The Hidden Language of Asanas: Expand your learning from yoga inversions by exploring the symbolic context of each asana

Post written by Orsolya Hernold

This article appeared first on themindfulword.org.


My introduction to yoga came from a video a friend gave me back in 2000. I remember the moves feeling really good, even familiar to my body, so I decided to look for a teacher. I didn’t know what to expect from the class; I was a bit anxious about being a beginner joining a group that had already been doing yoga for a while. My teacher was superb in calming my fear of being judged and made sure I knew what to do at all times.

My body was pleasantly tired as we approached the end of the class. My teacher asked me to try the feathered peacock pose (Pincha Mayurasana), an inversion by the wall. I just did what she asked me to do without thinking (so fear couldn’t get in the way), and to my greatest surprise, I popped into the pose on my first try. It felt liberating to be upside down—I felt strong while being supported by my arms, and powerful with my legs above my head in balance. Since that moment, inversions have become my favourite poses and are always part of my yoga sequences.

Besides attending Hatha Yoga classes, the same teacher taught me a class called Hatha Yoga: the Hidden Language. During these classes, we explored the symbolic context of each asana and were encouraged to take our practice off the mat and into our lives.

Hidden Language Hatha Yoga revealed symbols and metaphors beyond my physical experience. Thus, I learned about the underlying reasons behind my deep connection to inversions: my ease with situations out of the normal order of things, my flexibility in thinking out of the box and my faith in my strength to hold me in whatever place the twists in my life will take me.

I invite you to explore your body and your mind during your inversions to learn what their messages are for you.

Inversions are great for our bodies. They require strong muscles and concentration to keep balance. They reverse the blood flow, which helps to improve circulation. Besides these (and many other) physical benefits, they’re also great poses for exploring our mental status while facing a challenging situation.

Inversions are for advanced students; they’re challenging asanas that require both strength and confidence. Fear is often at play while performing an inversion and for me, a leap of faith was also needed to believe I won’t tip over and hurt myself in my first headstand.

Try these asanas and jot down whatever feelings, thoughts and sensations come up. Please note that inversions are for advanced yoga students, and only try them if you have enough experience. Also, I won’t include a full description of how to do the poses because I’d like to concentrate on deepening the experience the asana creates in your body and your mind. Do them as you were taught to perform them. Make sure to warm up before trying any of these poses and have paper and pen around to take notes.

Questions to explore before doing inversions

Questions to explore while in the pose

Questions to explore after doing the pose

My favourite inversions with specific questions for further exploration

After doing one or more inversions, make sure to finish with a full-body relaxation. Say thank you to your body for the work, the stretch, the learning that has taken place.

To indulge yourself deeper to the Hidden Language of asanas, I recommend these books:

» Swami Sivananda Radha: Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language

» Swami Lalitananda: The Inner Life of Asanas


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