Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Bihar School of Yoga

This private label book was first published in 1966, well before the current yoga renaissance. Given the high level of interest in yoga therapy, it is astounding how far-sighted and prescient this book has been.

If I had to recommend just one book on yoga, this would be it. The title is a concise and precise summation of its contents. The book is comprehensive, free of ideology, and clinical in its writing. Even though it covers what seem like all yoga asanas, pranayamas, mudras, and bandhas, it is not overwhelming. This is because it is systematically organized into beginner, intermediate, and advanced groups of asanas, with step-by-step instructions as well as benefits and limitations or contraindications. Pranayama, bandha, and mudra follow the same level of detail as do the cleansing shat karma kriyas and a general introduction to chakras.

What makes this book particularly special is its enormously useful therapeutic index. For decades, this was the one book that listed not just the benefits, but also the contraindications of each asana. With increasing numbers of yoga injuries, and yoga-related ER visits, this information is something all yoga teachers as well as students should find helpful. Even after 40 years, the book remains unmatched.

Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha is the flagship book of a distinguished center and publisher of yoga books. However, Satyananda Yoga has its own terminology and many asanas have different names from those of styles more predominant in the West.

Almost all hatha yoga books quote sutras from Patanjali. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are the basis for raja yoga. Raja yoga equates asana to the stable sitting position used for meditation, as stated in this book and in the Yoga Sutras. Beyond that, there are no asana descriptions in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as it is a manual on understanding and training the mind and not the physical body.

It is Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and other texts such as Gheranda Samhita that serve as manuals of yoga asanas and give an understanding and training of the physical body. Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha is based on appropriate texts and is true to its tradition and heritage. The book is also relevant to contemporary culture in both the East as well as the West.

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