shiva rea practicing kalarippayatu

Kalari students begin their embodied practice by learning meybhasa – swinging kicks moving from the East to the West in a continuous flow emerging and ending in vaidavus or Kalari postures. The eight kicks flow forward, to the side, around the body, turn and flow from the ground to rise and finally spin in a flowing circular backbend. The eight primary Kalari postures or vaidavus are named for animals that are experienced as sharira mudras or forms containing concentrated energy that awakens the energy invoked by the particular form:

Gajavadivu (elephant pose)
Simhavadivu (lion)
Asvavadivu (horse)
Varahavadivu (wild boar)
Sarpavadivu (serpent)
and Marjaravadivu (cat)
Kukkuvadivu (rooster)
Matsyavadivu (fish)

These sharira mudras are repeated through the practice until the abhyasi (Kalari practitioner) becomes one with vaidavu of a lion or serpent as an emanation of their embodied spirit. The inner energy comes alive, awakens and stabilizes through nabhi mula or “root of the navel energy;” in Yoga, this is the same energy activated in uddiyana bandha.

“Nabhi mula is the activation of samana vayu or the movement of prana” says my teacher, “that draws energy to the core to bring balance not just to the body but inner mind. This is the importance of foot work and the preliminary leg exercises for they help a person find their internal center through their external body. A person balances within the flow by sensing how they can move in the space with the least amount of effort and the maximum flow while all the time keeping the energy within their center.”

Yoga and Kalari share many similarities. For example, asvadivu (horse) has the same lower body stance as virbhadrasana one or warrior pose. The difference is that in asvavadivu, the hands rest on the inside of the inner leg. When I teach this Kalari posture (with my teacher’s permission) in a Yoga class, I emphasize the balance of form and feeling that I learned from the way my teachers transmit the energy of the postures through their own bodies and the methods they use to adjust the spine in relation to the feet to awaken the core flow of prana.

-Excerpt from Kalari Shakti The Flowing Art of Kalarippayatu by Shiva Rea

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