The number eighty-four is considered sacred within a number of cultures, including yogic traditions.
It is not known exactly why, but there are many significant yoga texts throughout history that refer to the number eighty-four, including the descriptions and instructions for 84 asanas.
This article will explore:
- The history of the 84 asanas
- The eighty-four āsanas from the 20th century onwards
- Where else does the number eighty-four appear?
- Where can you practice the eighty-four āsanas today?
- Plus, a full 84 Asanas List
The History of the Eighty-four Asanas
Texts such as the 13th century Dattātreyayogaśāstra state there are 8,400,000 āsanas, as many as there are varieties of living creatures. It is said that from these, Śiva selected eighty-four.
There are a large number of ancient and modern texts that refer to the number eighty-four, however, they appear to vary in the āsanas described.
The Haṭharatnāvalī, written by Srinivasa is a Sanskrit text dated around the mid 17th century. It is the earliest known text to list and describe eighty-four āsanas. It appears to be highly influenced by the Haṭhapradīpikā, which was written in the 15th century, although this text only describes fifteen āsanas.
Around 1737 CE the Jogapradīpikā describes eighty-four āsanas within 314 of its 964 verses. Not long after this, the Āsanayogagratha from Jaipur, dated 1744 CE describes instructions for eighty-four āsanas.
In the 1900s, eighty-four āsanas are described and photographed in publications by Buddha Bose and Dr Gouri Shankar Mukerji, who were students of Bishnu Charan Ghosh.
Ghosh was also the teacher of the infamous Bikram Choudhury. Choudhury taught the eighty-four āsanas to his students as the “advanced class” version of his usual twenty-six postures. Students of Choudhury continue to teach the eighty-four āsanas.In 2007, Gudrun Bühnemann published Eighty-four Āsanas in Yoga. Her research explores and compares various ancient and modern traditions in which eighty-four āsanas are recorded, from manuscripts to modern day yoga systems.
The eighty-four asanas From the 20th century Onwards
Bishnu Charan Ghosh
Bishnu Charan Ghosh was born in 1903. He was the founder of Ghosh’s College of Physical Education in Calcutta, India. The school continues to run today under the name of Ghosh’s Yoga College. It is now under the guidance of his granddaughter Muktamala Ghosh.
Ghosh was the younger brother of Paramahansa Yogananda, renowned author of Autobiography of a Yogi. It is said that Ghosh was influenced by the physical culture of India during his upbringing, including body building.
Seemingly, he was influenced just as much by the yogic teachings of his brother Yogananda and would accompany him on his travels worldwide. It is thought that Ghosh’s teaching style combined the spiritual aspect of yoga and the positive health effects of physical exercises.
Ghosh himself did not knowingly document the eighty-four āsanas that he taught. Instead, he published a pamphlet in 1961 titled Yoga Cure. This described thirty-two āsanas along with their health benefits.
Interestingly, there appears to be some similarities between Yoga Cure and the āsanas described in the Gheraṇḍa Saṁhitā, an 18th century Sanskrit text comprised of thirty-two āsanas.
A number of Ghosh’s students, however, went on to create publications which record the same sequence of eighty-four āsanas, accompanied with instructions, diagrams and photographs.
Therefore, it is believed that Ghosh taught these eighty-four āsanas to all of his students.
Amongst these students was Bikram Choudhury. Choudhury later condensed this extensive sequence into a beginner-friendly class consisting of twenty-six postures, known as the “Bikram Yoga” sequence.
Ghosh’s friend and student, Buddha Bose, documented the eighty-four āsanas in a manuscript through photographs and descriptions of the postures. Although unpublished during his lifetime, Bose’s work would later shed light on the significance of these postures.
Jerome Armstrong’s 2020 book Calcutta Yoga explores the discovery and recent publication of Bose’s manuscript, adding further layers of interest and understanding around the eighty-four āsanas.
Another notable figure in the evolution of the eighty-four āsanas is Dr Gouri Shankar Mukerji, who was both a student of Bishnu Ghosh and a dedicated medical researcher.
During the 1950s and 60s, Dr Gouri Shankar Mukerji authored several books publishing research on the medical effects of yoga postures and breathing practices. His contributions expanded the knowledge and understanding of the health benefits of these ancient asanas.
Beyond Choudhury’s “Bikram Yoga” class of twenty-six asanas, he would teach the original eighty-four āsanas to his most committed and experienced students in what is now known as Bikram’s “Advanced Class.”
While still taught in yoga studios today, it is often not openly advertised on schedules and is reserved for experienced practitioners and teachers who are invited to take on the challenge.
Tony Sanchez was a devoted student of Choudhury and played a significant role in preserving and sharing the eighty-four āsanas. Sanchez developed his own teaching style and created classes and courses that centered around these eighty-four postures.
In his book, 84 Āsanas: Level 1, Sanchez provides insights into the history of the sequence, positing that it originated from a system codified in the 10th century AD by Yogi Matsyendranath, the founder of the Nath sect.
Sanchez also connects the teachings of Yogananda and Sivananda, suggesting they may have practiced the eighty-four āsanas together.
Where else does the number eighty-four appear?
Buddhist traditions contain stories of the eighty-four Siddhas. Siddhas are considered fully-realized beings.
The 84 Siddhas
Siddhas are also known as Mahasiddhas (maha meaning ‘great’). They are sometimes attributed to having acquired magical/ superhuman abilities.
There is some evidence that there is a connection between the eighty-four Siddhas and the eighty-four āsanas. A link has yet to be defined, but scholars have suggested that each Siddha could be connected to one of the eighty-four āsanas.
Where can you practice the eighty-four Asanas today?
