Asana: Why and How?
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Asana: Why and How?

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Item Code: NAD748
Author: O.P. Tiwari
Publisher: Kaivalyadhama Samiti Lonavla
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 8189485369
Pages: 231 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.5 inch X 7.0 inch
Weight 470 gm
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About the Author

Shri O.P Tiwari was initiated in the field of Yoga by his Guru Swami Kuvalayananda. He was amongst the first few students of Swamiji to have completed his yoga pravishtha in the Year 1957. Since then he has been selflessly devoted to the cause of Yoga.


Preface to First Edition

Though the original manuscript of the book was ready four years ago, but its publication could be possible only this year. In this venture I am highly indebted to Swami Digambarji whose blessings are always with me. My hearty thanks are to Dr. Shrikrishna for his valuable suggestions for improving the presentation of the book.

I gratefully acknowledge the help rendered by Mrs. Anandmala B. Desai, Dr. Pitambar Jha, Shri R.K.Bodhe, Shri M. M. Gore, Shri Yashpal Singh Raghu, Shri Pari mal Debnath, Shri R. K. Dauneria and Shri Lav Kumar. I admire my son Ch. Sudhir and daughter Ch. Vartika for their readiness to render every co-operation in the preparation of this book. My thanks to all who prepared the typed copy of this manuscript.

The assistance rendered by Shri G. S. Sahay can be considered as one of a Co-Author. The English translation of the book as well as the total responsibility of its publication was borne by him. I do not want to thank him for this as it will be too formal.

I am thankful to Capt. B. L. Mittal for the overall guidance regarding the printing of the book in the press. I express my obligation to Shri Mahesh Dave (Supervisor of the Yoga Mimamsa Press) and his stafffor their sincere work. My Special thanks are due to Shri Govind Mohite (Compositor) whose sincere efforts are behind this publication.

My highest gratitude is to the Ministry of Education, Govt. Of India, who gave a grant for the publication of this book? Due to the unavoidable delays in the publication we were in deficit to meet the increased printing cost. In this critical juncture, the generous donation of Rs. 20, 0001-was kindly made by Shri Bhagwati Prasadji Khetan. This proved to be of great help to complete the publication in time and hence all the credit for bringing this book into the hands of the readers goes to him.

And, I thanks all those who have directly or indirectly helped me in presenting this book to the public.


Preface to Second Edition

It gives me immense pleasure that the second edition of my book "ASANAS - WHY AND HOW?" - is again in the hands of the Yoga Lovers and enthusiasts. The credit for this goes entirely to the Yoga lovers and not to me. I am indeed grateful to my readers for the vast appreciation showered by them on the first edition of my book.

While bringing out the second edition, I have not added any new Asanas or subject. Nevertheless, wherever considered necessary some minor modifications in the Asanas, technique and photographs have been made for the benefit of the Yoga practitioners.

The Kaivalayadham family has again played a major role in the finalisation of the manuscript for the second edition. I am grateful to our team of Yoga Instructors comprising of S/S D. Mishra, G. P. Shukla. Kumari Sandhya Shukla and Kumari Aruna Dixit. My special thanks are due to S/S Manoj Talwar and J.P. Dauneria for their assistance and contribution for giving final shape to the MSS for the press. As regards the guidance and suggestions extended to me for the same purpose by Shri K. P. Talwar and Swami Maheshanandaji, who are to me like my elder and younger brothers respectively, I feel my silence will be more vocal and representative of my feelings and sentiments towards them.

My special thanks are also due to our publishers – Mis. Model Press Pvt. Ltd., Jhandewalan Extension. New Delhi and especially to their Director - Shri Megh Raj Aggarwal for their cooperation and assistance in bringing out a quality publication expeditiously.

Last but not least my special thanks are also reserved for the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India, but for whose generous grant for the Kaivalayadham's publication programme, it would not have been possible for the Kaivalayadham to bring out this publication.

I also thank all those who have directly or indirectly helped me in presenting the second edition of my book.

Yoga lovers will be happy to know that this book "ASANAS - WHY AND HOW?" has won the first prize in the XVI National Prize Competition for the published Literature on physical Education, Sports, Health Education, Recreation and Yoga, which was organised by the Sports Authority of India in 1987 on behalf of the Govt. Of India (Ministry of Human Resource Development). I am indeed grateful to the Govt. of India and the Sports Authority, of India for having adjudged my humble contribution as worthy of the first prize under the said National prize Competition.

