Simhasana

Simhasana (Lion’s Pose)

 

{ NOTE: this was previously Posted on October 6, 2010 here: http://faern-in-the-works.com/2010/10/06/simhasana }

 

Writing: Chrisandra Fox

Photography: Faern, faernworks.com

 

Simhasana (Lion’s Pose), dedicated to the Man-Lion incarnation of Vishnu, clears ama, or waste from the tongue, tones the throat, improves speech, and creates an ideal condition for the practice of all three bandhas.

This pose can also ignite the fierce purifying energy of Kali, who is the dark feminine and destructive face of God. Kali has been honored in Hindu mythology and Tantric practice as the warrioress who protects universal and individual order when balance is disrupted. Like a mama lion, she is fierce, loving and protective, her eternal energy pulsating in the Heart chakra. In the rhythm of life, she is the transformative power of action and life-energy that is expressed through life and death, or more simply, through the breath.

One translation of Kali is “time”, and this Goddess is the great womb of existence or time, the void from which the universe is born and to which it returns. Her unpredictable and often terrible force helps us to break down the ego attachment that binds our consciousness to what is known and desired so that we may merge our awareness into the unmanifest, unknowable, formless ground of being.

While not directly related to the practices that honor Kali, the Mother Goddess, Simhasana helps us to expel the toxicity of excess or stagnation, to forcibly release what is no longer needed, to refresh our organs and our energy, and to dissolve a busy mind into a moment of eternity.

The Pose

Begin in Dandasana (Staff Pose), with legs extended. Lift your seat, bend your right knee and place your right foot beneath your left buttock. Bend your left knee and place your left foot beneath your right buttock, so that your ankles are crossed. You’ll sit back on your inner heels and point your toes, rest your pelvis on your heels.

Alternately, sit in Bhadrasana (Gracious Pose). Kneel on your shins, bring your toes together and knees widely apart. Rest your buttocks in the cradle of your feet. If your knees are tight, sit on a block.

Place your hands on your thighs, palms resting and fingers cupping your knees.

Draw your chin in toward the center of your throat to engage a slight Jalandhara Bandha (chin lock). Inhale through your nose. Exhale through your mouth, stretch out your tongue as far as you can, and release your breath with a resonant “haaaaaa”. You can gaze toward the tip of your nose, or lift your gaze to your third eye point. Inhale, and repeat. Take three rounds of lion’s breath, gradually increase the duration of your exhalation, stretching the tongue and letting it roll from side to side to increase its activity.

Then, change the position of your legs, and do three rounds on the second side.

If you are familiar with the bandhas (locks or gateways for regulating the flow of energy), you may engage them after the exhalation. Draw your chin further in towards the center of your throat, draw your pelvic floor up and scoop your low belly in and up to the center of your ribcage.

The positioning of the body in Simhasana induces the bandhas, although it will take practice to cultivate steadiness within them. The pressure of your heels against your perineum creates a natural “lift” in your pelvic floor. You can enhance this lift by imagining and creating an energetic “tug” or doming of your pelvic floor toward the center of your throat.

Uddiyana Bandha (Flying Buttress) occurs most naturally when the chest is lifted powerfully, or the spine is tilted forward. In Simhasana, keep your arms extended to encourage a lift in your ribcage, then slowly draw your low belly in and up to create a vacuum with your diaphragm.

Keep a soft steady gaze and linger in that void of stillness. Feel the power of your bandhas (locks or energy gateways) as you dissolve your mind into the roaring silence. Slowly release through your belly and your perineum, and lift your chin.

Beginners, ask your teacher for instruction with Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha before applying these locks in Simhasana. Women, avoid practicing the bandhas during your moon cycle and focus on the purifying work of the tongue and relaxing your belly instead.

Variation:

If you have a Padmasana (Lotus Pose), try practicing the pose referred to in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika as Simhagarjanasana (Roaring Lion Pose).

Sit in Padmasana. Extend your arms and place your palms on the floor in front of your legs. Lift your pelvis off the floor and bring your weight onto your knees. Then lower the front of your pelvis toward the floor, balancing your weight between your hands and knees. Keep your arms extended and stretch through the back of your body. Move your sacrum in toward the front of your body to create stability in your pelvis.

Inhale through your nose and exhale all your breath out, stretching your tongue towards your chin. If you are working with the bandhas, after your exhalation, draw your chin into the center of your throat, lift through your root and slowly draw your low belly in and up to the center of your ribcage. After a few moments, release through your belly, your root and then lift your chin. Return to Padmasana. Change the cross of your legs, and repeat on the other side.

In addition to purifying, Simhasana reinforces the Kali principle of time as it relates to creation and destruction, and allows us to experience that principle in action. In Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses: Spiritual Secrets of Ayurveda, David Frawley writes:

Time is our eventual death and destruction of all things. Hence Kali is also death. Yet death is not merely annihilation but the doorway to the eternal . . . Spiritual death, the death of the separate self, is the way to eternal life.

Life and death are the rhythms of time, the ebb and flow of the eternal sea. Kali is the life that exists in death and the death that exists in life. To be conscious of life in death and death in life is one of her meditational approaches. To die daily is her daily worship. This is to die to all the things of thought, our worries, cares, anxieties, ambitions, loves, and hates, likes and dislikes. It is to daily cast our minds into the highest flame of the fire of awareness. (p. 67).

Nature so simply and beautifully reveals this sequence daily death and daily rebirth through sunrise and sunset; Autumn leaves change color, wither and leave the trees bare until the Spring rebirths their new life blossoms. A daily practice of roaring lion’s breath may give you the fierce courage to release not only your tongue, but a limiting belief, an anxiety, an emotional attachment, or simply the endless chasing of experience and rest your mind on the ground of eternal presence.

 

Chrisandra Fox teaches weekly classes at Yoga Tree, Yoga Garden and leads The Heart of Renewal Retreats in California and beyond. She teaches in Yoga Tree’s 200-hour Teacher Training.

Chrisandra@gmail.com

Faern is a mixed media artist, photographer and yoga practitioner in San Francisco. Visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: