Tag Archives: swastikasana

What’s in a name? The subtle differences between Sukhasana and Svastikasana

Before one of H.S. Arun’s classes in this past weekend’s workshop, he mentioned that Sukhasana (happy pose) and Svastikasana (cross pose) were different poses when instructing a student about another topic. Another student asked him “you mean ‘firelog’ pose? He laughed and said “there is no such thing as a firelog pose, that’s made up.” I asked him, “what is the difference between Sukhasana and Svastikasana?” He said “it’s in the feet,” and then moved on without explanation.

In the next day’s class, he built a whole sequence around the two poses. The short of it is that in Sukhasana the feet are passive, in Svasktikasana the feet are active. But there is much more to the story than that.

Student Chris was gracious enough to model these to poses after class today. Here is Sukhasana:

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From this angle you see that the feet are passive.  From this next angle you see what happens to the spine.

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Her left knee is slightly higher than her right which causes a subtle curve in the spine, or as Arun said “it looks like the student has scoliosis.”

Now here is Svastikasana:

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You can see the feet are now active. That gives this corresponding effect to the spine:

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You can see that her knees are now even and her spine is correspondingly straighter.

So should we throw out Sukhasna because it is not as symmetrical? Of course not. One of Sukhasna’s great features is that it is passive, unlike Svastikasana. That makes it more appropriate for chanting the invocation to Patanajali, or reciting mantras as there is a receptive element to the pose.

On a side note, Svasti, or Swasti denotes “well being” in Sanskrit. Unfortunately, the symbol of Swasti was stolen and used as a symbol of hatred, whereas before it was a sacred symbol of both Asian Indian and Native American cultures.

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Definitely not firelog pose!

 

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Notes from Laurie Blakeney’s workshop part 1

Laurie Blakeney has flown into the islands like the much needed trade winds and began her workshop this week. I attended the morning basic class. We started with an hour of seated poses: dandasana, swastikasana, baddha konasana, and upavistha konasana. The emphasis was to address stiff hips.

In dandasana, she had us engage both legs at a time and notice which one engaged first. Then she had us engage one leg at a time. It was telling on how we have a tendency to work one leg more than the other, and more minutely, how we work certain parts of each leg more than the others.

In swastikasana, we did a forward bend with a folded blanket under the cross of the shins. She called this “rolling uphill.” I had a tremendously difficult time in the forward bend as I am quite girthy. “It doesn’t matter what is hanging out, what matters in the interior abdominal muscles behind what’s hanging out,”Blakeney said.

In baddha konasana, we leaned to one side to get the whole side of the thigh on the floor, then slowly shifted back to the middle trying to keep the thigh on the floor as long as possible. This was quite effective in elongating the inner groin muscles.

We then did a quick transition between baddha konasana and upavistha konasana with our fingers behind the knee tendon. We monitored which knee tendon “snapped” our fingers first (of if they snapped at all). Again this built tremendous awareness on how one side often acts differently than the other, and how within the leg there are different movements. In upavistha she noted that the feet should not be the “shining star” but rather the work of the quadriceps. An ongoing theme over the past few years with Laurie is she noticed Hawaii practitioners have overactive feet, likely a symptom of wearing slippers, and wants us to soften them more in our poses.

More to come as I didn’t address the second part of her class, the standing poses…