Animalia Asana was invited to review…

A review of book Cow Care in Hindu Animal Ethics by Animalia Asana patron Dr Kenneth Valpey:

(FREE DOWNLOAD AVAILABLE)

“This fascinating book highlights the historical underpinnings for much of the present-day evidence of the continued importance of the cow in some cultures and countries; that is, the cow as a sentient animal, as a spiritual/divine/magical being and as a symbol of what can seem an infinite number of things, not least of all other animal life. The notion of the significance of the cow has found its way into yoga too—for example through cow-named yoga postures, cow-based mythology, cow-based spirituality, cow-oriented chants, the teaching of ahimsa, the belief in karma and the promotion of the sattwic illumined nature in practitioners that cows are believed to embody. As sincere yoga practitioners and teachers, I feel we are morally compelled to gain an ever deeper understanding of the cultural roots from which yoga has emerged and in which the practice remains embedded. It is also wise to gain a nuanced appreciation of the past and extant cultural sensitivities connected to yoga. This book most certainly helps with these endeavours. It pays homage to what has come before, weaving insights from different sources seamlessly and offering new considerations for contemporary times and the future. Most importantly, in the context of millions and millions of cows continuing to suffer or face injustices throughout the world today under human hand and society, this book recognises cows as victims and as individuals. Concern about the welfare of cows remains ever-present as you journey through the chapters, and it is afforded the high profile it deserves. I would wholeheartedly recommend this priceless gem”. – Jenny Mace, Founder of Animalia Asana®

Animalia Asana invited to school…

Pleased to report Animalia Asana has been invited to share some wellbeing/mental health yoga sessions on an inset day with school teachers in Fife, Scotland 🙂
 
The sessions will be dedicated to the animal postures and shall focus particularly on the stress response systems in animals… humans included!
 
Animalia Asana Founder and Teacher Jenny says:
“I primarily focus on exploring the multifaceted animal element in yoga, but yoga for mental health is my main other interest (indeed this is how I first came to practice myself during a time of particular struggle in my life). Indeed, I think these two aspects are related too, not least because we ultimately need to take care of our own animal natures and needs on a biological/physiological/spiritual level in order to take care of our mental health. Another hat I am currently wearing is as a remote part-time university lecturer (with the Centre for Animal Welfare at the University of Winchester) in the field of animal welfare science, ethics & law; one topic I teach is on stress awareness/responses and the consequences of stress in animals, and as humans are also animals the crossovers are very apparent!”
 
50% of funds going to registered animal charities IAR and FIAPO; 50% to be reinvested into Animalia Asana (no wages paid).

Recently discovered animal-named postures from a medieval hatha yoga text!

Listed below are the animal-named postures that Dr Jason Birch and Jacqueline Hargreaves have recently unveiled from the newly discovered Hathabhyasapaddhati text. No images or more detailed descriptions of the postures were included in the text. The number of their order of appearance in the text/paper has been included, so it can be easily traced. Only the parts of the body mentioned are in contact with the floor; other parts not mentioned would be off the floor. You can see the full text here. A video reconstruction of the postures is due in 2020 through this website. You can experiment with your own interpretations and see how they compare to other’s interpretations when the video comes out. As you will see, some sound insanely difficult and in accessible to the vast majority of humanity! Perhaps then it is no surprise that these postures didn’t become more widespread…

SUPINE

  1. 1. Having lain supinely, [the yogi] should bind the neck with the fingers, join
    the elbows, touch the buttocks on the ground, extend one leg and rotate
    [separately] the other leg to the left and right. [This] is “pawing the leg like a
    bull” [pose].
  2. 6. Having placed the body [supinely] like a corpse, [the yogi] should join the
    knees together, bring [them] onto the navel, clasp the neck with the hands and
    rotate [the legs. This is] the up-turned dog [pose].
  3. 7. Having positioned [himself] as in the up-turned dog [pose, the yogi] should
    touch both knees with his ears in turn. [This is] the up-turned cat [pose].
  4. 8. Then, having lain supinely and holding the earth with the soles of the feet, [the
    yogi] should stand up. [This] is the wolf pose.
  5. 10. Lying supinely, [the yogi] should place the soles of the feet on the up-turned
    hands and raise the back part of the body from the ground. This] is the monkey’s
    seat.
  6. 19. Having placed one foot on one thigh and the other foot on the other thigh,
    [this] is the lotus pose. Having threaded the hands in between the thighs and
    knees, [the yogi] should clasp the neck [with the hands and remain up-turned.
    [This] is the up-turned turtle [pose].

