modern yoga practice. Taking a look, though media sources reveal hundreds, if not thousands of different asanas. Each yoga style has favorites, and new postures inspired by physical condition and gymnastics are added frequently. Although it is impossible to pinpoint an exact number of poses, understanding the basic concepts about yoga postures will give you a rough estimate of how many exist.
“The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”, written around 200 CE, will give no instruction of specific yoga postures. Two manuals written in the Middle Ages, “The Hatha Yoga Pradipika” and “The Shiva Samhita,” list 84 asanas, but provide detailed instructions on less than two dozen. A late 17th-century work, “The Gherand Samhita” by Chanda Kapali, claimed that there were hundreds of thousands of poses, but provided detailed instructions for only 32 separate asanas. For the modern era 200 postures have been exposed by the guru BKS Iyengar in his seminal text “Light on Yoga.”
The style of yoga known as Ashtanga follows a set pattern of asanas and connection movements called vinyasas. For example, Sun Salutation A includes seven different postures and additional sequences of asanas for beginner, intermediate and advanced participants can include more than 100 poses in a single practice session, two hours (see reference 5). Bikram yoga, the original “hot” style of yoga, has 26 postures for beginners and encourages students to practice only these prescribed postures. kundalini yoga, a style that incorporates singing, as well as movement, multiple groups asanas together into more than two dozen groups called “Kriyas” or sets of exercises, each designed to strengthen the various body parts.
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When it comes to counting the actual number of positions, variations will increase the length of that list. For example, marichyasnasa or “pose of a sage” has at least four different variations. Similarly, lotus position can be half, full, destined, leaned forward or embryonic – with arms threaded across the legs, hands holding her chin while maintaining balance on her buttocks.
You can safely count five different families of asana: balance, standing, sitting, lying on your back or putting in your stomach. The first family is characterized by balance problems such as supporting their weight on a foot as in the attitude of the tree, through the hands and feet as in the dog upside down, or even in the hands just as in raven pose. The other families can be subdivided into how each asana organizes its spine: it bends forward, backward bends and turns.