I would also like to reiterate that this is my humble contribution towards Kaivalayadham ' s efforts that the universal message of Yoga, duly authenticated scientifically, should reach the Yoga lovers the world over.

Any suggestions for improvement in the text of the book and/or illustrations so as to enhance its utility for Yoga enthusiasts are most welcome. I shall, therefore; make a fervent appeal to my readers kindly to forward to me without any hesitation, their valuable suggestions in this behalf. I can assure them that the same will inter-alia receive my utmost consideration while bringing out subsequent edition of the book.

I hope that the second edition of my book will also be heartily welcomed by Yoga lovers and it will receive the same wide patronage that was conferred on the first edition.


Preface to Third Edition

I am very happy to see that the 3rd edition of Asana Why & How ? is in your hands. Though slow but steady sale of the book proves that only the interested ones have gone through it and tried to purchase it. I could neither add nor improve upon the number of postures and other details, but that does not mean that it does not require additions. To be honest I had not much time to develop for this, hence I wish to be excused by the readers for this lapse. I have only tried to separate the meaning of Brahmacharya from celibaoy. It is not an Indian concept though I maintained the same. So far the readers will please excuse me for this. Celibacy is the commitment to search 'for the ultimate truth i.e. Brahman, Purusha or any other name though it is formless. About the practice of Brahmacharya Vasistha Samhita(I/43 - 45) speaks of different grades/levels. There are three such levels which pertain to three different levels ofSadhakas i.e. acetics, householders and students. The Brahmacharya practised at these three different levels by the Sadhakas appear to be different but it is only seemingly so; because what the essential aspect, i.e. common to all these levels is the commitment to pursue the Truth which is the Soul of Brahmacharya practice. I agree yoga is such a moving and vast subject that today you can see it growing all over the world, it is most secular sadhana. I therefore urge that people come forward and practice and spread this message which my teacher Swami Kuvalayananda said:

"Yoga has a complete message for humanity. It has a message for the human body. It has a message for the human mind and it also has a message for the human soul........ "

I am sure I will be understood correctly and if still there are suggestions to be made, I will welcome them with an open heart. My special thanks to Swami Maheshananda who heads the institute. I extend my thanks to my colleagues, especially DR. B. R. Sharma who has gone through the proofs many times and helped me in many ways. Mrs. Mandke's contribution I can neither repay nor forget. Shri S. K. Ganguly, and my son Subodh are to be thanked for their advice and help.

Last but not the least my deep gratitudes are due to Mr. Tanpure for printing this book so diligently. In the end I only pray "May God show me the Path to move in the right direction ever".


Preface to Fourth Edition

The Fourth Edition of Asana Why & How? is in your hands. The Third Edition was pronted in January 2000. It will be sold out so sonn was not even thought of. It seems the books published by Kaivalyadhama are becoming more and more popular. Therefore, our readers are worthy to be thanked.

I have included a series of crocodile' postures in it though these are very old but looking to the problem of spine and back pain it was thought worthy to include them. It is said old age and flexible spine have some relation. The more flexible the spine far away the old age and otherwise.

The Niyamas given in the last pages by Charandasji were remained translated that lacuna has been taken care of.

I would like to inform the readers that the new book on Pranayama and Mudra is ready and soon it will go the press. I hope, in future also our readers will not hesitate to come forward with their valuable suggestions so the vth edition of this book should not take time to come to your hands.

I shall fall in my duty to thank all those who helped to bring out this edition. special thanks tp our Printer Mr. Nitin Tanpure, of ACE Enterprises, Pune, who has become Kaivalyadhama Family member.

Lastly, I Pray to God who has been kind enough to bless me always as ever so that I keep on moving forward in the service of my institute and My Master Late Swami Kuvalayananda.



The book "Asana - Why And How?" is not written because there was no book on Asanas, nor because I could write the best one, but I felt a long standing need for a book in simple language which could go directly in the mind of the general public. It was a necessity of the time. In 1977 when the Ministry of Education, Government of India, constituted a committee to prepare a syllabus on Yoga Education for school and coJiege level and when this syllabus was ready, the idea came to my mind to write a book according to the prepared syllabus.

