Courses

Yoga Stories of Ancient India: Decoding the Myths Behind 20 Key Yoga Poses

  • Yoga Philosophy
  • By
  • Mondays, March 14, 21, 28, April 4, 7-9 pm ET

About the Course

Why are so many yoga poses named after mythic scenes and mythic figures? What does, for example, Śiva’s cosmic dance of bliss, or Viṣṇu reclining on his serpent couch have to do with yoga postures? The mythological stories of ancient India encode profound philosophical and spiritual insight indispensable for the practice of yoga. What is the core content and significance of these stories? What can these stories add to your own yoga practice? Join Dr. Raj Balkaran as he transmits and decodes key mythological stories from ancient India, expounding their significance and relevance to the practice of yoga. Each class features a synergy of expert academic lecture, captivating storytelling, and profound spiritual transmissions. You will have ample opportunity for Q&A.

This class decodes the mythology of Śiva to show its significance for yoga practice. In particular we will examine stories related to Śiva’s cobra, his Vīrabhadra form, his cosmic dance of bliss, and his reclusive nature as Lord of Yogīs. Specific yoga postures covered include: -Cobra Pose (Bhujaṅgāsana) -Warrior Pose (Vīrabhadrāsana) -Lord of Dance Pose (Naṭarājāsana) -Perfection Pose (Siddhāsana) and -Mountain Pose (Parvatāsana)
This class decodes the mythology of Viṣṇu, and his human incarnations on earth (avatāras), to show its relevance for specific yoga poses. We will look at Viṣṇu’s reclining on his serpent couch on the cosmic ocean, and his incarnations as tortoise and dwarf. We will also look at his eagle mount, and his great devotee, Hanumān. Specific yoga postures covered include: -Reclining Pose (Anantāsana) -Tortoise Pose (Kūrmāsana) -Hanumān’s Pose (Hanumānāsana) -Three Strides Pose (Tri-Vikramāsana) -Eagle Pose (Garuḍāsana)
This class decodes the mythology of various divine and semi-divine beings, including that of Indra (the thunderbolt-wielding king of the gods), Arjuna (Indra incarnate, and cousin to Kṛṣṇa, featured in the Bhagavad Gītā), Sūrya the Sun god, and Candra the Moon god. Specific yoga postures covered include: -Salutation Pose (Praṇāmāsana) -Half-Moon Pose (Ardhacandrāsana) -Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrāsana) -Archer Pose (Dhanurāsana) -Yogic Staff Pose (Yogadaṇḍāsana)
This class decodes the mythologies of key sages of ancient India, including that of Vasiṣṭha, the great preceptor, Viśvāmitra, the king who became a sage, Durvāsas, the irascible curse-throwing sage, Aṣṭavakra, the sage bend out of shape, and Vāmadeva, who attained enlightenment while yet an embryo. Specific yoga postures covered include their namesakes: -Vasiṣṭha Pose (Vasiṣṭhāsana) -Viśvāmitra Pose (Viśvāmitrāsana) -Durvāsas Pose (Durvāsāsana) -Aṣṭavakra Pose (Aṣṭavakrāsana) -Vāmadeva Pose (Vāmadevāsana)

Participants in this course will learn:

  • The power of mythological storytelling for encoding and preserving human values.
  • This role of Indian mythology in perpetuating yogic themes.
  • The mythology of Śiva, Lord of Yogīs, including the descent of the celestial Ganges river from heaven to earth and Śiva’s blissful dance of cosmic destruction at the end of the age.
  • The mythology of Viṣṇu and his earthly descents (avatāras), focusing on his tortoise and dwarf incarnations. 
  • The mythology of various divine and semi-divine beings, including Indra, Arjuna, Sūrya (the Sun god), and Candra (the Moon god).
  • The mythology of various sages of ancient India, especially the rivalry between the sages Vasiṣṭha and Viśvāmitra. 
  • The relationship between mythological storytelling, the evolution of consciousness and the practice of yoga.
  • Insight into 20 key yoga postures.

This course is intended for yoga practitioners, lifelong learners and spiritual seekers interested in the philosophical, spiritual and mythological wisdom of ancient India. It is especially for those interested in experiencing and understanding the power of mythological storytelling, and/or those interested in deepening their yoga practices.

About Raj Balkaran

Dr. Raj Balkaran is a prolific scholar of Indian mythology, having authored The Goddess and the King in Indian Myth (Routledge 2018), The Goddess and the Sun in Indian Myth (Routledge 2020), and several academic articles and book chapters. He is also a spiritual adept, having been initiated into ancient Indian wisdom traditions by multiple masters, engaged in daily practice for two decades. A seasoned online educator, he teaches at Yogic Studies and the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies where he also serves on their Course Development Board. He is also the Founder of the online School of Indian Wisdom where he creates and delivers original online courses combining scholarship, storytelling, and spirituality to apply Indian wisdom teachings to modern life. Beyond teaching and research, Dr. Balkaran runs a thriving life coaching practice, delivers public talks, and hosts the Indian Religions podcast. See rajbalkaran.com for more information.

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  • Access to this course
  • LIVE Monthly Courses
    Top-quality education from premier faculty in both Yoga Philosophy & MindBody Studies.
  • 70+ On-Demand Courses
    Certificate of completion available for all courses (+ earn Yoga Alliance credits & CEs on select offerings)
  • EPTV Streaming Video Library
    Includes 250+ hours of our original series, lectures, talks & workshops—accessible on the website or through our App (Apple TV, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire, Roku)
  • Premium Web Content Access
    Premium articles + curated content, mini-trainings & practice resources
  • Tarka Journal Digital
    Quarterly issues that include: original artwork and translations + scholarly, devotional, and introductory articles on contemplative studies, wisdom teachings & practices
  • Private EP Community
    Engage in conversation with other Embodied Philosophy Members!
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