PRONE

  1. 23. Having lain pronely, placing the navel on the ground and supporting [himself
    on] the groundwith the forearms like pillars, [the yogi] should join the lips,make
    the [sound] “su¯” like a flute and remain thus. [This] is the lizard pose.
  2. 24. Lying pronely and having raised up the elbows by the sides [of the body, the
    yogi] should support [himself on] the ground with the palms of both hands and
    fly up again and again. [This] is the fish pose.
  3. 25. [Lying] pronely, [the yogi] should put the toes on the ground, keep [the legs]
    long, place the palms of both hands at the top of the head and raise up the
    buttocks. Gazing at the navel and taking the nose onto the ground, [the yogi]
    should take [the nose forward] as far as the palms of his hands. He should do thus
    again and again. [This] is the elephant pose.
  4. 26. Remaining as in the elephant pose, [the yogi] should take his head to the right
    armpit, [and then] to the left armpit, again and again.208 [This] is the hyena pose.
  5. 27. Having bent one leg at a time, [the yogi] should do the elephant pose. [This] is
    the bear pose.
  6. 28. In the position of the elephant pose, [the yogi] should bend both knees and
    repeat it again and again. [This] is the hare pose.
  7. 30. In the position of the elephant pose, [the yogi] should ram the ground with
    one arm at a time. [This] is the ram pose.
  8. 31. In the position of the elephant pose, having raised both legs into space, [the
    yogi] should touch the ground with the head. [This] is the goat pose.
  9. 32. Having supported [himself] with the forearms on the ground and bending the
    knees into the navel, [the yogi] should remain thus. [This] is the sparrow pose.
  10. 33. Having positioned [himself] on the hands like the sparrow pose, [the yogi]
    should touch the ears with the knees, place both shanks on the [upper] arms and
    remain thus. [This] is the crow pose.
  11. 34. In a position like the crow pose, [the yogi] should join the shanks on [each]
    thigh and raise up the back region [of his body]. [This] is the partridge pose.
  12. 35. Having supported [himself] with both hands on the ground, joining both
    knees on the navel and supporting [in the air] the shanks and thighs, [the yogi]
    should remain thus. [This] is the heron pose.
  13. 37. Having put the palms of the hands on the ground, [the yogi] should make the
    soles of the feet fly upwards and [then] fall [down] to the ground. He should do
    thus again and again. [This] is the “flying up of the rooster” [pose].
  14. 38. Having placed one foot on [the back of] the neck, [the yogi] should fix the
    second foot above it, support [the body] with the palms of both hands [on the
    ground]217 and remain thus. [This] is the wood-sparrow pose.
  15. 39. Having supported [himself] with the palms of both hands on the ground,
    fixing the elbows on the navel and holding the body [straight] like a stick, [the
    yogi] remains [thus. This] is the peacock pose.
  16. 40. Having positioned [himself] as in the peacock pose, [the yogi] should hold the
    wrist of one hand with the other. [This] is the lame peacock pose.
  17. 44. In the position of inverted dancing, [the yogi] should touch the nose on the
    ground and take [it] up. He should touch [the ground] again [and again. This] is
    the hawk pose.
  18. 45. Having placed the [top of the] skull on the ground, [the yogi] should lift up the
    feet. [This] is the skull pose.
  19. 46. Having lain pronely, placing the hands on the buttocks, lengthening the legs
    and joining [them] together, [the yogi] should move with his chest. [This] is the
    snake pose.