ASANA by Swami Kuvalayanandaji is supposed to be the best book on Asanas. Even today, it is as important as it was in 1924, when it was first published. All books on Asanas available till today are in some way or other indebted to the above book' Asanas' by Swamiji. How can I be an exception to that? Whatever little I could grasp in this field, is nothing but absolutely his blessings. This I accept with all humbleness of mind to his greatness.

The title "Asana Why and How?" appears to be a little unusual but it is selected after due consideration of reader's curiosity. So far, we have been telling that Asanas should be done, but none has explained sufficiently why they should be done. I do not know why I had a great desire that the curiosity of the reader to know the utility of Asanas must be explained properly. Thus, I thought to explain why and how they should be done. Today, a particular Asana is explained by different teachers in different ways which lead to confusion. Therefore, it is necessary that the practitioner must know why only a particular technique is necessary. Once a foreign lady humbly remarked that today here are not yogis, they are the merchants of Yoga. Though I tried to explain in my own way that this rule cannot be universal but still in my heart I remembered the couplet of Hindi poet Tulsidas who said, "Whosoever will keep long hair, nails will be respected as a yogi irrespective of his qualities".

Before I take up the question Why Asanas ? I should explain what is Asana. The Hindi poet Charandas replies in simple way. There are 84 million postures and these are nothing but the pattern of sitting of different species, means the different species using the different posture, for their comfortable sitting which are known as Asanas. In the beginning the postures which were used for prolonged sitting performing the spiritual practices like Sandhya, meditation, pooja and fire ceremony were known as Asanas. The same is quoted in Bramhasutras - asinah sambhavat; also in Shrimad Bhagawat Gita-samarn kayasirogr] varp (6.13).

But the approach changed in due course of time. The position of innumerable creatures were considered to be innumerable Postures (Asanas) as referred by Goraksa Nath in 10th century A.D.. But in my opinion the sculpture, discovered in Mexico dated 3500 B.C. clearly tells us that Hathayogic Asanas were popular even in that period. If we cannot go back to the history, due to our own limitations then we cannot say that in the ancient India Hathayogic Asanas were not popular. Therefore we take it for granted that Asanas are that part of our practices which not only taught the humanity how to sit, but also taught how to be healthy and thus leading to open the new channel through which the pranic current could flow easily into Susumna. This is why the well-known author ofGuhya Samaj Tantra Asanga (3rd century A.D.) wrote - 'yada na sidhyate bodhi hatha yogena sadhayet", (if you cannot achieve bodhi through Buddhist means try to practise through Hathayoga). Thus it is very clear that Hathayoga never lost its importance. We get the that, the practice of Asana, is necessary to teach us how to sit erect keeping ourselves healthy and channelising the current of prana towards the final goal of spirituality.

Today Asanas have another responsibility and importance from the point of view of physical health. Here I do not want to say anything of my own but to quote my teacher Swami Kuvalayanandaji :-

"The organs of the human body are made up of tissues. This is the reason why the health of human body depends on the health of tissues. According to physiology there are three conditions of health of the different tissues of the human body. These are: -

i) Constant supply of proper nourishment and of the internal secretions of the endocrine glands;
ii) Effective removal of waste products; and
iii) Healthy functioning of the nerve-connections. Cultural poses are fully capable of fulfilling these conditions."

Let us see how?
(i, ii) Elements necessary for nourishment of tissues are carried to them by blood. Such a supply depends not only on the quality and quantity of food but also on the power of digestion and absorption of the digestive system. This, and the circulatory system can be kept in efficient condition through cultural poses. The gentle and automatic massage of the digestive organs required for the smooth functioning of digestive system can be more effective only when the abdominal muscles are strong and elastic. Bhujangasana, Salabhasaria, Yoga-Mudra, Paschimatana, Vakrasana and Ardha-Matsyendrasana, etc. make the abdominal muscles strong and elastic. They are also helpful in keeping the abdominal organs in their respective places and effect in to remove the waste materials properly. Thus the second condition of human health also is fulfilled. Bhujangasana, Salabhasana and Dhanursana are fine Stretching postures for the front abdominal muscles and serve as contracting postures for the back muscles. Yoga-Mudra, Paschimatana and Halasana require vigorous contraction of the front abdominal muscles and the back muscles experience a very healthy stretch. Udd iyana gives a vertical massage and Nauli gives a lateral massage to the abdominal organs.