As Bikram Yoga is the beginner’s version of Ghosh’s yoga sequence, you may be able to contact a Bikram Yoga school to enquire if they hold advanced or intermediate classes covering the eighty-four āsanas.
Tony Sanchez teaches the eighty-four āsanas online, so his classes and courses can be accessed worldwide. Esak Garcia, also a previous student of Choudhury runs a teacher training for the eighty-four āsanas.
Ghosh’s Yoga College in Calcutta, India teaches the eighty-four āsanas focusing on their therapeutic benefits.
Complete 84 Asanas List:
Below you will find a list of the eighty-four āsanas in Sanskrit plus their English translation. Within all of the texts mentioned above, you will find some small variations. The postures listed here are based on the sequence taught by Tony Sanchez.
Please note, many of the eighty-four postures below are considered advanced āsanas. For this reason, it is advised to practice these under the supervision of an experienced yoga teacher.
1. Virabhadrasana – Salute to the Gods and Goddesses- series
2. Suryanamaskara – Salute to the Sun
3. Parsvardhacandrasana – Lateral Half Moon
4. Ardhacandrasana – Back Bend
5. Padhastasana – Hands to Feet
6. Trikonasana – Triangle Pose
7. Dandayamanavibhaktapadajanusirasana – Standing Separate Legs Head to Knee
8. Utkatasana – Chair Pose
9. Garudasana – Eagle Pose
10. Dandayamanajanusirasana – Standing Head to Knee
11. Dandayamanadhanurasana – Standing Bow
12. Tuladandasana – Balancing Stick
13. Vibhaktahastatuladandasana – Separate Hands Balancing Stick
14. Dandayamanavibhaktapadapascimottanasana – Standing Separate Legs Stretching Pose
15. Tadasana – Tree Pose
16. Padangusthasana – Toe Stand
17. Vamanasana – Short-man Pose
18. Khagasana – Crow Pose
19. Bakasana – Crane Pose
20. Angusthasana – Finger Stand
21. Pranasana – Life Pose
22. Sukhasana – Easy Pose
23. Samasana – Balanced Pose
24. Siddhasana – Success in Meditation
25. Bhadrasana – Gentle Pose
26. Svastikasana – Good Luke Pose
27. Ardhapadmasana – Half Lotus Pose
28. Padmasana – Lotus Pose
29. Utthitapadmasana – Raised Lotus Pose
30. Baddhapadmasana – Bound Lotus Pose
31. Tulangulasana – Weighing Scale Pose
32. Garbhasana – Fetus Pose
33. Matsyasana – Fish Pose
34. Makarasana – Crocodile Pose
35. Parvatasana – Mountain Pose
36. Kukkutasana – Cockerel Pose
37. Savasana – Corpse Pose
38. Parvanamuktasana – Wind Removing Pose
39. Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose
40. Salabhasana – Locust Pose
41. Purnasalabhasana – Full Locust Pose
42. Dhanurasana – Full Bow Pose
43. Suptavajrasana – Fixed Firm/ Reclining Hero Pose
44. Ardhakurmasana – Half Tortoise Pose
45. Ustrasana – Camel Pose
46. Sasakasana – Rabbit Pose
47. Janusirasana – Head to Knee Pose (Seated)
48. Pascimottanasana – Seated Forward Bend
49. Vibhaktapadapascimottanasana – Separate Leg Stretch Pose
50. Mandukasana – Frog Pose
51. Uttitapascimottanasana – Upward Stretching Pose
52. Purnavibhaktapadajanusirasana – Splits/ Full Separate Leg Head to Knee
53. Ekapadarajakapotasana – King Pigeon Pose
54. Dandayamanapurnajanusirasana – Splits in the Air/ Full Standing Head to Knee
55. Natarajasana – Dancer Pose
56. Akarnadhanurasana – Bow Pulling/ Archer Pose
57. Catuskonasana – Four Angle Pose
58. Gomukhasana – Cow Face Pose
59. Ardhamatsyendrasana – Matsyendra’s Pose/ Spine Twist
60. Ekapadagokilasana – Flying Crow Pose
61. Ekapadasirasana – Foot Behind Head Pose
62. Dvipadasirasana – Both Feet Behind Head Pose
63. Utthitakurmasana – Raised Tortoise Pose
64. Kurmasana – Tortoise Pose
65. Yoganidrasana – Yogic Sleep Pose
66. Omkarasana – Om Pose
67. Samkatasana – Difficult Pose
68. Purnabhujangasana – Full Cobra Pose
69. Purnadhanurasana – Full Bow Pose
70. Purna-Ustrasana – Full Camel Pose
71. Urdhvadhanurasana – Wheel Pose (Upward-Facing Bow)
72. Ekapadaviparitadandasana – One-legged Inverted Staff Pose
73. Mayurasana – Peacock Pose
74. Baddhamayurasana – Lotus Peacock Pose
75. Ekapadamayurasana – One-legged Peacock Pose
76. Ekahastamayurasana – One-handed Peacock Pose
77. Halasana – Plow Pose
78. Sarvangasana – Supported Shoulder Stand
79. Urdhvasarvangasana – Shoulder Stand (Unsupported)
80. Sirsasana – Supported Headstand
81. Urdhvasirsasana – Headstand (Unsupported)
82. Vyaghasana – Tiger Pose
83. Vyaghrasanavrscikasana – Scorpion Pose
84. Hastasana – Upward Salute Pose
While the exact origins of the eighty-four āsanas remain elusive, their significance and impact on the world of yoga are undeniable.
For further research on the eighty-four āsanas, you may find these resources helpful:
Eighty-four Āsanas in Yoga, by Gudrun Bühnemann
Calcutta Yoga, by Jerome Armstrong
Roots of Yoga, by James Mallinson and Mark Singleton