Premodern Yogāsanas and Modern Postural Yoga Practice
Distinct Regional Collections of Āsanas on the Eve of Colonialism
In this chapter, we formulate a corpus of premodern praxis manuals on yoga that were composed in the 18th and 19th century in rudimentary Sanskrit and vernacular languages, which were likely documenting collections of yoga postures (āsana) current among practitioners of the time. Much of their detailed, praxis-focused content does not occur in the scholarly Sanskrit yoga treatises that predate them, and yet most of these manuals have received little attention in academic publications. Our analysis and comparative study of this material has identified three distinct collections of complex āsana that can be located to different geographical regions of India on the eve of colonialism. This research provides evidence for premodern āsanas that crossed sectarian and linguistic divides and were adopted by the gurus who popularised yoga in the early 20th century. This latter issue underlies contemporary debates on the continuity of modern postural yoga within the Indian tradition. Until this study, clear lines of transmission from premodern teachings on āsana to modern postural yoga have eluded academic research.