In yoga tradition, the various asanas are all named in Sanskrit. Unfortunately this can sound like so much gobbledy-gook to students who are not familiar with these names, just the same as any language we have not learned to speak. Sometimes different traditions give different Sanskrit names to the same posture, which can make it even more complicated. And then of course there are the English translations, which may or may not reflect the meaning of the original Sanskrit.
I think of the names as falling into one of 4 categories. First we have the obvious descriptive names. Here, the name is a description of the pose and can be directly translated eg Utthita Hasta Padangustasana translates roughly Outstretched Hand to Big Toe Pose. And not surprisingly, that’s what the pose involves.
The second category is postures named after a person. Examples here are Matsyendrasana, named after the sage Matsyendra, and Virabhdrasana, after the warrior of the same name. Next we have postures named after things that they involve or look like. For instance, Malasana is garland pose (mala is garland) and Navasana is boat pose (Nava is boat).
The fourth category are postures named after animals. Here we might think of Adho Mukha Svanasana, literally Down Face Dog Pose, or Bhujangasana, cobra pose. In fact, there are quite a lot of animal poses!
If we can see beyond the confusion, the names originally given to the postures can bring our experience of the postures to a new level. For each of these latter categories, consider the name and the qualities that might be associated with that person, thing or animal as you do the posture. Practising cobra pose, think of the qualities of the snake, its sinuous-ness and the amazing light support that the body can create for the head to lift it off the ground. Embody its strength and its poise as you perform the posture. See if those qualities might shine through to enhance your experience of the posture, bringing your practice to a whole new level.
This image was taken at the pond in Bournville, late afternoon as the sun was setting. The colours of the sunset have combined with the ripples on the water to give a hazy and abstract interpretation of the bare winter branches of tree around the pond. The reflected colours only lasted for about 30mins and this combined with the way the reflection brings a sense of movement, of change, reminds us of the transience of our moments and the importance of savouring each one fully.
Daffodils are my favourite reminder that Spring is on its way. The ones in my front garden always start extremely early. This year they were growing buds in February, with snow still on the ground, but now in March the flowers are fully out. Our earliest flowers all come from bulbs or corms, using the energy stored within the bulb to initiate growth at such an inhospitable time of year. For me, these flowers represent the growth and renewal that is so characteristic of springtime. Feeling the dusty surface and papery skins of the daffodil bulb, it is a thing of wonder to imagine the spark of life resting dormant inside, which will result in such a colourful display just a few months later. They bring a sense of change, hope and opportunity for the coming warmer months, inspiring us to emerge from our winter cocoons and make the most of each moment that we have.
The geese who live in the Valley Parkway in Bournville are very accustomed to humans and I took this picture during the recent cold snap. By crouching down low I was able to photograph the goose from a somewhat different angle, to show the detail of its hunt for food on the snowy ground. Winter is a difficult time for many species and we can show our compassion by providing our feathered friends with a helping hand, be it by offering a bumper supply on the garden birdtable or a trip to the park to feed the ducks and geese when we might prefer to stay wrapped up indoors. Yoga and meditation can help us to see that we are part of a greater whole in which all have a valued place. Our compassion for others grows through this awareness and we are able to make a difference in small but important ways.