"I think that that's kind of a nice story because it's specific and that it's saying yoga's not about what's going on on the outside. It's not about how much you know about the Vedas, the wisdom and how great a yogi you are." - Harmony Lichty, Mythology of Ashtavakrasna
One of my favorite ones, Ashtavakrasana and it's always like the pose that's all on the social media, everything. But really, Ashtavakra means one who's bent in 8 places. The story is that he was in his mother's womb and his father was chanting the Vedas. He was already sort of this very high being coming back to birth. His father was chanting the Vedas and he kept making mistakes. After some time, his father was making these mistakes and he couldn't take it anymore and he shouted from inside his mother's womb, the corrections to his father so that he would chant it correctly. If you know anything about father-son relationships, the father did not take this very well. The unusual son was correcting his chanting, so he cursed his unborn child, and that curse when he was born, left him deformed in 8 places.
One story is he went to the palace of Janaka, which is the father of Sita, but her father was a king, and he would have these... host these meetings of yogis and sages who would come and talk about yoga, wisdom, and the Vedas. He was having one of these conferences. Ashtavakra heard about it and he wanted to go. He wanted to go and meet all these enlightened sages, and beings and yogis. So he walked and it took him many days to walk to the palace. He got there a little bit late after the conference had already started and they were already in discussion and he walked into the conference. Everyone looked at him and just like gave him a strange look and started kind of laughing -- like, what's this guy doing here? And he started making a noise like he was laughing. So King Janaka said to him,
"Sir why are you laughing?"
He said, "I'm not laughing. I'm crying."
He (King Janaka) said, "Why are you crying?"
"I came here because I heard there was a bunch of yogis gathering to talk about higher truth, but all I see is cobblers."
King Janaka said, "Don't you see sages here? Don't you see learned men?"
And he says, "No. I see people that only view things from the outside that are saying this skin is good, this skin is not good. This shape is nice, this shape is not nice. They're not seeing the true Atman."
From that, King Janaka realized... Oh, this is actually a very high sage and they apologized and bowed down and took him as his teacher.
I think that that's kind of a nice story because it's specific and that it's saying yoga's not about what's going on on the outside. It's not about how much you know about the Vedas, the wisdom and how great a yogi you are.
All these people had this very big ego. They thought that they were so wonderful, and so learned they knew so much. Yet here's this humble, deformed person who really spoke the truth and was connected to that higher essence of yoga.
There's one posture in third series also called Bhairavasana. Bhairava is an incarnation of Shiva or a part of Shiva. If you know, there're three main deities in Hindu pantheon as it is today where Shiva's thought to be sort of the destroyer. Like this almighty Ishvara, the lord. Brahma is the creator god, Vishnu is the sustainer.
Vishnu says to Brahma, "Who's the greatest creator in the universe?" Brahma says, "It's me of course. I created all this universe." Brahma starts thinking about this more and "Yeah, I'm pretty good." He starts doing a bit more stuff and he starts actually kind of taking over some of Shiva's duties and interfering with Shiva's work. So Shiva catches wind that Brahma said that he's the greatest creator and god, and should be worshiped as the almighty. Shiva's thinking "hmm... not good." So he takes his baby fingernail and flicks it and from that comes this incarnation of this figure called Bhairava, whose sort to be the annihilating principle of Shiva. He goes and finds Brahma, chops off one of one of his 5 heads. So if you know about Brahma, he's only depicted with 4 heads, and originally he has 5 heads which Shiva promptly chopped one off. And Bhairava held the head up to Brahma. Brahma said, looked and realized, all of a sudden that was his moment of awakening and he realized that "Oh, actually I was being quite prideful and egoistic, and arrogant. And he bows down to Bhairava and humbles himself before Shiva.
Jeff: That's the posture where the leg wants to take your own head off.
Harmony: Yeah! It's a posture where your leg's behind your head. It kind of feels like you're trying to behead yourself a little bit.
Many postures remind us to keep our egos in check.
The problem is sometimes I think once you... at first it's about keeping your ego in check, and then you get good at it. Then the real world happens because you really have to keep your ego in check.
To learn more about the meanings behind the names of the Asana's visit Harmony's Instagram here @harmony_lichty or sign up for the email list to get the videos sent to your inbox
Harmony Lichty has been teaching Ashtanga Yoga in the Mysore method for over a decade. She was first introduced to Yoga in 1995, and began practicing Ashtanga Yoga in 2000. She always had a keen interest in spirituality and the art of physical movement, which culminated in fifteen years of dance training and two BA degrees in Philosophy and Religious Studies. In 2002 she traveled through China researching Buddhist meditation and in 2004 she made her first trip to Mysore, India. That same year she moved to South East Asia where she began a journey of teaching Yoga Internationally, which allowed her to spend long periods of time practicing with Sri K Pattabhi Jois and his grandson Sharath Jois at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute. Harmony was given Authorization by Pattabhi Jois in 2006, and was granted Certification by Sharath Jois in 2015. In 2009, she and her husband Jeff Lichty settled in Victoria, BC and founded Ashtanga Yoga Victoria. They have recently moved to Calgary Alberta where they have founded Calgary Ashtanga Yoga School