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The Cock – Kukkutasana

30th October 2011Blog, FeaturedNo Comments

What better way to wake up a class than with the Cock or Rooster? Few of my students can insert their arms between their legs and support themselves on their hands in Kukkutasana, so I created an energetic warm-up and pranayama, inspired by the Haka (a traditional Mauri dance used to bring out the fighting spirit of Mauri warriors and currently employed by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team) and an imitation of flapping wings.

The Haka, as I see it, involves lots of vigorous body slapping accompanied by focused and severe facial expressions. The slapping, like Qigong body tapping, stimulates the flow of energy and hormones in the body. The more enthusiastic the body thumping, the more enlivening the practice. Thus my rooster persona assumes a cross-legged posture on the floor or a grounded stance on a chair and begins to flap its wings as in a chicken dance. The difference, however, is that with each down stroke of its wings it thumps against the sides of its chest. Talk about waking up stagnate lungs and overcoming inhibitions right off the bat in a class! Thwack, thwack. Pause and feel the energy throbbing in the chest. The rooster then clasps its claws under its wattles and lifts and lowers its wings, coordinating the movement with its breath. I feel the sides of my lungs stretching and expanding with each deep breath, from the sides of my hips right up to my arm pits. I find this breath calming after the vigorous Haka thumping. Try the two rooster variations anytime you need to wake up and fill yourself with fresh prana.

I looked up the Cock in Swami Sivananda Radha’s book, Hatha Yoga, The Hidden Language, Symbols, Secrets, and Metaphor as well as in Ted Andrew’s, Animal Speak. The Cock, throughout history, has been associated with sexuality, watchfulness, resurrection. In Greek mythology, Alektraon was turned into a cock to herald the day when he failed to warn the lovers, Mars and Venus of Vulcan’s approach. Or, according to Andrews, the cock plays a vigilant role in the romance between Ares and Aphrodite.

Andrews also describes the god Abraxas, revered by the early gnostics, “the rooster-headed god with serpent feet, in whom light and darkness are both united and transcended”. Unity, in the meaning of the term Yoga, refers to the transcending of opposites. As I flap my wings in the two versions of my cock posture, initiating the active portion of my Halloween flow, I am aware of the therapeutic benefit of acknowledging and assimilating opposites in my own personality.

The Cock is also one of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac, representing enthusiasm, humor, directness, eccentricity, and optimism. The more we practice yoga, the more we discover who we are and learn to express our essential selves with confidence. Needless to say, yogis are an eccentric lot.

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