The practice of yoga was neither ‘invented’ nor ‘discovered’. It existed long before references of it appeared in art and literature. Nature played an important role in rites and rituals, with ancient yogis drawing inspiration from the world around them. Almost all mythological figures were associated with at least one animal. It is no surprise, then, that many yoga poses are inspired by animals, insects and nature. One such pose is Adho Mukha Svanasana. A careful study of the name tells us its meaning. ‘Adho’ – down; ‘Mukha’ – face; ‘Svana’ – dog; ‘Asana’ – pose. Constant Companion When the war of Kurukshetra in the Mahabharata?was over, the Pandavas made?their way to heaven. Slowly?and quietly they ascended the mountain from where they?would board the chariot to heaven. The eldest Pandava, Yudhishthira, led the way. He was followed by Bheema, Arjuna, Nakula, Sahadeva and Draupadi. A lone dog also followed them. The journey up the mountain was long and arduous. They were all very tired. Soon, Draupadi collapsed and was unable to continue. The Pandavas looked at her with sorrow since she would not enter the kingdom of heaven. Throughout her life, Draupadi had secretly favoured Arjuna. This attachment to him had been her undoing. The remaining Pandavas continued, even though their exhaustion increased with every step. The dog followed. The next to collapse was Sahadeva. He had been proud of his own intellect and this vice kept him from the kingdom of heaven. The remaining Pandavas trudged on as the dog followed, wagging its tail. Nakula collapsed next. ‘He was proud of his looks and wouldn’t stop admiring himself,’ explained Yudhishthira to the others. ‘That’s why he will also not make it to the kingdom of heaven. Let us continue.’ Yudhishthira had noticed the dog and had started to consider it a part of their entourage. Arjuna collapsed next. He would also not?make it to heaven. His failing was that he was overconfident and conceited. The summit of the mountain was close and though they had mourned their siblings and wife, Bheema and Yudhishthira continued. The dog wagged its tail and followed them. Finally, Bheema also collapsed. He was proud of his physical strength and ate too much, thought Yudhishthira. By now, he was almost delirious with hunger and thirst, but carried on. He was aware that it was only him and the dog now. At the top of the mountain, Lord Indra descended with his chariot and invited Yudhishthira in to be flown to heaven. Yudhishthira was happy that the harrowing journey was finally coming to an end. But being righteous and just, he had one final request. ‘Lord Indra’, Yudhishthira said, ‘I can only come to heaven if this dog comes with me. He has followed us from the mountain, and has been with me as I lost every single one of my siblings and my beloved wife.
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