By JACQUELINE HARGREAVES and JASON BIRCH
Vasiṣṭhasaṃhitā (12-13th c.) is one of the earliest Haṭhayoga texts to describe non-seated Āsanas. The first is Mayūrāsana, the Peacock Pose, an arm balance with the body positioned on the elbows as described above.
Mayūrāsana continues to be mentioned in most late medieval Haṭhayoga texts. The fifteenth-century Haṭhapradīpikā adds that Mayūrāsana turns to ashes all bad and excessive food that has been consumed. It ignites digestive fire (jaṭharāgni) and enables the yogin to digest poison. The latter claim may be based on the fact that peacocks can kill and eat snakes without being poisoned.
The second non-seated Āsana in the Vasiṣṭhasaṃhitā is Kukkutāsana, the Rooster Pose, another arm balancing posture in which the hands are threaded through the legs in Padmāsana. Both of these postures are still widely practised in modern postural yoga.
Image from a 19th c. manuscript of the Jogapradīpikā held at the British Library.