Circulatory system is vitally connected as regards to the nourishment of the tissues. Yogic poses render a very good help in the following manner. The contraction and relaxation of the heart cause the circulation of blood throughout the body. The heart is made up of the strongest muscular-stuff, but it can always be made healthier by means of proper Yogic exercises. For example, Uddiyana and Nauli raise the diaphragm so high in the thoracic cavity that they give a very good massage from below to the perpetually working heart. In these exercises the heart is alternatively subjected to a decrease in pressure and thus gets an opportunity of building a healthier muscle. Further, it is through veins that the impure blood is brought back and there are such troubles as vericose veins etc., which cause obstructions in blood circulation. However such troubles can be got rid of by practising Sirsasana, Sarvangasana and Viparitakaran I. In these exercises, the body is placed in upside- down position which enables veins to drain themselves in to the heart without any exertion. Further, the veins get a short relief which helps in both maintaining and recovering their health.

Another important element of nourishment is oxygen. Practice of Asanas keeps the respiratory system in an efficient condition. Breathing activity depends on the health of lungs and respiratory muscles. Salabhasana and Mayiirasana make them strong and elastic. Because Salabhasana requires deep inhalation and retention of breath for a few seconds, the pressure force air into every cell of the lungs and opens it out for active work. The deep expiration necessary in Udd iyana and Nauli builds the respiratory muscles which are necessary for adequate supply of oxygen to the circulatory system. Sarvangasana, Vipar itakaran 1", Matsyasana, Jihva-Bandha and Simha-Mudra have been found useful in the treatment of tonsillitis, adenoids and chronic nasal catarrh.

Human health depends not only on the adequate supply of nourishing elements but also on the internal secretions of the endocrine glands. In preserving the health of these glands just mentioned above, Yogic exercises have been found to be excellent exercises for the thyroid also. The pituitary and the pineal glands are best taken care of by Sirsasana. So far as the adrenals are concerned, Bhujangasana, Dhanurasana, Udd iyana and Nauli are capable of preserving their health. For making the testes and ovaries healthy, Sarvangasana, Udd iyana and Nauli have been observed to have great efficacy.

(iii) The third condition of the health is the healthy functioning of the nerve-connections. The network of nerves is such that there is not a single tissue in the human body that has not got its own nerve-connection. It is mainly because of their nerve-connections that the tissues are able to perform their work. Thus the tissues will remain healthy and active only if the nerves connected with them are in a healthy condition. Sirsasana and Viparitakaran by sending a richer blood supply to the brain, ensure its health and also thy' health of the cranial nerves supplying the different organs of senses. All the Yogic poses are excellent spinal exercises. Uddiyana and Nauli operating through the diaphragm have a special value in promoting the health of the spinal cord and also of the sympathetic cords. Salabhasana, Ardha- Salabhasana and the first part of Sarvangasana and Viparitakaran \ take care of the nerves of the lower extremities, whereas the part played by the upper, extremities, in the techniques of Salabhasana, Mayiirasana, Sarvangasana, Vipar itakaran T, etc. preserve the health of the nerves. Thus Asanas are found capable of preserving the health not only of the brain and the spinal and sympathetic cords but also of all the cranial and spinal nerves spreading throughout the body.

Bodily activities depend also upon skeletal muscles. So far as the thoracic and abdominal muscles are concerned, Yogic poses do train them, but they are not calculated to develop strong muscles for the arms or the legs. However, ordinary muscular needs of a civil life are entirely satisfied by the Yogic poses.

Every meditative pose requires the spine to be kept erect. This is with a view to eliminate the possibility of the compression of the abdominal viscera and also to free the mind from the burden of the body and not with a view to keep it in its proper place and allow it to function properly.

The second physiological feature of the meditative postures is their capacity to keep a richer blood supply playing about the pelvic region and thus to tone up the coccygeal and sacral nerves. This increased blood supply and consequent toning up of the nerves, are to some extent responsible for the awakening of Kunda I in], of course when other Yogic exercises are coordinated.

The third physiological feature is the minimum production of carbon-dioxide. It is because meditative poses involve very little muscular activity. In such a physiological condition both the lungs and the heart have a tendency to slow down their speed and when these poses are maintained for a considerably longer time, breathing becomes so shallow and the heart beats in a so controlled manner that all the activities of the yogic student appear to have come to a stand-still. Such being the state of the physiological condition of his body, the Yogic studentfinds himself free first to direct his mind inward to fathom its own mysteries, then to isolate himself even from his mental equipment and stand face to face with Reality-ultimately to be one with that.

