If you pay close attention to a Kalari routine, if you observe the twists, turns and stretches of the body of the Kalari warrior, you might be inclined to draw parallels between this energetic martial art and yoga. And you would not be wrong to do so. Born of the the same culture and sharing similar requirements to perform, these two disciplines might be thought of as two brothers – one loud, energetic and explosive, the other lethargic, calm and conservative. Two very diﬀerent personalities, but brothers of the same family nonetheless.
Whereas yoga requires slow, deliberate movements with controlled breathing, Kalaripayattu demands swift, powerful burst of energy, and the breathing is controlled only by the necessities of the body. Stamina is a necessity if either are to be performed eﬀectively but where the slow release stamina of yoga enables stretches and balances to be held for long periods of time, the stamina of Kalari gives the body the ability to release large amounts of energy very quickly, over and over again.
The similarities between the two come from the body postures they use and the great amounts of ﬂexibility they demand. Balance and spiritual well being are also crucial factors in both arts. It is not uncommon for the warm down of a Kalari training session to include poses and stretches taken directly from yoga.
When the two are practiced together a wealth of beneﬁts may be unlocked: both disciplines feed into each other and improvement in both will be achieved faster than if practicing either one by itself. Lifelong ﬂexibility and strength may be achieved and the immune system may be boosted. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the spiritual aspects of the two arts work along side each other to ensure that whoever practices both with have a swift journey along the path of introspection and self discovery.
The common aims that are shared by yoga and Kalaripayattu revolve around the improvement and perfection of three things: the mind, the body and the soul.
Kalari and Yoga – The Mind
Human kind has progressed greatly from the days when we once roamed the savannahs of Africa as hunter-gatherers and day by day the diﬀerence in lifestyle between ourselves and our ancient ancestors expands. The natural state of happiness that human as wild animals once knew has all but vanished, leaving us to manufacture our own happiness in an artiﬁcial world. Those who wish to salvage a piece of the organic mental wellbeing of the original human may turn to meditation. To turn the minds eye inward, into the very core of our mental being, is to share an experience with countless generations that came before us on a journey that terminates at our very roots in nature and indeed the universe itself.
With practice and repetition this process will strengthen the mind, increase focus, oﬀer perspective and ultimately improve the mental attitude and well being of the practitioner. Both yoga and Kalari make heavy use of meditation to condition the mind and enable eﬀortless focus.
Yogic meditation raises awareness of the body, the sensations it fees, and the energy it contains. In Kalari, every movement that is made, every lunge of the ﬁst, every jab of the dagger, every swing of the sword is a deliberate act of meditation. This encourages focus of rapid movements and enables the warrior to perform swift movements with the same accuracy as if they were done extremely slowly.
Used together, the combination of meditations of the two arts will have a multitude of beneﬁts for the mind of whoever practices them. Focus will increase in day to day activities, peace of mind will be achieved throughout the day and a strong positive mental attitude will be cultivated and will last a lifetime.
Kalari and Yoga – The Body
If you have not conditioned your body to function at its maximum capacity, one might say that you have limited your freedom. To be truly free, you must train your body to be able to achieve its full potential, reduce the power your body has over you and become its master.
Both yoga and Kalari promote the ultimate control over the body. Firstly by encouraging focus on movement and developing a muscle memory of the required routines. This allows the body to think for itself whilst freeing the mind to concentrate inwardly into the self. Secondly, both.
practices condition the body to become strong and limber. Strength is required and utilised in both arts to maintain body positions and to enable controlled movement, both fast and slow. Flexibility is another necessity in both as it liberates the body to move in all possible ways – this is especially useful in a Kalari combat situation as it allows the warrior to defend and attack from all angles eﬀectively.
While yoga focuses on slow muscle movement, Kalari enhances fast bursts of explosive, powerful movements, repeated several times for a long period. Both aim to mould the body into a trim, limber shape. The muscles of a Kalari master may look lean but they are as hard as iron and move with all the speed of a striking cobra.
If practiced together Kalari and Yoga will shape the body itself into a weapon. The student will have the strength of a buﬀalo and the ﬂexibility of a monkey whilst being as light footed as a tiger. Great stamina will also be achieved and the immune system will be boosted, strengthening the body from within as well as on the outside.
As rigorous exercise nourishes and strengthens the body, so too does introspection and self discovery nourish and strengthen the soul. The learning curves of Kalari and yoga do not just invoke physical and mental improvement, they also encourage the very spirit of the student to ﬂourish and blossom.
As one pushes the boundaries of what their body can do, and trains the mind to achieve things previously thought impossible, one may become aware of the capabilities of ones very soul. The ability to suﬀer and persevere, the strength to be knocked down over and over and to leap back up again without hesitation, the conﬁdence to be completely unafraid of failure and defeat; these are the great assets that a strong soul possesses, these are the muscles of the spirit that can be exercised by the combination of Kalari and yoga.
There lies within us all a spiritual energy known as the Kundaluinny Power. If neglected this power lies dormant at the base of the spine, unable to reach its full potential. If nurtured, however, the Kundaluinny Power may be coaxed up the spine to spread through the entire body. On its journey through the body it awakens each of the seven chakras, one by one until, with enough practice, they are all unlocked. This process empowers the soul and is one of the main objectives of both Kalari and yoga. The techniques used in both encourage the uprising of the Kundaluinny through meditations and physical exertion. The two share a common spiritual goal but diﬀer in their methods of achieving this.
When both yoga and Kalari are used together, the strengthening of the soul is fast and long lasting, enabling lifelong spirituality and inner peace.