The word vata means ‘air’ and yana means ‘a vehicle’. Literally, the asana can be translated as ‘the airborne vehicle pose’. However, the composite word vatayana has another meaning: ‘a flying horse’ or ‘a horse that moves like the wind’. Specifically it is the name of a flying horse that is a part of Indian mythology. The equivalent in Western and Greek myths is Pegasus, the winged horse. Therefore, vatayanasana can be translated as ‘the flying horse pose’, ‘winged horse pose’ or ‘the galloping horse pose’. You may ask: “Why this name? The pose does not look like a horse nor does it help one to fly.” The answer will come when you try the asana for yourself. It is very difficult to raise the body utilizing the muscles of only one leg. The arms have to be used both to provide balance and to give an extra upward momentum. The arms are held sideways like wings and used to help raise the body to the standing position in the same way that Pegasus raises itself with its large wings.
If you watch someone else, with imagination you will also see that the two legs in the final pose do slightly resemble the legs of a horse in profile. The name vatayanasana is actually a very fitting description of the asana.
If you wish you can stand beside or in front of a wall for support.
Bend the left leg and place the foot on the right thigh (half lotus).
Balance on the right leg.
Place the two hands together in front of the chest.
Gaze at a fixed point on the wall in front of your eyes.
This is the starting position.
Spread the arms sideways like wings.
Hold your breath.
Slowly bend the right leg and lower the body.
Be careful not to lose balance and not to lower the body too quickly and thump the left knee against the floor.
Eventually your left knee should rest on the floor.
Again place the hands together in front of the chest.
This is the final pose as shown.
Stay in the final pose for a short period breathing deeply and slowly.
Then breathe in deeply.
Hold the breath.
Spread the arms sideways.
Slowly raise the body using the right leg assisted by the two arms.
When you reach the standing position, breathe out and unfold the left leg.
Repeat the same procedure with the right leg folded in the half lotus position.
Inhale while in the starting pose with one leg folded. Hold the breath as you lower the body. Breathe deeply and slowly in the final pose. Inhale before raising the body. Hold the breath while raising the body.
Duration and time of practice
Vatayanasana can be done for as long as you wish, but don’t strain. It can be done at any time.
Vatayanasana strengthens the leg muscles and improves the blood circulation. It tones up the sexual organs and generally stimulates the whole body.