In the Gheravda Samhita, we learn that there are as many äsanas as there are life-forms. have been explained by Siva. Of these. eighty-four are exceptional, and of these thirty-two are auspicious in the realm of the living. This means that lots of postures are available. Though some treatises attempt to classify the thirty-two auspicious postures. there are also some, such as dear Abhinavagupta, who claim that any posture assumed in moments of ecstasy and enlightenment automatically becomes an expression of these states and hence, holy. As this is a book on left-hand Tantra, and not on yoga, we shall limit ourselves to a very few postures here and discuss them for their relevance in meditation and breathing. A straight spine is essential for good and natural breathing. This is easiest in five postures:

1. Lying on the ground. Use a blanket or a warm quilt if you live in a cold climate. A bed is not recommended as it is too soft and may invite dozing or sleep. Lie on your back, keep the feet together and the hands at the sides. This is a form of Saväsana, the posture of the corpse. A small pillow under the head may be useful and a piece of cloth over the eyes if you want to improve inner vision. Note that this is a matter of preference; some people visualise and imagine easier against a dark background, others against a bright one. Saväsana is a nice way of relaxing for long periods. It can also be a trance state when you identify with Siva as a corpse and play dead. The advantage of Saväsana is that the posture is almost completely relaxed. You can let go and trust gravity to support you. At first you may find that body needs a few minor adjustments. Relaxing begins with becoming aware of your body. Make yourself comfortable. Adjust your limbs. wriggle around a little, then let go and forget.

 2. Seated on the ground. In many Tantric and Yogic traditions, the recommended position is the Lotus-posture (padmäsana), where ycu have the legs crossed, each foot lying on top of the opposite thigh. The spine is kept erect and the head bends down slightly at the junction of the skull and the spine, the hands rest in your lap, on the thighs or soles of the feet or are crossed behind the back. Personally, I would counsel that you are very careful with such postures or simply avoid them. Much depends on where you come from. People in Asia generally have more compact and durable knees than Caucasians, whose limbs are generally longer and whose joints connect more loosely. This is not racism but the outcome of a study made by Black Belt magazine around the late seventies or early eighties. Studying advanced Taekwon Do practitioners, it turned out that knee injuries are a lot more common among Caucasians than among Asians. Hard and high kicks can really wear out the meniscus, the same goes for the wonderfully twisted postures used by some Wu Shu styles and for a good many meditational äsanas. This does not mean that Westerners can’t practice such things. They should be aware, however, that after some years, they may get a heavy bill for their pursuit. Generally, knee injuries do not appear instantly, but when they do they may result in swollen knees, stiff legs, and a lot of pain whenever one tries to walk up or down a slope- They do not only happen to yogis, martial artists, dancers, or soccer players. Half of the people who undergo knee surgery are housewifes, gardeners, tile-layers, archaeologists, and anybody who happens to kneel a lot. Meniscus surgery, by the way, is not a well developed att and frequently results in long-term damage. I should add that people who practise Crowley style Yoga also feature on this list. Crowley wrote about an obscure form of yoga he claimed to have learned in Ceylon. To master posture, he proposed one Iras to assume one of the more advanced and straining positions of classical yoga and remain in it without any motion, This soon leads to cramp, then to pain, and if you so the old trickster proposed, eventually the pain disappears and you obtain a wonderfully relaxed and blissful posture that can be held for hours with no problems whatsoever. So much for the theory. Of course I tried this and spent months of daily practice in sheer agony. Instead of becoming pleasant the posture only became unbcarablc, and the only relief happened when the blood circulation stopped and the limbs went ‘to sleep’. Not even this was satisfactory and the result was totally useless for meditation. Over the years I met a few people who had been through the same tonure. None of us had achieved any good results, but some had severely damaged their knees. I wonder whether Crowley actually practised what he wrote about. Pain is a warning signal. If you ignore it out of sheer stupid thick- headed persistence, you may hurt yourself more than you notice. Other kneeling postures, such as the diamond-posture (vajräsana) i.e. kneeling on your shins, sitting on your feet or between them, can also eventually lead to knee troubles. This is a great shame as the posture is so good for absolutely centred resting. Sitting with crossed legs, especially when these are sort of loosely crossed, may be a little easier on the joints but tends to produce a slumped posture, which may interfere with breathing. This can be reduced to some extent by sitting on a hard and high cushion. Some yogis use a variant of the cross-legged seat. They tie a broad belt or sash in a loop. Sitting cross-legged within the loop, they gain some support for their back by putting pressure on the legs. This makes the knees rise to some extent. Of course this posture is not very upright and does not invite deep breathing. It can be useful for minimal brrething and prolonged visualisation, however. Last, there is a posture for meditation that does not involve sitting with a straight back. It is called yonimudrä in the Todala Tantra, but you shouldn’t let the term confuse you- There is a wide range of different TY)stures, acts, and gestures that have been called yonimudrä at one time or another. Sit on the floor, facing east or north. Stretch your legs before you. Now pull up the knees and cross your arms on top of them. Lean forward and rest your head on the knees. This is easiest when you do not keep your feet side by side but cross them at the ankles. This mosture requires a lot of relaxation. It is useful for trancing and seeing visions. When your head rests on the hands/knees, you will find that your breathing is restricted. It’s very hard to take deep full breaths when there simply is no space for them. Instead, the posture promotes shallow and reduced breathing. This makes it eminently useful for visions, oracles, or when you simply want to refresh your system. Note that shallow breathing can be enforced if you want to do this the stupid way. Its much easier when you introvert and go into the heart-cave within yourself. When you turn inward, you may find that breathing becomes shallow and faint naturally.