STATIONARY

  1. 53. Having adopted the lotus pose, [the yogi] should fix both arms inside the feet,
    thighs and shanks, support [himself] with the palms of both hands on the ground
    and remain [thus. This] is the rooster pose.
  2. 54. Having remained as in the rooster pose, [the yogi] should hold the wrist of one
    hand with the other, support [himself firmly] with the palm of the [held] hand on
    the ground and remain [thus. This] is the lame rooster pose.
  3. 58. Remaining in the rooster pose and taking the thighs as far as the shoulders,
    [the yogi] should remain [thus. This] is the Hamsa-bird pose.
  4. 59. Having placed the knees on the ground, [the yogi] should hold with the hands
    both arms crossed over one another and remain upright. [This] is the monkey
    pose.
  5. 62. Having supported [himself] with both heels on the ground and holding the
    ankles with both hands, [the yogi] should remain thus. [This] is the goose [pose].
  6. 70. Having placed on the ground the fists †on the little finger side† and placing
    the soles of the feet on [them, the yogi] should move his body like a horse. [This]
    is the horse pose.
  7. [Likewise,] the elephant’s seat is [moving the body] like an
    elephant and the…
  8. camel’s seat is [moving the body] like a camel.
  9. 71. Having taken the shoulders up to the head [while sitting, the yogi] should
    remain thus. [This] is the two-headed [pose].
  10. 72. Having put his jaw on his navel, [the yogi] should remain thus. [This] is the
    humpbacked pose.

STANDING

  1. 77. Having placed the soles of both feet on the ground and taking the hands
    [down] along the back [of the body] as far as the shanks, [this] is the pigeon’s
    seat.
  2. 87. Having jumped up, [the yogi] should strike his buttocks with both heels.
    [This] is the deer pose.
  3. 91. Having put the big toes of the feet on the ground and having raised up the
    arms, [the yogi] should remain thus. [This] is the camel pose.
  4. 92. Remaining in camel pose, raising the feet from the ground and taking [them]
    above the head, [the yogi] should place his back on the ground. This is the
    “pigeon in space” [pose].
  5. 93. Having placed the ankle along with the little toe of one foot at the base of the
    [other] thigh, and having placed the knee [of the lotus leg] on the heel of the other
    foot, [the yogi] should remain thus and join his hands together. [This] is Garuda’s pose.

POSES WITH ROPES

  1. 94. Having clasped a rope [secured horizontally above the head304] with both
    hands, [the yogi] should hold both legs between the hands, above the head and
    [then] on the ground. He should throw [his legs up over his head in this manner]
    again and again. [This] is the cockroach pose.
  2. 99. Having assumed the rooster pose and having held a [vertical] rope with the
    hands, [the inverted yogi] should climb [up it. This] is the spider pose.
  3. 100. Having held a [vertical] rope with both fists and having put the soles of the
    feet on the [fists, the yogi] should remain thus. [This] is the parrot pose.
  4. 101. Having held a [vertical] rope with the big toes above and the hands below,
    [the inverted yogi] should climb up [it. This] is the caterpillar [pose].
  5. 102. Having held a [vertical] rope with one fist, [the yogi] should climb up [it.
    This] is the grub pose.
  6. 103. Having pushed the fists through the thighs and knees, [the yogi] should hold
    two [vertical ropes] with them, while holding a [counter-]weight [such as a
    stone312] with the teeth, and should climb up. [This] is the curlew pose.
  7. 104. Having placed both elbows on the ground, [the yogi] should support
    [himself] with the knees on the ground, place the hands on the head and heels on
    the buttocks and remain thus. [This] is the boar pose.
  8. 110. Having placed both heels on the navel, [the yogi] should join the outer region
    of both shanks. [This] is the conch shell pose.

You can see the full text here. A video reconstruction of the postures is due in 2020 through this website.

Brief spotlight on Ardha Matsyendrasana (half lord of the fishes pose)

The second in our series of ‘brief spotlights’ on different animal asanas…

Brief spotlight on Ardha Matsyendrasana (half lord of the fishes pose)

