Kalari Yoga

Kalari Yoga is a mystical tantric form of Yoga which evolved from Vadakkan Sampradayam (Northern Style Kalarippayat) and cannot be seperated from Kalarippayat. According to legend its purpose in the practice was to combine the advantages of Hatha Yoga with those of Kalarippayat to enhance the physical and spiritual growth of the Kalari-warriors of medieval Kerala.

Even though Kalari Yoga is traditionally part of Vadakkan Sampradayam it was considered lost. In fact, few Gurukkal even knew about it and the few remaining scriptures remained unitelligible without a living master's guidance. C.M. Sherif Gurukkal had been knowing about Kalari Yoga for a long time. His interest in the art and the hope for its revival was rekindled by a trip to central Kerala, where Kalari Yoga has indeed managed to survive the millennia in remote hidden areas.

Intrigued by this encounter C.M. Sherif Gurukkal closely examined old palmleaf manuscripts from the archives of the academy, which contained allusions and references to the practice, its secrets, postures and sequences. With the help of a monk whose northern Indian order safeguards a similar tradition C.M. Sherif was able to decrypt the ancient palmleaves and bring powerful practices like the Kalari Yoga Vanakkam, the Surya Namaskara in the Kalari Yoga tradition, back out of the mists of time. C.M Sherif collects and researches the fragmented and obscure tradition of Kalari Yoga eversince and the journey has just begun.

The main difference between Kalari Yoga and other traditions is the focus of the practicioner, which is directed into the outer reality with open eyes and a wide field of vision. The underlying concept is called "when the body becomes all eyes" and is practiced in the same way in Kalarippayat. Interestingly enough, focusing a single point in the outer world produces results not unlike the practice of Pratyahara and beyond within the classical eightfold path of Ashtanga Yoga as laid out by the sage-saint Patanjali. Kalari and Yoga are like two sides of the very same coin and as C.M. Sherif says: "In the heart, Kalari is Yoga."

The heart of the practice are the so called "Animal-Postures". 18 have been handed down of which 14 are still actually practiced today. The most important postures are:

Gaja Vadivu (Elephant Posture) – Power, Groundedness, Stability
Ashva Vadivu (Horse Posture) – Forward Energy, Intention, Extension
Simha Vadivu (Lion Posture) – Readiness, Speed, Grandeur
Matsya Vadivu (Fish Posture) - Ability to Jump, Lightness, Forward Flow
Majura Vadivu (Peacock Postures) – Flee-footedness, Speed, Peripheral Vision
Vahara Vadivu (Wild Boar Posture) - Perseverence, Assertiveness, Punch
Marjara Vadivu (Cat Posture) – Sublimeness, Calmness, Suppleness

Animal-Postures are powerful phyco-physical exercises strongly influenced by the shamanistic heritage of the indigenous Dravidian culture of Southern India. In these postures the practicioner learns how to internalize specific attributes and energies of the given animal spirit. At the same time specific physical traits are enhanced, e.g. hip-opening in Simha Vadivu and strenghtening and stretching of the back in Gaja Vadivu. The postures are much more about finding the right postures to create the proper energetical enviorenment, rather than just physically stretching as much as possible. "Simpel", but powerful.

Kalari Yoga is not static. The way into the posture is just as important as the posture itself and some postures are actually only done in movement. At a later stage, postures are also intertwined with different turns and Leg-Swings in which the practicioner learns to momentarily surrender focus, just to powerfully regain it in the next posture. The practicioner learns to the "rider", not the "horse" of these states. In addition to the postures, a powerful form known as "Kalari Yoga Vandanam" is practiced. This form is an adaption of the "Kalari Vandanam" and requires power as well as grace and flow which is adjourned by short phases of open eyed meditation. This form in its grace and seeming simplicity is a powerful tool for the Abhyasis developement and foundation of the practice.

Another fascinating aspect of Kalari Yoga are the Mudras, commonly describing the posture of hands and fingers in classical Yoga. However, in Kalari Mudras are done with the whole body and are not static. This results in complex, and energetically very potent exercises, which require the power and routine of accomplished Abyasis.