3. Sitting on a chair is a useful alternative. Sure, it does not look very yogic, holy, or even moderately exotic. Nevertheless it has a lot of advantages and quite a long tradition in the East. If you sit on a hard chair, your bum almost on the edge, and the legs about one shoulder width apart, hands on thighs or knees (depending on the length of your arms), you can enjoy an erect spine, full lung motion, and avoid all strain on the knees. Men should take care that their testicles hang freely, that’s one of the reasons to sit on the edge. Watch out for a few minor details. Make sure your chair is really level. Keep your lower legs vertical and the feet at the same distance and angle – it’s amazing how easy it is to get out of balance by even the slightest difference in leg lx»sition. And keep the upper arms hanging vertically tcx:), otherwise your torso might bend slightly forward or backwards. The proper position of the hands on the thighs is easy to find. Sit erect and allow your arms to hang at your flanks. Take a few deep breaths. Then lift up your hands and lower arms while keeping the upper arms exactly as they are hanging, and place the hands on the thighs. The shoulders should be set back a little. Keep them down as you breathe. You’ll know when you sit straight as it feels good The proper sensation is firm, relaxed, and pleasant.

4. Standing is easiest but also a bit tricky. Most people do not stand very erect, and when you learn (or remember) to do so you may find that there are more joints where posture can be a tiny little bit off centre- out of balance, or away from the centre line than you ever imagined Keep your feet shoulder width apart. The knees may be slightly bent, as stiff legs tend to freeze the pelvis (Wilhelm Reich’s expression), You will soon learn that body tends to slump from time to time, unless you happen to experience an all-body energy flow that keeps you vertical. This means awareness, watchfulness, and regular adaptation. Hold your head high! Tilt it forward so that you look slightly down. This tilting is traditionally recommended for most postures, it is done by bending the head at the junction of the spine and skull, like drawing your chin towards the throat. If you simply allow your head and neck to slump forward this may obstruct the flow of energy. Keep the shoulders down and back, the arms hang relaxed at the sides, Some like to cross their arms behind the back, or to clasp their hands behind the back. All of this sounds not only difficult, it may also overload the beginner with so many points to watch that breathing becomes strained and posture is cramped Relax and smile. You are joumeying, and learn as you proceed. Things take a while to develop. Learning upright posture can be quite an achievement. Every posture has a lot of advantages and shortcomings. especially when kept for longer periods. Occasionally it is useful to move a little, Especially when you practice full breathing you may find that you have to move your arms from time to time, to stretch, or to walk a few steps. Do so!

5. Walking. This is hardest to learn, as you need to stay in motion while keeping very much erect. On the other hand it is most fun, as it allows you to combine a gentle and slow (or slower) walk through nature with a lot of highly enjoyable breathing. If you do breathing exercises while walking, stop from time to time to check your posture and to make sure the energy is steadily aligned and your weight is centred in the belly. 6. Any relaxed posture Yogis do not always sit straight like a pillar. Apart from some loonies who get a kick from suffering, a yogi likes to recline just as everybody else does. One way to ease the back is a small crutch. You can see it on some pictures of Siva, The god sits wonderfully upright, but one of his arms in set in the crutch so he can relax and lean a little. Others sit with their back against a wall. Chose a warm one, leaning against a cold wall in a cold climate is not very gmd for your health. Another option is to recline on some easy chair or sofa- You won’t find this in the elder textbooks on yoga, but it is certainly recommended by more recent teachers, such as Swami Sivananda Insisting on any special posture is a form of rigidity. As a species humans have evolved sufficiently to leave trees and move on ground. We have adapted to upright posture, but we are not properly developed for it. Every posture, no matter how tense of loose, becomes unbearable When assumed for too long. As mobile animals we should move from time to time, and enjoy it.