This guest post was written courtesy of Kris Carlos.
If you have ever been to a yoga class, you’ve probably gathered that every pose has a name that tends to describe the physical nature of the asana… yes, you look like a cat when you arch your back into marjariasana. This can make it easier to remember what to do for each pose, but have you ever thought about what else these names imply about their poses? For example, kurmasana, or tortoise pose, is all about focusing mental energy inward as you physical fold inward, much like a tortoise turns inward to recharge or retreat. Read on, as I dive deeper into the meanings behind a few favorite animal asanas to discover your true spirit animal, and what it may reveal about your personality.
BITILASANA : THE COW
Heralded as the most sacred of all animals, the cow represents wealth, purity and motherhood in Hindu faith. So, it comes as little surprise that cow pose is regularly performed by women during pregnancy, to help stretch the uterus and front torso muscles. Cow pose also helps relieve lower back pain and sciatica by creating a gentle massaging sensation along the spine, when paired with cat pose (marjariasana). Bitilasana helps create emotional balance and reduces stress…. heyo, where my new moms at? The cow is powerful and grounded, giving and nourishing, patient and calming… so next time someone calls you a cow, brush your shoulders off, bat a lash, and reply, “Ain’t that the truth.”
HANUMANASANA : THE MONKEY
Most notably associated with Hindu deity, Hanuman, the monkey symbolizes physical strength, perseverance and devotion. You’ll need all of these in order to gain the flexibility needed to enter and exit the full-split pose, hanumanasana. Monkey pose is all about looking within for courage and taking leaps of faith (the pose literally emulates a Hanuman’s impossible leap to Sri Lanka). If you are the monkey, you aren’t afraid to sail across unchartered seas, you trust that the strength will come from within you, and you keep trying, even if you get blown off course. You are the go-to, get-it-done, do-gooder….more power to you, to do you!
KAKASANA : THE CROW
Honored as an intermediary to deceased ancestors, the crow represents the link between life and death, embodying intelligence and adaptability. Crows do not fear change, rather embrace it as a natural segment in the circle of life. Crows capitalize on their intelligence to utilize tools and strength from within to find inventive solutions to seemingly impossible challenges. Kakasana, often mistranslated as Bakasana (the nearly identical, crane pose), requires focus and courage to achieve the gravity-defying arm balance. Crow posers must see beyond the fear of face-planting, to find inner strength. If you are the crow, your wits are your weapon of choice and you use it well to overcome any challenge or fear. There is no situation you cannot think yourself out of or through, in other words, you can crow your own way (*Fleetwood Mac voice,* pun intended).
KAPOTASANA : THE PIGEON
Associated with Rati, the goddess of lust and passion, the pigeon represents some serious girl power. Consort to the god of love, Kama(deva) (yes, think kamasutra), Rati embodies the carnal pleasures of sexual engagement, rather than the motherly, child-bearing aspects often associated with its white relative, the dove. Traditionally, pigeon pose is thought to control sexual desire and increase circulation to the reproductive organs. Practice eka pada rajakapotasana to unleash your inner goddess by opening up the hip flexors and groin muscles. If you are the pigeon you are beautiful, assertive, and definitely indulgent in the physical pleasures of life. You’re sexy and you know it, you little vixen, you.
ADHO MUKHA SVANASANA : THE DOG
Since dogs are thought to guard the gates of Heaven and Hell, they are also considered guardians of the home. Like any good guard-dog the Shvan is also associated with agility, hunting and destruction (you wouldn’t want intruders to be greeted with kisses). Downward facing dog is a multi-functional pose that helps elongate the spine and shoulders, while strengthening the lower back, legs, hands and wrists. You may think this pose is a “basic bitch” (again, pun intended), but its packed with a lot of punch to keep your entire body aligned and ready for attack, which is why it’s an integral part of any vinyasa. If you are the dog, you are loyal, you are a leader, but ultimately you are the protector- everything is tennis balls and milk bones until someone messes with your pack, at which point, your bite is definitely worse than your bark.
BHUJANGASANA : THE COBRA
When I think of snakes I want to pass out; however, in Hindu tradition, the cobra and other snakes, are actually worshipped and celebrated as symbols of wealth, fertility or healing, and immortality (*cringes*). Cobras are thought of as dual creatures, simultaneously representing desire and destruction, benevolence and misfortune, time and timelessness. Bhujangasana is traditionally thought to destroy diseases and awaken kundalini (the primal, sexual energy thought to be coiled like a sleeping serpent in the root chakra), which aside from the poses resemblance of a rising cobra, contributes to the name. Cobra pose also expands the chest, tones the abdomen, increases flexibility in the upper and middle back, improves circulation and reduces fatigue. If you are the cobra, you are kind and helpful until your path is crossed at which point those who cross it should be weary of your wrath, which can be deadly. It’s true what the say- the snake will always bite back!
Kris Carlos is the Creative Director of a San Diego Marketing Firm, a Freelance Content Specialist, an avid Yoga and Pilates enthusiast, and a new mom (cue warrior pose). When she is not glued to the computer writing code or content, Kris likes exploring the great outdoors with her family or rehearsing for her life as a musical.