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There are 8 component of yoga by Patanjali.

Yamas, Nigam, Āsana, Prānāyāma, Pratyāhāra, Dhāranā, Dhyāna, Samādhi.

It was mentioned in many yoga text books and commentary, one should practice asanas before practice pranayama. I quote from Light on pranayama by BKS Iyengar, “Mastery in pranyama is the next step after asanas have been mastered . There is no short-cut.”

My question is which asanas should be mastered before pranayama, do we have to attain mastery over all 84 primary asanas before pranayama or mastering padmasana/siddhasana is enough? As books like Siva Samhita only describe 4 asanas(including siddhasana and padmasana) and it mentions pranayama to be done in padmasana, I am thinking mastering padmasana is enough?

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  • Unfortunately I’m studying in a place where I couldn’t find a guru. So I’m asking here.
    – Cloud JR K
    Jul 29, 2022 at 21:37
  • Doing one at a time and mastering is difficult, getting significant mastery should be enough Jul 30, 2022 at 3:09
  • @YOuwillnotknow getting mastery in one asana(say like padmasana)or all of them? (I understand mastering one asana by doing one at a time is difficult but assuming I master padmasana, can I start doing pranayama?)
    – Cloud JR K
    Jul 30, 2022 at 4:36
  • Asana in this context refers to your seat, not the physical poses that are popularly known as asanas that you refer to. It means that you need to make your body 'comfortable' with sitting in one position so that your mind is able to be free to concentrate on itself (the mind, not the body). Some use the popular poses initially to do this. Some do not need. Jul 30, 2022 at 5:42

1 Answer 1

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Yes, Āsana (posture) is prerequisite but mastering any one of them would also work


1. Why is it essential?

(Explained by Swami Vivekananda in a layman's term on his commentary on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras verse 2.46):

Until you can get a firm seat you cannot practice the breathing and other exercises. Firmness of seat means that you do not feel the body at all. In the ordinary way, you will find that as soon as you sit for a few minutes all sorts of disturbances come into the body; but when you have got beyond the idea of a concrete body, you will lose all sense of the body. You will feel neither pleasure nor pain. And when you take your body up again, it will feel so rested. It is only perfect rest that you can give to the body. When you have succeeded in conquering the body and keeping it firm, your practice will remain firm, but while you are disturbed by the body, your nerves become disturbed, and you cannot concentrate the mind.

According to Sutra 2.48

ततो द्वन्द्वानभिघातः ॥४८॥
Thence cessation-of-disturbance from-the-pairs- of-opposites.

Vyasa's Bhasya:

When posture has been mastered he is not disturbed by the pairs of opposites such as heat and cold.

So, you will face the disturbances associated with body while practicing the meditation if you skip this step of mastering a posture. And yes, there is no short-cut! (i.e Asana is prerequisite of Pranayama):

तस्मिन् सति श्वासप्रश्वासयोर्गतिविच्छेदः प्राणायामः ॥४९॥
2.49 Regulation-of-breath (Pranayama) is the stoppage of the inspiratory and expiratory movements (of breath) which follows, when that has-been-secured.

Vyasa: When posture has been achieved the cessation of the movements of both inspiration, the drinking in of external air, and expiration, the throwing out of the internal air, is the regulation of breath (Pranayama)


2. Which Asana/posture to be mastered?

स्थिरसुखमासनम् ॥४६॥
2.46 Posture is steady and easy

Vyasa's Commentary on above verse mentions different types of Asanas:

...We shall now describe the posture, &c. Of these, posture is steadily easy. Thus, for example, the Padmasana, the Virasana, the Bhad- rasana, the Svastika, the Dandasaua, the Soparfraya, the Paryahka, the Kraunchnisadana, the Hastiuisadana, the Ustranisadana, the Samasamsthana, the Sthirasukha, the Yathasukha and such others.

Vachaspati Mishra's Gloss describes those Asanas which are mentioned by Vyasa and then explains the moral of Sukta:

....Steadiness means absence of motion. The same must be easy. It must not cause trouble. Such should be the postnre. This is the meaning of the aphorism. Posture is the way in which one sits......The Sthirasukha is whatever posture may secure steadiness and ease. This is approved by the writer of the aphorisms. It is also described as YathSsukha. This means any position that may secure ease.

So, you can adopt and master any Asana which provides you the firmness and stability


3. How is the the perfectness/firmness of Asana established?

प्रयत्नशैथिल्यानन्तसमापत्तिभ्याम् ॥४७॥
2.47 By-slackening of effort and by thought- trans- formation as infinite

It's bit tricky! By eliminating the requirement of efforts for holding the posture and by thinking of infinite (e.g. great serpent or infinite sky) one can gradually obtain perfection of Asana.

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