How Many Original Yoga Poses Are There?

In recent times, it is certainly true that yoga has become more and more popular amongst wider swathes of people – with people from all walks of life engaging in the practice for its many benefits towards physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

How Many Original Yoga Poses Are There?

However, many poses that appear in modern yoga are interpretations and adaptations of classic styles – meaning that some of the original poses and their meanings have become somewhat muddied. 

But this begs the question: how many original poses were there, what were their names, and what were the purposes behind them? 

Yoga: A History

While no general timeline can be agreed upon as to the actual origin of yoga, it is widely believed to have originated in Ancient India – roughly around 200 BCE. 

It was throughout this period when conversations about yoga practices were first written and documented, leading scholars to suspect that it was during this period that it was first conceived.

Throughout this period, early Hindu and Buddhist philosophies were starting to take place – wherein teachings were taken as ‘sutras’, as well as the philosophical system of ‘Patanjali Yogashastra’. 

Yogic practices were further enhanced throughout the Middle Ages, wherein many different forms of the practice were developed and created. However, it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that Western civilizations began to learn about the practice. 

What Is The Point Of Yoga? 

Focused on the wellbeing of the body, mind, and spirit, yoga was initially designed as a method of finding a sense of balance within ourselves – particularly when it comes to establishing a calm, still mind that is as devoid of turbulence as possible. 

In many ways, yoga could be seen as one of the earliest methods of combating depression and sadness, and can be seen as a practical coping mechanism for the troubles that we as human beings have always faced – be them physical, psychological, or emotional. 

How Many Original Yoga Poses Were There? 

While it is uncertain how many were developed at the exact time of the creation of yoga, there are a collection of poses that are widely believed to resemble ‘classic’ yoga – and are in fact the poses still practiced by traditional yogis to this day. 

There are 15 of these poses in total, all of which have specific meanings and purposes to healing and wellbeing. 

What Are These ‘Classic’ Poses? 

As mentioned above, there are 15 poses that are considered traditional and classic elements of yoga – each offering something a little different to the practitioner. These classic poses include: 

  • Svastikasana – Svastikasana is one of the classic poses, and involves a simple sitting pose with one ankle crossed over the other.
  • Gomukhasana (cow-facing pose) – seated pose, legs overlapped, and one hand reaching up the back to meet the other coming from above.
  • Virasana (hero’s pose) – a kneeling position, sitting on the legs, with the hands on either the thighs, or in the air outstretched.
  • Kurmasana (tortoise pose) – seated pose, with the legs outstretched, and the head coming as close to the floor as possible (between the legs).
  • Kukkutasana – sitting cross legged with the hands between the knees and thighs.
  • Uttana Kurmasana – tortoise pose, albeit on the back.
  • Dhanurasana (bow pose) – lying on stomach, with arms holding the ankles. The torso should be curved upwards as much as possible.
  • Matsyendrasana – a seated twisting pose.
  • Paschimottanasana – a seated forward-bending pose.
  • Mayurasana – extended legs pose similar to planking or push ups.
  • Shavasana (corpse pose) – resting pose, laid on the back with limbs spread out.
  • Siddhasana – also known as “accomplished pose”, and involves placing the heel of the foot against the perineum.
  • Padmasana – seated pose with hands clasped together, all while having the chin against the chest.
  • Simhasana – seated pose on the knees with the mouth open. The gaze is also focused at the tip of the nose.
  • Bhadrasana – ankles pressed into the groin, with the hands clasped around feet.

Are The Classic Poses Still Practiced? 

Despite being some of the more classic, traditional poses that have been around for nearly 2000 years (at least), they are still commonly used within yoga practices to this day – albeit there have been many alterations, adaptations, and renaming of the original poses. 

How Many Original Yoga Poses Are There?

This is a result of new schools of yoga opening, and with those schools, new methods of thought and teaching. There are also few people in the western world who have an understanding of Hindi, meaning that some translations and name changes were needed to properly introduce the practices to the western world in the mid-19th century. 

What Are The Benefits Of Yoga?

Of course, there are many reasons why people practice yoga. However, many of them can be traced back to the various benefits that the practice has for physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. 

Improved Flexibility 

One benefit is the improvements that it can have to flexibility. This is a major reason why people choose to practice yoga – both for those in the prime of their lives, and those who are in old age. 

By improving flexibility, we can avoid many of the traditional pitfalls associated with the aging process – including joint pain, muscle weakness, and the general slowing down associated with our twilight years. 

Improved Strength

Yoga is also good for improving our overall muscular strength – something that is important for all humans, irrespective of age. 

By improving the strength of our muscles, it also helps to slow down the degeneration as we age, and keep us feeling fit, strong, and mobile. 

Supports Joint Health

Yoga can also be good for enhancing and supporting joint health – something that can be beneficial for maintaining mobility, strength, stamina, and comfort as we age. 

Teaches Breathing

Yoga also has a lot of focus on breathing – something that can be beneficial for coping with stress, clearing the mind, establishing a sense of control over your emotions, and combating depression. 

It can also help us find patience, improve our lung capacity, and develop more stamina for aerobic and cardiovascular exercise. 

Reduces Stress

Yoga is also good for reducing stress – namely through the breathing exercises, the mindfulness and grounding exercises that it promotes, and through the general exercise associated with the poses. 

This is probably one of the most common reasons why people practice yoga – and explains why it has become so popular in recent times when the world has become more hectic. 

Yoga teaches us to remain in the moment, and focusing on things like our breathing can help us to find peace within the chaos of life – something that is a vital skill for people to learn. 

Final Thoughts

It’s true that yoga has increased in popularity over the past couple of decades – with more and more people engaging in it for its benefits to physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.

However, for those who want to experience the true reflection of what traditional yoga entails, it is important to read up on the poses. 

So if you are interested in following the traditional yoga poses, then be sure to refer to this handy guide. Something tells me you won’t be disappointed!

Laura Simmons
Latest posts by Laura Simmons (see all)