Frog Posture, Mandukasana
One thing I've always loved about yoga is how the same posture can have several different names, depending on the lineage and historical period. Or the same name can refer to any number of different positions. Learning all the names and positions is something that floats my boat. It's like yoga trivia mixed with history and tradition. I find it funny and interesting, and at the end of the day it tells me that the names are only as good as their ability to transmit the idea of a posture to another person. (Though there is the school of thought that, once you know the true name of something, you understand it completely.)
A posture that has been lost to the Ghosh Lineage for some time is Mandukasana, Frog Posture. If you are familiar with other traditions, there are several postures that bear the name "Frog." Even Tony Sanchez uses the name "Frog" for a different stretching posture in his intermediate series.
Bikram doesn't include Frog Posture in his "complete" list of postures, and so it has disappeared from a whole generation of his disciples. I was first introduced to it while editing Buddha Bose's book from the 1930s. It also appears in Gouri Shankar Mukherji's book from the 1960s. Also, there is a photo on the wall of Ghosh's Yoga College in Kolkata that shows Dibya Sundar Das in the posture.
I began practicing it out of curiosity. It is intense at first, in both the knees and the hips. But once I settle, it is quite stable and strong. It is wonderful to prepare the lower limbs for Lotus, something that I care more and more about every day.
Ida and I have begun taking photos for the first of our Advanced Practice Manuals, and we are including Frog Posture. Since both Bose and Mukherji's photos of the posture are from the back, to show the detail of the feet, it was almost surprising to see it from the front.
Above I am including a picture of the front of Frog Posture. I'm also including my picture of the back just for fun. You will notice how similar it is to Bose's and Mukherji's.
A Rebel Embraces Tradition
I have never been a person who adheres to traditions naturally. It always made more sense to make my own way, to take one teaching from here and another from there, mash them together and develop my own viewpoint. I suppose I've been sort of a rebel, but in the least cool kind of way. More like an outcast who doesn't really fit in anywhere.
Lately my yoga teaching has uncovered a new aspect of my personality. I find myself subordinating my own intentions or personality and putting myself in service of the practices of yoga. These are practices, physical and mental, that I know from experience to be quite powerful and transformative. I know that if others simply do the practices - though admittedly it is not so simple - they will undergo the same transformations that I have experienced.
And so it is not my instruction or the power of my radiant personality that might make me an effective teacher. It is the degree to which I can get the students to do the practices with integrity. No more and no less. A personal story might lift the mood of a class, but it doesn't necessarily improve the students' relationships with the practices. And it is the practices that transform us, not the personality or brilliance of a teacher. (You may have read about what happens when students follow a teacher instead of the practices. Cult-like communities form that almost always lead to abuse, corruption and lawsuits.)
I have never been in this position before, realizing that my viewpoint is not important except in the way that it can clearly communicate these practices of body, breath and mind. The true power is in the practices themselves. Now I sound like a traditionalist, encouraging adherence to the "proper way of doing things." It is not that these practices work because they are traditional. They have become traditional because they work.
This journal honors my ongoing experience with the practice, study and teaching of yoga.
1) Sridaiva Yoga: Good Intention But Imbalanced
2) Understanding Chair Posture
2) Why I Don't Use Sanskrit or Say Namaste
3) The Meaningless Drudgery of Physical Yoga
5) Beyond Bikram: Why This Is a Great Time For Ghosh Yoga