Ashtanga Mythology

by Claire Berghorst

The poses within the Ashtanga second series, Nadi Shodhana, fall into 4 categories: animal forms, lifeless forms, human and divine. I love a bit of mythology, and find that when I understand both the form of the posture and the mythology behind the pose I can explore the posture in a more subtle way, for example, feeling the lightness of a bird, or the stability of a camel.

So here is a bit of the mythology behind the second posture in the series, Krounchasana, i.e Heron pose:

The story is about two loved-up Kroucha birds, in the forest. When sage Valmiki, accompanied by Bharadvaja, wants to bathe in the forest and stumbles upon two Kroucha birds engaged in love making. Suddenly the male bird is struck down by a fatal arrow from within the woods and the female cries out in horror, as the male dies in a pool of blood… Valmiki is so upset by what he has witnessed that he finds the hunter and curses him in a spontaneous outcry, later revealed to be poetry. The extended leg in the pose depicts the arrow that killed the male and the folded leg the seated Kroucha.

If we take a slightly different view though, and look at the attributes of a Heron – it’s a bird that is comfortable in three elements: Water, Earth and Air. This comfort relates to diversity and easy transitions between phases. Personally, I think of this quote when confronted with change: ‘Change is that moment of freedom, when anything is possible’. A heron is comfortable with change, with being in between day and night, light and dark, between people and places. So I chose not to think of the extended leg as an arrow to the heart but rather one foot in and one foot out, and finding comfort with the uncomfortable.

For the chance to safely explore some of these postures, and hear a few more of the stories, I will be running a Half Primary, Half Second led class once a month at Red Hot Yoga starting on the 22nd April. We will practice a half Primary Series, followed by portions of the Intermediate Series, where each week we explore a different theme of the practice.

Dates & Times:

From 12:15 – 14:15pm on the following Saturday’s in 2017:

  • 22nd April
  • 20th May
  • 17th June
  • 15th July
  • 12th August
  • 9th September
  • 7th October
  • 4th November
  • 2nd December

Click here to book on to this class here.

By Claire Berghorst

Photo credit: Elizabeth Boyle Photography


Crystal Krause

Do you offer a class or workshop on the mythology behind poses? I find the stories inspirational to teaching. The herron stories you shared are great.

With gratitude,


  • Red Hot Yoga

    Hi Crystal, thank you very much for your message. Mark does indeed host workshops that go into the Mythology and Philosophy behind the poses. Unfortunately the latest of these was this morning! We will be scheduling another one shortly, so watch this space – it will most likely be in the New Year.


Submit a comment

  • *NEW FOR EARLY SUMMER* Join Jade & explore the world of Essential Oils on this 4-week course starting Sat 30 May at 12:30. Different topic each week: Nature's 1st Aid; Emotional Balance; Hormone Support & Detoxing your Home! Course fee: £100 or drop ins (subject to availability) £35. More: