A pose by any other name

Woman in Auspicious yoga pose, legs crossed, hands open on knees

Does she look auspicious to you?

Just last post, was I not proclaiming what a nice diversion yoga is? Well, I may have to reconsider, since I’ve had a little yoga hiccup this week. Tell me if you think I’m being overly sensitive.

I’m struggling with a new teacher at one of my drop-in classes. Her classes are fine but a few times now, she has included a pose she refers to as the “swastika pose”. I’ve done this pose many times and no other teacher has called it by that name. Are other yoga teachers being culturally sensitive or is there some other reason the term “swastika” has never been used?

Perhaps I should remind you here that I am Jewish, and as a Jew, I get a little touchy about certain things. I support separating church and state. I don’t think the Lord’s Prayer has a place in public schools. Still, I’ve gotten my head around Christmas trees in public spaces because we have a tree every year in our bi-cultural home.

Yoga is an old tradition, and the swastika existed long before Hitler adopted it to represent his horrific regime. I may have been born after the Holocaust, but I associate this symbol with the needless deaths of millions of people, 6 million of them Jews. As a Jew, “swastika” screams “Holocaust”. That’s why a swastika spray painted on public property is not a suspected hate crime, it is a hate crime. I imagine the odd non Jew might have a similar association as me, and that’s why I don’t hear the term used often in daily conversation.

Near the end of this last class, we got into this so-called pose, and I immediately lost all the calm I’d managed to gather over the course of the hour. When class ended, I approached the teacher and quietly asked her if she’d consider using a different name for the position. I explained, although I don’t think I really needed to, that I am Jewish and as such, I associate “swastika” with the Nazis. She laughed at my request, which I found a bit disconcerting, but she also said that she would try to use a different term.

After this awkward interaction, I hopped on the internet and discovered that the English translation for swastika pose is “Auspicious Pose”. You know I had to look up “auspicious”–I’ve never really known what it means–but I got stuck at “propitious”, which is also beyond me. Definition aside, doesn’t “auspicious” (or “propitious”) sound better than “swastika”? This teacher could indeed have been calling the pose something less charged.

Upon further research, I realized that the Auspicious Pose looks nothing like what the teacher had us doing. I discovered that our teacher’s “swastika pose” is in fact a variation on a completely different position. Armed with this information, I may enlighten the teacher on its correct name next time I see her, but I’m not sure she’ll appreciate the information. No matter. I doubt she’ll use the term again, at least in front of me.

Picture of man in seated twist pose

This man is not in any way auspicious.


6 thoughts on “A pose by any other name

  1. So now you know she is just wrong on a number of levels. And why did she decide to truncate Swastikasana to swastika? What’s next? A not so relaxing “savas” at the end of the hour?


  2. Did she fall on her head while doing a downward facing dog? Both calling it that AND laughing when called on it are completely inappropriate! If she did not change the name of the pose, I would actually make a comment to the gym staff.


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