29 Sep '16
Posted in Articles by Eric Shaw
This pose is at least 500 years old.
It is first seen in one of our most dramatic early images of a yoga, near the year 1500.
It is found at the pilgrimage site of Sri Sailam, about 300 miles northeast of Bangalore, India.
There, in a carving on the north wall of the temple, Mallikarjuna, a yogi calmly holds himself aloft in the pose.
A little bit earlier we find the pose elegantly described in the words of the c. 1450 Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
It says, “Settle in Padmasana. Put the hands between the knees and thighs. Place the hands on the Earth. Lift into the sky. This is Kukkutasana.”
In the circa 1700 Gheranda Samhita we get a little more detail. It adds that we ought to, “lift ourselves up to our elbows.”1
Kukkutasana’s integration into Hatha Yoga’s system is indicated by its appearance in our first illustrated manual of yoga in 1600.
Called The Ocean of Life, this book was composed in Persian around 1550, then rendered as a picture book fifty years later.
It comes from the court of a Mughal Prince named Salim, and the book was written by a Sufi mystic to teach Hatha Yoga to his followers. The yogi doing kukkutasana there appears to be settled in the pose with his hands on the Earth while reflecting on something very far away (above).
Traditional yoga practitioners used hundreds of methods to create, refine and move energy in the body.
They believed Kukkutasana created vira, from which we get the English word, “virility.”
Vira is a powerful focused energy with a “rooster-ish” vitality.
Sexuality is a pure form of human life-energy, and it is provoked in this pose and others in ancient practice. Yet yogis kept this energy (called vira) reserved and redirected to test the body’s capacity for containing prana (life force).
Ultimately—the energy was focused toward transforming the energetics of the body to allow vibrations of awareness to register in it more profoundly—in order to create greater insight into the self and the cosmos.
The vira of the yogis made them supremely potent—like the male rooster!