We have in brief seen the effect of Asanas on our body and mind, the total personality of ours is related with our actions. Hence, it implies, if we want to stay healthy then Asanas are necessary. Patanjali has very rightly said "Sthira sukham asanam:'. That is stability and feelings of well being are the results of Asanas. Sutra can also mean that the posture which is comfortable and stable is an Asana. If the above is the description, then lying down is most comfortable, but can it be called an Asana? Sri Svatmaram has clarified it in Hatha-Pradipika - "Kuryattadasanarn sthairyarnarogyam cangalaghavam". This implies that Asanas should result in stability and absence of disease, as well as contributing to lightness of the body and feeling of well being. If this was not the case Asana will not remain Asana and would be an exercise. Hence the basic question arises how to do Asanas and Maharshi Pataiijali has explained it very beautifully - "Prayatnasaithilyanantasamapattibhyam". It means, while doing Asanas, effort should be minimum. As regards the mind it should not waver but should be applied to the infinite or on our breath, so as to reduce tension. This is the direction proposed by Patanjali. it is clear that if Asanas are performed as exercises, they will be more tiring, which will increase the quantity of "Rajas" and hence the body unstable and the mind fickle. Kama (Sex), anger, greed, attachment, enmity etc., will increase. Hence the important point in the way of eradication of these two and making the mind and body free from all diseases. Hence the solution lies in knowing how to do the Asanas. In popular language it is said that haste is waste; the same is applicable to the Asanas. This saying has to be remembered. By effort and stability Maharshi Patanjali means the minimum use offorce. Let the Asanas happen, doing should be minimum. Whenever the question of "doing" arises, instantly, voluntary force comes into action. But when we talk of happening, we ourselves become the observer in order to see what happens and this feeling forms a positive attitude in us. Because of this attitude the physical tensions are minimised and the mind tends to a void. While doing Asanas if our mind is let free it will take us anywhere and this will lead to tension at conscious level. If this is the case the whole motive of Asanas comes to an end. Hence, while doing Asanas, if we apply our mind to infinite or void then the physical and mental tensions are minimised.

Classification of Asanas : Swami Kuvalayananda has classified Asanas in 2 main levels. The two main categories are Meditative and Cultural. Cultural also has sub classification viz. Relaxative. The Relaxative postures are fatigue releasing postures.




  Preface to First Edition XI
  Preface to Second Edition XIV
  Preface to Third Edition XVI
  Preface to Fourth Edition XVIII
  Introduction XXIX
1 Svastikasana 1
2 Uttanapadasana 4
3 Bhujangasana 7
4 Ardha Padmasana 10
5 Utkatasana 13
6 Ardha-Shalabhasana 17
7 Padahastasana 19
8 Tadasana 22
9 Dhanurasana-I 25
  Dhanurasana-2 29
10 Naukasana 32
11 Vajrasana 34
12 Vakrasana 38
13 Supta- Vajrasana 42
14 Gomukhasana 46
15 Gomukhasana (Baddhahasata) 50
16 Viparitakarani 53
17 Viparitakarani (Saravangasana) 58
18 Ardha -Matsyendrasana 62
19 Paschimottanasana 67
20 Ugrasana 70
21 Konasana 73
22 Trikonasana 76
23 Halasana 79
24 Samasana 84
25 Uttanamandukasana 87
26 Bhadrasana 90
27 Akarna-Dhanurasana 93
28 Mayurasana 97
29 Simhasana 101
30 Padmasana 104
31 Vakasana 108
32 Padmasana (Baddha) 111
33 Tolangulasana 115
34 Parvatasana 118
35 Shalabhasana 121
36 Makarasana-1 125
  Makarasana-2 128
37 Matsyasana 131
38 Vriksasana 134
39 Chakrasana-1 137
  Chakrasana-2 141
40 Sirsasana 143
41 Savasana 149
42 Ujjayi Pranayama 152
43 Anuloma-Viloma 155
44 Kapalabhati 161
45 Nauli 164
46 Agnisara 170
47 Yogamudra 174
48 Uddiyana Bandha 177
49 Jalandhara Bhandao 181
  Appendix 184

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