Uttanita, Flip it Good.
To honor the other 4999+ people who love to be upside down in Handstands Anonymous, I thought I’d blog a bit about philosophy of yoga handstands.
To be upside down instead of right side up, is paradoxical, it is uttanita. Uttanita in Sanskrit means to expand your awareness and shift your perspective, to see something in a new way. Uttanita means, flip it, the opposite is true and what is reality, truth, is the reality you don’t see. The world and your experience shows you ‘reality’, and the paradox is there is a whole reality that you don’t see or experience. (We know like 4-5% of the Universe, the rest is the hidden reality known as dark energy and dark matter, we don’t see.) Uttanita is the revelation of that which is concealed, when you can shift your perspective to see that which is hidden.
An example that I experienced has been the revelation that the challenging painful experiences of my life, no matter how much they have sucked, are just as intrinsically beneficial and necessary to the evolution of my soul as the ecstatic ones. The benefit, or Grace, was concealed in the pain. Another example is the polarity of Light and Darkness. To see it them as two different things is how you experience it through your senses, understanding and knowledge. Uttanita is to have the revelation that they are both expressions of the same Light, all part of the Oneness. The paradox of concealment and revelation is encoded into the cycle of life known as the Panca Kryta, five acts of Shiva. The five acts of Shiva are the five acts of creation. From the dark concealed potential, comes creation, sustenance, dissolution and revelation. They’re represented as the Ananda Tandeva, Nataraja’s Dance of Bliss.
It wouldn’t cross most people’s mind to do a handstand. Not in a million years on both hands, let alone one hand. They are missing out. To turn upside down is to physically shift your perspective, to choose uttanita, to choose expansion, to choose the unknown and hidden. You actually see the world in a new way, with fresh eyes, and a different perspective. Physically shifting the shape of your body shifts the energetic body, shifts the mind body, and it shifts your soul. It can radically shift you forever. A handstand actually gives me a little buzz that shifts my mood and energizes me for the rest of the day.
Adho mukha vrksasana is Sanskrit for downward facing tree pose, also known as Handstand. One of the philosophical roots of the asana (posture) of Handstand is from a 2000 +/- yr old yogic Vedic text called the Upanishads, a compilation of yogi sage’s wisdom. The Katha Upanishad says: “This universe is a tree eternally existing, its roots above, it’s branches on earth below. It’s pure root is Brahman, the immortal, from whom all the worlds draw their life, and whom none can transcend, for this Self is supreme.” Another yogic scriptural reference for the pose is the Asvatta Tree of Consciousness, from the Bhagavad Gita, Vs 15:1,2. “The shastras speak of the imperishable ashvatta tree as having its roots above and branches below; Its leaves are the Vedic hymns, and he who knows this is a knower of the Vedas. It’s branches extend below and above, and being nourished by the gunas create the entire universe with sense objects as sprouts; below in the world of humans stretch for the the roots promoting action. “
To me these verses are saying the roots are the Oneness and its branches are the Many. The reference is expressing my experience and revelation that I have had through my yoga practice. I heavily credit handstand as the pivotal transformative pose that that has given me the capacity to shift my view to actually see that the Oneness is HIDDEN with in the Many, the uttanita is seeing the Oneness is in plain sight, always as the Many. The Oneness exists eternally within and as everyone and everything, Oneness IS the Many. This revelation was the Uttanita of me playing around in downward facing tree pose.
Ultimately, the last pose of the 108 poses of the Ananda Tandeva, is the Moksha Tandeva. The Dance of Liberation. Shiva Nataraja is upside down doing a one handed handstand on his vehicle, the Being of Forgetfulness, Apasmara. It is the culmination of all the dances, the culmination of the spiritual path, the enlightened being. This is the uttanita of freedom. The revelation of the yogi handstander is ultimate freedom to live in the mystery and uncertainty, remembering that forgetfulness is part of the dance, the very thing the handstand dance is taking place on. Forgetting our Essence to remember our Essence is the point of the dance. That revelation is the uttanita, everything is the ecstatic dance, everything is Grace.
My yogic process has been an unveiling of my own free will, a shift of my perspective from a bound victim shackled to my story, to the freedom of empowered choice to create a new personal myth. I live in a world of uncertainty, we all do, where the only certainty is our own mortality, everything else, 100% mystery. I have recognized I am free to choose in this world of uncertainty, certain only of the uncertainty of the Mystery. The Moksha Tandeva is the my freedom to choose to whom, how and what to bind myself in the Mystery, knowing it is just dance of paradox, concealment and revelation, forgetting and remembering. The dance of ultimate freedom isn’t a release from bondage, it’s the recognition of freedom to bondage. Uttanita, the upside down, the revelation that we already are free, not prisoners, bound and seeking freedom, the uttanita is we are free to choose and create our own boundaries and attachments in this world of uncertainty. We are free, we get to choose!
Nothing like geeking out on the yoga of handstand philosophy. I love yoga, I love handstands. Ultimately, freedom is the empowerment of choice, the choice to bind, connect, create yoga with whom and what I love. I choose Love, and I love to do handstands, a lot of them, everywhere. Flip it, Good.