• Tadasana – A Mountain in Solitude with Passivity of a Palm Tree

    Lord Bhrama asked Narada to go back and practice Tadasana which is the base of all yogic postures to gain an insight about one’s self. Bhrama told him that the practice of Tadasana for a long period of time would help his restless ever-wanting mind to gain the passivity of a palm tree and help him to be a better observer.

    Tadasana is done as one of the first posture to calm the mind and make a good base for the subsequent practice. Standing erect the arms are raised overhead with the palms facing upward and the fingers interlocked. And the gaze at the hands.

    Once Narada, a sage from Vedic times, was travelling from Kailasha (Lord Shiva’s abode) to Gangotri in the Himalayas. Narada was entrusted with spreading information among Gods and travelled between Vishnuloka, Bhramaloka and Kailasha, taking information and news from one world to another and then sharing it with devas (supernatural beings) and Gods.

    On his way to Gangotri, he saw a young boy sitting under a tree in a forest reciting Vedic hymns with concentration and utmost devotion. The vibrations of those recited hymns were such that Narada was enchanted. He sat down close to the young boy and listened to the recital for hours. When he realized that he had to be at Gangotri, he got up and started walking towards his destination. While walking he decided to learn the Vedas by heart and memorize each verse just like the boy. He kept walking with the idea of learning the Vedas.

    After walking a few miles we was thirsty. He saw a small hut and went there searching for water to drink. He was welcomed by a young woman with a baby in her arms. She requested Narada to sit while she got him some water and food. The woman served him water and food. As she was serving more water to Narada her baby in the crib woke up and started crying. The young woman ran and picked her baby up and started singing a lullaby to the baby. The lullaby was so mellifluous that it left Narada delighted again. Narada decided to learn geet vidya (singing) and become as good as the young woman.

    A whole day had passed while walking and Narada was tired and tried sleeping but couldn’t as he was hungry. He got up and started walking again and came across an old man lying under a tree singing to himself. Narada asked the man if he had something to eat. The old man told him that he had few apples that he had just finished eating, but the old man took out his bow and arrow shot at the apple tree hitting two apples with one arrow and requested Narada to feed himself with those apples. Narada was amazed with the old man’s archery skills and decided to learn Dhanur vidya (archery) just like the old man. Throughout his journey, Narada kept thinking how soon he could learn archery, singing and the Vedas. He was restless and couldn’t wait to get as good as the old man at archery, as good as the woman at singing and thorough with the Vedas like the young boy.

    After his visit to Gangotri, Narada determined to acquire knowledge in Vedic literature, music and archery reached out to the sapt rishis (the revered seven sages with diverse knowledge). He went to Gautama rishi and urged him to teach him the Vedic hymns, after few months of teaching he rushed to Sage Jamadagni and insisted on learning archery and after few months of training, he went to Saraswati (Goddess) and pleaded her to teach him music, after few months Narada was confident that he had become good at music.

    Narada went to Lord Bhrama (the creator) and told him about his new skills and Bhrama asked him to showcase his newly acquired talent. Narada took his bow and arrow and shot at an apple tree but failed to hit a single apple, Lord Bhrama asked him to recite the Vedas but Narada stopped after a few verses as his memory failed him. Then he was asked to sing. The moment Narada started singing he stopped and started crying. He couldn’t enjoy his own singing.

    Lord Bhrama called Narada close and told him that what he had acquired was of no use because he did not devote enough time towards any of the art to gain mastery over it. He learned all with a restless mind to impress the world around and did not pay attention to his inner self to see what he liked the most and then devote years in dedication to the teacher and the art to gain mastery.

    Lord Bhrama asked Narada to go back and practice Tadasana which is the base of all yogic postures to gain an insight about one’s self. Bhrama told him that the practice of Tadasana for a long period of time would help his restless ever-wanting mind to gain the passivity of a palm tree and help him to be a better observer. It would give him immovable concentration like a mountain and that when with a calm mind he would be able to observe himself. Then he could choose what he really likes and gain mastery over it with constant practice.

    A restless mind always seeks immediate results but a concentrated mind with a firm resolve believes in gradual progress and not perfection.

    By Ankur Tunaak

    Ankur Tunaak has been an Ashtanga yoga practitioner for over a decade, studied with Shree M. Vishwanath who was one of the first students and nephew of Shree Pathabhi Jois. Also, an alumnus of Bihar School Of Yoga, one of four premier Yogic Studies Institutions in India. Ankur is a storyteller and photographer, currently teaching yoga in New Delhi, India.

    Photo by Katee Lue on Unsplash

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  • Bhujanga Asana: The Story Behind the Pose

    “One has to have a good intent for every action and practice equanimity after it,” Shiva said. “Be self-aware and alert like a snake to its surroundings, be aware of what your mind feeds you and you will know how to adapt and evade thoughts that disturb you and bring fear.”

    Bhujanga in Sanskrit means ‘snake’. The posture entails keeping the legs in contact with the mat while the torso is pushed up to open the chest. The strength of the bend in the spine can be calibrated with a simultaneous bend in the arms. This posture when performed for an extended period of time is accompanied by a murmured chant ‘OM HIRANYA GARBHAYA NAMAHA’, which means greeting and acknowledging your golden cosmic self.

    Bhujanga asana represents a cobra when it is the most alert and aware of its surroundings. This cobra posture represents our ability as humans to face our fears and not shy away from what we dread. The open chest in the posture helps in expanding the lungs for gentle but deep inhalations and exhalations. The hood of the snake is also a representation of the wisdom that is achieved in stillness and helps in conquering our fears.

    Lord Shiva’s first pupil was Shakti (Parvati). She insisted on learning yoga from Adiyogi (the first yogi). Lord Shiva, with ‘Karkotaka’ (the serpent) coiled around his neck, spoke to Shakti as a teacher and told her that in the journey of being a yogi it is important to move ahead with faith in the cosmos and the cosmic self. It is also important for a yogi to have a firm resolve and patience. He told her that modesty and purity of thought were the ornaments of any human and more so of a yogi.

    Shakti listened to Lord Shiva attentively, but Shiva knew she had a question. He opened his eyes and asked her to say what she had in her mind.

    She did not hold back and asked “How does one get rid of fear?”

    “You do not have to get rid of fear, you have to be aware of it,” Adiyogi replied.

    “One has to have a good intent for every action and practice equanimity after it,” Shiva said. “Be self-aware and alert like a snake to its surroundings, be aware of what your mind feeds you and you will know how to adapt and evade thoughts that disturb you and bring fear.”

    Lord Shiva told her that a supple spine and equanimity in thoughts would always help in facing fears.

    It is after this discourse Adiyogi taught Shakti Bhujanga asana, an asana for keeping the spine healthy.

    Bhujanga asana is always a part of Hatha Yoga practice. It is known for strengthening the spine and its supporting muscles while improving blood circulation. The asana is also revered for the psychosomatic benefits it brings to the practitioner.

    OM HIRANYA GARBHAYA NAMAHA

    By Ankur Tunaak

    Ankur Tunaak has been an Ashtanga yoga practitioner for over a decade, studied with Shree M. Vishwanath who was one of the first students and nephew of Shree Pathabhi Jois. Also, an alumnus of Bihar School Of Yoga, one of four premier Yogic Studies Institutions in India. Ankur is a storyteller and photographer, currently teaching yoga in New Delhi, India.

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