(Published originally here on NomadYOGI.)
Difficulty?… according to who? And what standard?
Padmasana will be difficult, if not injurious, to someone with bad knees, tight hips, or a weak back.
Simply sitting still in a chair, will be frustrating, if not boring, to someone with a busy mind, an anxious thought, or a stressful emotion.
I use these two simple examples to show you that the question of difficulty in yoga has more to do with the individual and their present circumstance than it does with physical flexibility or strength. Thus, ranking by difficulty is pointless.
It is literally meaningless to talk about the “most difficult posture.” Your question deals more with someone who has a “perfect” body with a specific set of skeletal proportions and musculature. What would be difficult for this imaginary person? Can someone make a list for him and her? And, let’s not forget that, due to their proportions, would not a certain difficult pose be more easily “performed” than another?
Regardless, that list would be irrelevant to the rest of us, born with a multitude of limitations in our anatomy and suffering from a variety of postural imperfections caused by repetitive, imbalanced use of our bodies (sitting at a desk 8-10hrs/day, carrying weight (a bag or tool) habitually on one side, playing sports with one side dominant, etc.) and let’s not forget age, injury, and diet—all of which combine to make it easy or difficult to make a certain shape with our bodies at any given time.
All these limitations point to the fact that there is no perfect pose, or list of poses, and certainly not one that should rank poses by difficulty. I wrote previously in NomadYOGI about the “most complex pose” I knew. My answer my surprise you.