The Mythology behind Archers Pose
Long ago a demon named Taraka, who was proud of his invincible might, was causing much havoc and terror in the world. Whatever he wanted he took by force. Taraka blessed the wicked and killed the virtuous. Even the kings where afraid of him because many years before Taraka turned evil, Taraka had received a divine gift that Shiva's son alone would be capable of killing him. This was during the time when Parvati, the future wife of Shiva, was performing penance praying that Shiva would awaken from his years of meditation and notice her.
Indra the king of the heavens also became desperate to awaken Shiva. Indra was convinced that soon the demon Taraka would overthrow the heavens. Indra knew the only person who could stop Taraka would be Shiva's unborn child. He was desperate for Shiva to open his eyes and fall hopelessly in love with the divine Parvati.
In a final attempt to awaken Shiva from his Samadhi, Indra called upon Kama the Hindu cupid, the god of love and desire. Indra pleaded with Kama to use his flower arrow to rouse the passion of love in Shiva's mind. "Go and fill Shiva's heart with desire for Parvati. Force him to give up his meditation and embrace the entrancing princess" Indra said to Kama.
Kama agreed and proceeded to the place in the Himalayas where Shiva was in his meditation. He stood and patiently waited for the perfect opportunity to strike Shiva with his arrow of love.
After awhile Kama saw Parvati approaching Shiva. Kama observed as Parvati placed flowers at the feet of Shiva. Kama not having the patience to wait longer decided now was the right time. If the arrow of love was to strike Shiva, his eyes would open and he would notice Parvati.
Kama took this opportunity to shoot the arrow of flowers from his bow. Time appeared to standstill as the arrow made its way towards Shiva. Parvati noticed the fragrance of the flowers and turned her head. She saw Kama and the arrow of flowers. She stood and observed as the arrow approached Shiva.
As the arrow made its way towards Shiva, Shiva awoke from his samadhi and burnt the approaching arrow with his eyes. Shiva furious at being awakened then incinerated Kama instantaneously and turned him into ash.
Usually, even if Shiva opened his eyes for a split second, it was his practice to close them again and return calmly to his meditation. Such was his control. But this time, thanks to Kama's intervention, he was unable to tear his gaze away from Parvati's enchanting form. He stared at her as if spellbound and Parvati, who had been longing and waiting for this day, gazed deeply into his eyes.
Shiva's anger at Kama was short-lived. Kama's spirit would be reborn as Pradyumna, the son of Krishna.
Shiva and Parvati would be united. Their love would create balance in the cosmos. Parvati's beauty and wit conquered the heart of this great yogi. They would fall deeply into each others arms, their love enrapturing the universe. After marriage the cosmic couple would have their first child Kartakeya. In due course, Kartakeya would slay the demon Taraka and bring peace once again to earth.
The pose we assume when in archer's pose resembles Kama readying himself to fire his flower arrow to Shiva. If the bow is too tight, the strings will snap. If the bow is too loose, the target will not be met. Therefore the pose is about finding the correct balance of effort and relaxation. If you pull on your foot too hard, you may snap something. If you don't pull enough, nothing happens.
So next time you are in this pose, think carefully. When you are at full draw, the tension in the "string" will force the bow to align itself in a certain direction. This is straight ahead. When you "release", the arrow will hit the intended target.
“Body is the Bow, Asana is the Arrow, Soul is the Target.”
Learn more about Shiva the first Yogi, in our History of Yoga workshop. Details on our workshops page. This blog forms part of our Teacher Training programme. Visit our Teacher Training page for more information