Chapter One — Svastikasana
Continuing with one more verse from Hatha Yoga Pradipika — Asana, Continued using titles instead of numbers.
For persons using other editions, in this blog we are taking up at 19 in the Kripalu translation, which is 21 in the Sinh translation.
The first translation and the Titles are from Swami Kripalu’s, Revealing the Secret, a commentary on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika [HYP].
The second translation is from the Pancham Sinh edition.
Anything in (parentheses) is from the edition concerned.
As always, my own input amidst verses is in [brackets], and in color when commenting.
The Good Luck Posture
When the aspirant, having correctly placed the soles of the two feet between the shanks [the calves] and the thighs, sits, the kings among yogis call it the good luck posture.
Having kept both the hands [feet] under both the thighs, with the body straight, when one sits calmly in this posture, it is called svastikasana.
svastikasana: svastika + asana
svastika – Any lucky or auspicious object; a kind of mystical cross or mark made on persons and things to denote good luck. From sva (personal possessive, one’s own self) + aastika (affirmed reality of existence)
asana – posture, position, seat, dwelling, place, abiding, sitting, stool or chair…
Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras defines asana thus: “Asana is the pleasant practice of remaining at ease by relaxing all striving and falling effortlessly into union with the Divine.”
You will notice that in this quote there is no mention of anything remotely related to what we Westerners recognize as asana, or Yoga. This can mean only one thing: There is more to the subject of asana than is being said.
My own simple definition of asana is, “posture, position, disposition, situation.”
What are the features of this asana?
1. The body and spine are straight but relaxed.
2. It comes naturally.
Is there some significance to the feet being inside the thighs, or between the calves and thighs, or under the thighs (depending on the translation)? If you can, try sitting cross-legged “Indian style” and see what you notice.
This posture is quite suitable for repeated prayer, for meditation, and for the suspension of the life energy [pranayama]. It is closely related to the lotus posture, the mature posture, the stable posture, the hard weapon posture, and other simple postures. In the last level of with-seed equanimity [sabija samadhi] when the dorsal-upward posture tries to make the vital air [the life energy] a traveler on the dorsal path, the good luck posture extends its cooperation.
“…dorsal-upward posture,” “…dorsal path”:
In these terms, Swami Kripalu is referring to the back west path of kundalini-prana. This is a reference to fully awakened kundalini that is up-trended. In the Gospels, there are places in which Jesus is said to turn to face and/or proceed west. This is the same message. It is rare to find anyone in this situation (asana), as this is a very advanced stage of yoga sadhana. This posture cooperates with the “dorsal path”, the dorsal path does not cooperate with the posture. Swami Kripalu is telling us that one in this position (asana, situation) is in the position (asana) of good fortune.
How can people unacquainted with the word ‘yoga’ be acquainted with the word ‘asana’? Animals, birds, living souls, lower life forms and other living beings that have no acquaintance with any word, use postures favorable to them every day and every moment. The postures which they take are not taken by means of the mental faculty, but by means of the life energy. It is not proper to say that they take postures, rather it is proper to say that these postures occur naturally of their own accord. In the body, those purifying actions not governed by the mental faculty are purifying actions of the life energy. They are called natural purifying actions, innate purifying actions, or nature’s purifying actions.
Suppose I say to you, “Please stand up.”
You stand up.
Then I give you a second instruction, “Please sit.”
As you sit down you do not think about which posture you sit in. You give autonomy to your feet. They naturally arrange themselves in a comfortable posture; this is purifying action of the life energy, or natural action.
Any way you sit, any position the body is in, is an asana. It’s that simple.
Asana is produced by the activity of prana, the life energy. Let’s say that you deliberately direct a posture. Prana is still behind the action, so the posture you take is still about prana, it’s just that you are governing the prana with your mind, your intention, your “mental faculty”. However, when prana is free the situation is reversed: the activities of prana direct the asana and is naturally purifying. This purifying action of free prana is called kriya.
This “good luck posture” that is so natural, is associated not only with spontaneous postures of the body, but with advanced stages of yoga sadhana. And it’s all natural.
Svastikasana, Swami Kripalu
Look at this picture of svastikasana. Most of us in the West have to think back to childhood to remember a time when we could sit on the floor like this with ease. So translate svastikasana to how you sit now, when you easily and naturally sit in a comfortable, relaxed position with a straight spine. But maybe this only happens when you lie down! Lying down is a asana, too. Now think about this: How is being easily situated in such a natural posture relevant to good luck and the “dorsal path”?
When someone naturally sits in the good luck posture, he is truly healthy. The good luck posture indicates health. In a similar way, each posture presents a picture of the state of mind at the time it is taken. A person who reads body language can tell the state of mind of any person merely by inspecting the posture.
Here lies the suggestion that if you can naturally assume this posture, you must be in good health. Perhaps the message here has more to do with the spontaneity (“naturally”) of free prana than the posture itself…?