Kukkutasana from the c. 1600 Ocean of Life.

Kukkutasana from the c. 1600 Ocean of Life.

No doubt about it:  Rooster Pose is old.

It’s first seen in one of our most dramatic early images of a yoga, near the year 1500.

We see it at the pilgrimage site of Sri Sailam, about 300 miles northeast of Bangalore, India.

There, carved on the north wall of the temple called Mallikarjuna, a yogi holds himself calmly aloft in the pose.

A little bit earlier, c. 1450 Hatha Yoga Pradipika 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 tells us to, “lift ourselves up to our elbows.”1

We know Kukkutasana’s was integrated into one of Hatha Yoga’s first systems from its its the one of the earliest illustrated manuals 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.

From the court of a Mughal Prince named Salim, 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 a force called vira, from which we get the English word, “virility.”

Vira is a focused life-energy with a “rooster-ish” vitality.

Sexuality is a pure form of human life-energy, and it is provoked by this pose and others in ancient practice. Yet yogis didn’t go on sex binges with this powere. They compounded their vira, creating exceptional powers and moving them closer to Enlightenment.

In the best cases, this energy was focused toward transforming the energetics of the body to allow vibrations of awareness to register in it more profoundly.

Vira helped greater insight into the self and the cosmos to come into being.

The vira of the yogis made them potent—like the male rooster!