The practice of asanas, or yogic exercises, represents the most popular phase of yoga. The• acquisition (if these postures may be regarded almost, as a separate science or subject in itself. Yet the word “almost” is very important.
If it were not for the other steps of yoga, there would be no asana It was to aid mental concentration that the early asana postures were developed. From them came more elaborate or more difficult postures that paved the w:ay to higher attainment in the mental field. From that came Hatha Yoga:
It is quite possible for anyone to try and attain the various asanas without considering yoga philosophy at all, just as it is possible for persons to reach high states of contemplation without acquiring numerous asanas. But the Question “why?” will raise itself in each case.
Applied specifically to some one practicing yogic exercises, the question will be: “Why should I try these?” The answer is: “Because such exercises bring results not found in other systems of so-called physical
That brings up the next question: “Why is yoga different?” The answer is found in the fact that yoga combines the mental with the physical. That brings us right back to the starting point. Most• persons who take up yogic exercises will learn this for themselves.
They will. find that in thinking, bodily position plays a great part.
That is why the four contemplative postures were given in the previous chapter. Without comfort or physical poise, bodily urges cut into the flow of thought. So the early yogic philosophers-in particular, Fatalistic-found ways whereby the physical activities could be subdued or ‘rendered nil.
Patanjali himself gave no specific postures, indicating that he felt the mental urge would win, provided a simple physical comfort could be-maintained. There we see the mental phase of yoga in predominant form. But it didn’t work that simply. It took centuries of experiment to evolve the eighty-four postures which now comprise the catalog of asanas. According to most authorities, however, only about a dozen of. these are specially useful in yogic physical culture.