Why a Set of Twenty-One Yogasanas?
Q: For the basic Yogasana program that is taught in Isha Hatha Yoga, you have chosen twenty-one out of the altogether eighty-four classical asanas. Why did you choose these particular ones?
Sadhguru: The full set of eighty-four would be too much to start with. Among the asanas, there are some that are preparatory in nature, which means they are part of the sadhana pada. And there are others that are tools for transformation, and as such part of the kaivalya pada. There are times of the year that correspond to these two padas. The first quarter of the asanas are geared towards preparing the system. Suppose we want to infuse you with an enormous amount of energy, your system should be ready for that.
Boosting the Energy Body
One simple way of looking at this is – there is a physical body, a karmic or mental body, and an energy body. To use an analogy, though it is not a perfect one, you could think of these three bodies as casings that are one inside the other. Suppose we boost your energy body in a big way, which we eventually want to do – if the other two bodies do not give way, something will break. So the first step is to make the body conducive, which can be approached in different ways. One simple way is to practice Bhuta Shuddhi. The five elements are always transacting across the boundaries of the body. At least with the air that you breathe, you can feel it.
This constant transaction happens on all levels. You can also see it in the way the outside temperature can change the temperature of your body. That means there is a transaction of the fire element. When it comes to the food and water that you consume, there is a transaction on the level of the earth element and the water element. This transaction not only happens to the extent that you are able to notice but in a much more fundamental way. The elemental dimension of who you are does not respect the boundaries that you have drawn.
The boundaries of what you consider as “you” are purely physiological and psychological in nature. On the elemental level, there are no boundaries. Yoga means to erase the boundaries of you as an individual. Because oneness is the way life is, and we want to know life the way it is. The idea of a division between you and me is imaginary. As air is moving all over the place, so is everything else in different ways. The quantum of elements in you varies from day to day. Transaction happens all the time.
A lot of the eighty-four asanas are aimed towards enhancing your energies. Before you boost your energy in a big way, a certain amount of preparation, expansion, and transparence needs to happen to ensure the body and the mind will be able to take it. Boosting your energies without sufficiently preparing your body and your mind would be like putting more air into a balloon than it can hold. The first series will wear the boundaries of your body and mind thin, so that you become increasingly conscious that the idea of “this is me – that is you” exists only for practical purposes. On a more fundamental level, there is no absolute boundary between “this” and “that.”
Editor’s Note: Isha Hatha Yoga programs are an extensive exploration of classical hatha yoga, which revive various dimensions of this ancient science that are largely absent in the world today. These programs offer an unparalleled opportunity to explore Upa-yoga, Angamardana, Surya Kriya, Surya Shakti, Yogasanas and Bhuta Shuddhi, among other potent yogic practices.