who was this sage…

…and why is this very difficult pose named after him?

The irony: most often, in yoga classes I attend, this pose is referred to as “Hurdler’s Pose.”  I did hurdles in middle school track, and I did not find them particularly difficult at all. I had long legs, and loved jumping over things. It helped break the monotony of running around a track. Aye, there’s the rub: capturing the position of a hurdler, mid-flight.

The Sanskrit name for the pose is Eka Pada Koundiyanasana II. Or, Pose Dedicated to the Sage Koundinya II. Evidently this sage was known for his study, at a young age, of the Hindu scriptures (the Vedas). He was a worshipper of Ganesha, the Hindu deity most known for being a Remover of Obstacles, but also acknowledged for his connection to intellect, wisdom, and the arts and sciences. So, why is a prone, spread-legged, lopsided arm balance dedicated to a man of intellect? I was hoping for a more literal story, such as the explanation for Hanumanasana: this splits pose mimics a giant leap that the monkey deity (Hanuman) made to reach Sri Lanka from the mainland of India.

yellow flower
Elegance is in the eye of the beholder: Yellow Goat's Beard

I am guessing that the pose is dedicated to Koundinya because mastering religious texts at a young age required a fair amount of strength, flexibility, balance, and faith. Hurdler’s Pose requires plenty of all of those things, from me.

This is a yoga pose that is especially responsive to fluctuations in all of those qualities, in my body and mind. It’s different from, say, forearm balance, with which I’m feeling steady improvement. I don’t try Hurdler’s Pose often enough to notice if there’s a pattern relating to time of day, proximity to running workout, or stress level. Some days I can set it up, but am completely unable to transfer any weight to my hands. On other days, I can manage to transfer some weight, and on even rarer days, I manage to get one or both feet lifted from the ground. On no days, yet, have I been able to straighten the front leg.

Yesterday evening, I managed to get both feet off the ground, very briefly. That tiny little victory felt fantastic. Later, I described what I probably looked like as a poorly-tied fly-fishing fly. But still: a fly-fishing fly, is a beautiful, intricate thing, made by hand, with love, even if made by a new fly-tier.

One reason I moved away from Iyengar yoga was that style’s intertwining of my limbs and spine with props like ropes affixed to walls, folding chairs, benches, or wooden blocks. More often than not, when in such poses, I found myself wondering why I’d set myself up on what appeared to be a medieval torture device. Was this done to create and address a challenge? Aren’t there enough challenges posed by gravity, anatomy, and the mind?

Eka Pada Koundiyanasana II answers that question with yes. And the beauty of it is that what it looks and feels like, is always a surprise.

A theme lately for me: seeing trees for the forest. So much is there, that you don’t see until you look for it.

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