- What are the Hatha Yoga Pradipika sixteen postures: which are considered yin and if one could only do a couple per day, which would render the greatest long term benefit for preservation of vitality as one ages? Your book is EXCELLENT, I love the very straightforward Western thinking of it and the science behind it. This helps me to be a real believer. Thank you!
The Daoist terms yin and yang are relative terms. Yin generally refers to things that are relatively deeper, colder, stiffer and slower: yang generally refers to things that are higher, hotter, flexible and quick. A tropical monsoon begins quickly, pours all its waters in a thunderous short time and quickly abates. A drizzly mist that lingers for days slowly soddening everything lasts for days and even weeks. The monsoon is yang to the drizzle's yin. The terms yin and yang are Daoist but these complementary qualities of nature were noticed by most high cultures. Yin and yang are not unique to China; the Indian yogis also noticed this complementary nature of reality. If we look back at a few influential books in the history of yoga, we find both a yin and yang nature being described. For example:
1) Patanjali's Yoga Sutra circa 400 C.E. (II-46) states "sthira sukham asanum" which means that "your asana should be steady and comfortable." Stable is yang, comfortable is yin. (Source: Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali - A New Translation and Commentary by Georg Feuerstein, page 90) The intention of asana was to provide a steady, comfortable seat for meditation. Meditation, of course, is done for long periods of time, which in our lingo we call "yin". Thus, one of the earliest references to asana practice describes a yin form of yoga.
2) The 14~15th century Hatha Yoga Pradipika lists 15 asanas, 8 of which are seated postures intended to be held for long periods of time in comfort (yin) while 3 more are not seated postures, they were intended to be held for a while, and the other 4 are definitely challenging yang postures (yang) that require great muscular effort. (See Swami Muktibodhananda Saraswati and Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Yoga Publications Trust, 2000, ISBN 978-81-85787-38-1) The asanas listed are:
- Swastikasana *
Paschima tana ** (Today we would call this paschimottasana)
Siddhasana (also called Vajrasana) *
Bhadrasana (also called Goraksasana) *
* seated postures
** other postures intended to be held for a while
3) Light on Yoga, first published in 1966 by B.K.S. Iyengar, list several postures which he advises to be held for long periods of time. For example,
- Maha mudra -- hold this pose "one to three minutes." (page 147)
Paschimottanasa -- try to stay "from one to five minutes" (page 169)
Supta Virasana -- "[hold] this pose 10 to 15 minutes." (page 125)
For several other postures, the student was advised by Iyengar to "Stay in this pose as long as you can." These were yin postures, although that Chinese term was obviously not used.
Which of the postures listed in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika would render the greatest benefit? According to the text, the last four. But, the text states, and all modern yoga teachers would agree, that asana practice by itself is only part of the yoga journey: don't forget about the other practices like breath and mindfulness.