Non-human animal:
It is arguably an example of an animal posture that doesn’t immediately (if at all!?) reflect the appearance of the actual animal form. Although, if you think of the twisting and undulating movements of fish, the animal form can be great inspiration for exploring a wholesome twist in our own animal body. The aesthetic of this posture also connects to the mythology of this posture (see below). Depicted here is the renown salmon jumping high and twisting extensively, which they are known for doing particularly to navigate waterfalls and rapids in what’s known as the annual ‘salmon run’ as they make their journey to spawn at the tops of rivers. The twisted legs in this posture may represent the undulation of a fish’s tail; the upper body could represent a jumping or darting fish as we endeavour to sit tall…
It is a sobering thought when we ponder how an estimated three trillion fish are used by humans for food per year (mostly wild-caught but with ‘factory’ farmed fish becoming increasingly common)! This makes them the most used group of animals by humans. The myth remains that they do not feel pain despite science (and our intuition?) suggesting otherwise. Did you know fish get their omega 3s from algae and that humans can too? Find out more about algae oil.
Lots of course could be commented on about fabulous fishes, but these are just little tidbits and we can save further tidbits for the other fish postures 😊
Mythology/spirituality:
Hinduism shares with Christianity an image of an ever-expanding divine fish, symbolising ad infinitum (again and again forever). There is also a fish biting the tail of another fish, a variant of the ouroboros symbol. Oceans in Buddhism represent cycle of samsara and so fish represent fearlessness and happiness as they swim speedily through without drowning.
This animal posture is named after Matsyendranath who is considered the founder of hatha yoga. Legend has it that in one life form he was a fish (or at least inside a fish’s belly: we can remember this when exploring making ourselves small in this posture!) who became enlightened by merely listening to Shiva speak about enlightenment and forming the first student-guru relationship. This posture is therefore rumoured to be the very first animal posture! According to legend, Matsyendranath returned to Earth to helps others on their spiritual path and did so in the form of a fish-human hybrid! Some say the lower part of the body in this posture represents the fish part of the hybrid and the upper body the human part…
Asana:
This posture features in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (a 15th century text on hatha yoga). This is one of three well established fish-named postures in yoga.
This animal pose is said to stimulate the naval centre, and to awaken dormant or stuck energy. The back muscles are guided in a different direction than normal resulting in an easing of tension. This animal pose is said to awaken the Manipura chakra (solar plexus). It stretches the piriformis muscle. It helps to gain some momentum if you push into the floor with the sole of the foot.
NB: the images neither portray the posture in its fullest nor simplest expression.
Modifications:
If it feels a struggle and too much to place the elbow on the outside of the knee to help with the twist, just hug the knee towards you as you turn as much as your body wishes to go. The bottom leg can be stretched out if this helps. You could simplify the twist further by twisting from a crossed-leg position or in a chair. Visualizing this animal posture from a supine (laying) or sitting position is also always an option. To deepen the twist, you can explore binding the hands together.
There is also the Matsya mudra (fish mudra) – representing compassion, devotion and the first incarnation of Vishnu (force of preservation)
Sources:

Brief spotlight on Kukkutasana (cockerel pose)

The first in our series of ‘brief spotlights’ on different animal asanas…
Non-human animal:
  • The chicken is the closest living relative of the T-rex! Chickens are descendents from the jungle fowl of SE Asia.
  • Cockerels are renown for their dawn “cock-a-doodle-doooooo” calls.
  • There are now more chickens in the world than humans (vastly hidden away in huge sheds), due to our exploitation of chickens for meat and eggs. Sadly, cockerels have long been used in cockfighting around the world.
Mythology/spirituality:
  • A cockerel is a young male chicken, so this posture may inspire us to connect with more masculine energies within and around ourselves.
  • Cockerels are associated with the sun and the dawn of wisdom. They are associated with an assertive quality.
Asana:
  • This posture features in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (a 15th century text on hatha yoga). The hands and forearms represent the feet and legs of the cockerel. Let us begin or continue the process of de-othering and connect with chickens!
  • Within the human animal body, this posture activates the shoulders, wrists and arms. The core also strongly contracts to help lift the legs. The chest puffs forward. NB: images do not portray the posture to its fullest expression.
Modifications:
  • If it is a struggle to squeeze the arms through the legs, you can place the hands next to the thighs instead. If padmasana (full lotus) is not available, you can simply cross the legs or try with just one leg bent in if required. You can even sit on a chair and push down onto the chair with your hands, still imbibing the other qualities behind the physicality of the posture. Even if no lift is observed, you are still benefiting from the pushing and heading in the same direction. Direction over position! Visualizing the posture is also always an option.