top of page

Āsana (Limb 3)



sthira = hard, solid, compact, strong, still, motionless

sukham = pleasant, agreeable

āsanam = posture

Postures to be assumed should be both still and pleasant.


prayatna = effort, conscious activity

śaithilya = relaxation

ananta = without end, infinite, boundless

samāpattibhyām = by, with, for or to the (two) attainments, the same states or conditions, engrossments

Continuous effort and endless relaxation are the twin attainments (of āsana, in particular, or Yoga in general).


tato dvandvānabhighātaḥ

tataḥ = hence, then, therefore

dvandva = pairs of opposites in nature

anabhighātaḥ = safe from, away from disturbances

From this follows a freedom from disturbances of opposing characteristics of Nature.

(YS. II.46-48)

Translation by Dr. Shyam Ranganathan. All Rights Reserved.

Students of yoga know the term “asana” (āsana) as the word for physical exercise and posture. In the Yoga Sūtra, the term appears as the name of the third of Eight Limbs of Yoga, and the description is perhaps not what most would expect. In yoga classes, asanas (āsanas) are dynamic postures that students travel through during their yoga class. And practitioners of yoga at home will have their own assortment of asanas to work through. In the Yoga Sūtra, translated above in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra  (Penguin 2008) we see that asana (āsana) refers to something far less dynamic. This third limb of yoga, āsana, is one characterized as both pleasant and still (in contrast to dynamic and challenging), both active and restful, and it results in transcending sharp contrasts of experience.

How does this relate to asana (āsana) as though today? Yoga Philosophy, as found in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra  teaches us that physical activity can be an integral part of our practice of yoga if it is included within a wider project of bringing ourselves into fruition as people . A person is something, accordingly, that has an interest in its own sovereignty. Hence, the practice of yoga physically, as a postural, asana (āsana) practice helps us implement our own sovereignty as part of our own life. But this shows that there is an important difference between mere physical activity and yoga, and moreover that it’s quite possible to go through the motions of an asana (āsana) practice without actually doing yoga. When we actually do yoga, asana (āsana) practice is the means and end of our own sovereignty. When we don’t do yoga, we treat asana (āsana) practice as one of many activities that we can tick off the list of things to do. To learn about how every physical activity and asana (āsana) practice is part of a genuine life of yoga, and how to convert any such practice into a practice of yoga, join Five Limbs: Yoga Sūtra  Essentials for Practice.  This is a self-directed subscription course: join any time, leave any time. Learn from expert video lectures by Dr. Shyam Ranganathan, and participate in the weekly Q and A with other dedicated yogis. Perfect for those new to Yoga Philosophy classes! 


bottom of page