What’s in a name? Downward dog?

Nov 8th, 2018

An asana is a mudra, a seal a symbolic body expression of an object, a shape, an animal, bird, some part of nature or just an angle of the human body. An asana communicates and expresses a specific meaning.

I am a pet lover and at one point in time, I had five dogs. Now I have one who would celebrate his second birthday on Christmas this year.

I learned a few things from dogs -gratitude, devotion, and love towards Master. I am grateful to the creator for this lesson. I am still learning how even during the dying moments a dog has a full degree of devotion and love towards his Master.

When I do a downward dog, I get a good stretch of the whole body in general. It gives me a happy feeling for some moments. But I somehow find it hard to connect it to any of my faithful departed souls -all five dogs. The dog’s usual favorite position is the one that I always remember through HMV’s logo where a dog is curiously looking and listening to a phonograph.

Now, look at this posture from a traditional point of view as it is practiced in India as Parvat Asan. – Mountain Pose. Rarely would people know it as a downward dog in India. Body exactly looks like a mountain -coming out of the earth, part of the earth, rising up to the top and strong from all sides. Here when I stay still, keeping my awareness inward towards muscles, ligaments, bones and the whole structure, I find energy resonating throughout my body. As I push my hips up, I am reminded of my goal while enjoying the journey -the effort, of reaching to the top as mountain signifies. Mountain is also full of Prana the chi or the life force and it is considered auspiciousthat Parvat Asan is giving to my mind to be – restful and energetic, firm and connected to the goal, immovable and strong from all sides. and healing. It signifies stability. These are the lessons

Now when I try it with a downward dog in my mind I have to do psychological manipulations to gain all these qualities. There has never been a downward dog posture in the Yoga tradition. Sages learned other things from a dog- like its breathing pattern which is very similar to breathing strokes of kapalbhati and is practiced to cool down the agitated and angry mind. That practice is done in usual dog sitting posture like that in HMV logo. Yoga is beyond science and beyond philosophy. As a student of Yoga whenever I try to modify time-tested proven tradition of Yoga I am reminded of a story of Budha.

Once a disciple didn’t believe in Budha and he decided to test his knowledge. He hunted a small bird. He went to Budha next morning with the bird in his palm, its leg, and beak tied so that it just could breathe and survive without moving. He thought he would ask Budha whether the bird was alive or dead. If Budha replied alive -he would crush it and prove him wrong. If he replied dead on the other hand he would open his palm and allow it to fly. Either way, he would prove his point and Budha would be discredited.

So he sits in front of Budha who was meditating. He asked Budha, “Tell me Budha is the bird in my palm alive or dead”?

Buddha in meditation paused. The disciple waited with anticipation for his opportunity to prove him wrong. Buddha was calm and the disciple got annoyed as it was becoming difficult for the bird to breathe. He shouted, “Budha is the bird alive or dead”?

Buddha calmly spoke,” The answer, my friend is in your hands. The answer is in your hands”.

The disciple realized the answer was indeed in his hands. Looking into the eye of the delicate bird he apologized,” I am sorry little bird “and he let her go free.

Think again if you can gain more through the mountain.

Enjoy your Yoga journey.

Asana Journal

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