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Hatha Yoga Tip

This pose resembles a peacock with feathers spread behind when the pose is practiced in its final position with extended legs. Described first is the beginner stage to get started with developing the necessary balance and strength in the wrists, arms, legs and body. Once this stage has been practised enough to proceed further, then continue to intermediate and final pose.

Begin by kneeling on the mat with knees wide apart. Sit between heels. Hold your arms in front with bent elbows, keeping elbows and hands together. Breathe deeply and rhythmically. Lean forward and lift your hips, placing palms on the mat close to your knees. The fingers are pointing backward just between knees. Keep your elbows together and place upper abdomen against the elbows. If this is difficult, place elbows farther apart. Keep the head lifted.

Slowly lean forward and lower the forehead to the mat. Keep the abdomen pressed tightly against the elbows which are still together. Continue with rhythmical breathing. Keep feet together with toes pointing back. Now test your weight on your wrists and hands by stretching out one leg, then the other. Tuck the toes under. Your abdomen must resist the elbow pressure. Keep the arms strong, keep the knees straight and the forehead on the mat. Once you succeed in reaching this position, then come down by exhaling and lowering knees to the floor. Sit and shake out the wrists and relax in child’s pose.

Once you are ready to proceed with this pose further to an intermediate stage, then instead of lowering knees to the mat, keep legs straight and on inhalation raise your head and chest. Take a deep breath and contract the muscles of the legs, back, abdomen and neck. Keep feet down. Look forwards. Either come down on knees with exhalation as before, or come into the final pose. To come into final pose, keep looking forward, take a deeper inhalation and then hold breath, stiffen the body, tiptoe forward until legs come off the floor. Instead of lifting the legs to lift the body into the pose it is the forward walking movement that enables the torso to come up and forward. Keep the legs straight and on the same level as the head. Then lower the knees on an exhalation as before and come out of the pose.

Develops balance and patience.
Strengthen muscles of arms and shoulders, legs, back, abdomen and neck.
Tones abdominal organs and lungs.
A tonic for the whole body and mind.
Helps mental and physical sluggishness as well as hyperactivity with the concentrated and strong muscle effort and deep breathing.

This yoga asana is an edited contribution for the Sivananda Gurugram partly sourced and edited from the Sivananda Publication: “Yoga: Your Home Practice Companion” – Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre – 2010.

There is no greater joy than that of a life of renunciation of egoism and desires. It is a grand life. Tyaga Renunciation alone can make you fearless and happy. – Sri Swami Sivananda

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SATTVA, RAJAS, TAMAS: The three Gunas: three forces; the three qualities

The natural medical system of Ayurveda has been practiced in India for thousands of years and bases its teaching on three Gunas, or primary qualities, that are said to exist in all natural things. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Each represents a different quality: Sattva is purity, Rajas is activity or passion and Tamas is inertia or darkness. In every material object, person or action, the characteristics of all three gunas are present; one, however, is always dominant. Whether a person’s diet consists of Sattvic foods, Rajasic foods or Tamasic foods determines which Guna influences their thoughts and actions.
Sattva is harmony or light or wisdom or equilibrium or goodness. Rajas is passion or motion or activity. Tamas is inertia or inaction or darkness. During Cosmic Pralaya these three Gunas exist in a state of equilibrium. During Srishti or projection a vibration arises and the three qualities are manifested in the physical universe. The three qualities bring bondage to the Jiva or the individual soul. Though Sattva is a desirable quality, yet it also binds a man. It is a golden fetter. Rajas is the source of attachment and thirst for life. It causes attachment to action. Tamas binds man to heedlessness (Pramada), laziness (Alasya) and sleep (Nidra).

These three qualities are inseparable. No one is absolutely Rajasic or Sattvic or Tamasic. Sometimes Sattva prevails in man. He is calm and serene. He sits quietly and entertains sublime, soul-elevating thoughts. He studies religious scriptures. He talks on divine topics. When Sattva prevails, the other two qualities are overpowered for the time being. At other times Rajas prevails. He does action. He moves about. He plans, schemes, speculates. He craves for power, wealth and action. When Rajas prevails, Sattva and Tamas are overpowered for the time being. Sometimes Tamas prevails and the man becomes slothful. He feels lazy, indolent and lethargic. He is dull and feels sleepy. When Tamas prevails, Sattva and Rajas are overpowered for the time being.

The Bhagavad Gita describes the nature of Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic natures in Chapter XVIII as follows:
That which knows the path of work and renunciation, what ought to be done, fear and fearlessness, bondage and liberation-that intellect is Sattvic (pure), O Arjuna. That by which one wrongly understands Dharma and Adharma and also what ought to be done and what ought not to be done-that intellect, O Arjuna, is Rajasic. That which, enveloped in darkness, sees Dharma as Adharma, and all things perverted-that intellect is Tamasic.”

Light, positive, Sattvic or pure thoughts are calm and can be more easily transcended. Rajasic (extrovert) and Tamasic (dull) thoughts like anger, jealousy and greed are difficult to control. The question is how to purify the thoughts and experience positive thinking…

Do not allow the mind to wander about in sensual objects. Practice Nirodha/self-restraint. – Sri Swami Sivananda