The Gheranda Samhita, one of the three classic texts of hatha yoga from about the 17th century (Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Shiva Samhita are the others), says, “All together there are as many asanas as there are species of living beings. Shiva has taught 8,400,000. Of these, 84 are pre-eminent, of which thirty-two are useful in the world of mortals.” The text goes on to describe those 32 asanas, by far the most in any old yoga text. Shiva, by the way, is the third of the three main Hindu gods responsible for creation and upkeep of the world. Brahma and Vishnu are the first two.
While 8,400,000 may seem like a ludicrous number, there is an explanation.
In the Indian numbering system, there is a number called a lakh. This number represents 100,000. So 8,400,000 is derived from 84 lakhs of postures.
I’m sure Shiva knew what he was talking about, but no one, no matter how enlightened, has time to work on 8 million-plus postures. What’s important is that there are 84 basic asanas through which one can elevate consciousness.
Ultimately, do not think of these asanas as a mere 84 ways to twist your body. These are 84 systems, 84 ways of attaining. And if 84 seems too daunting, no worries. It is said that if you have mastery over even a single yogasana, everything that is worth knowing in existence can be known.
OK now, start stretching!