What is Angamardana?

I’ve been on a mission recently to break out of my yoga practice plateau. You know — where suddenly you hit a wall in your practice, or worse yet, things you could do a month ago suddenly become impossible. This is not my first time at the yoga plateau-rodeo, and in my efforts to keep my sanity intact and find a way out of this rut, I came across angamardana — and my curiosity was peaked.

Angamardana is a yoga adjacent fitness system that not only claims to give your hatha yoga practice a boost but also promises a host of benefits affecting the muscles and skeletal structures, as well as the nervous system and improved mental health. My initial research promised me this ‘powerful system’ would help me reach my peak physical potential… sounds good, but maybe a bit too good? So what is this angamardana thing all about, and is it really all it’s cracked up to be?

Oh, and while you’re here — and if you are also in that yoga plateau rut here are my other tried and tested ways to break out of it:

Angamardana 101

Angamardana is a fitness system pioneered by Sadhguru (born Jagadish Vasudev), a self-proclaimed spiritual guru from India, a New York Times bestselling author, and speaker who has given talks everywhere from the World Economic Forum to Google.

Sadhguru is the founder of the Isha Foundation, a volunteer-led, non-profit, spiritual organisation, most known for its yoga program led from its ashram in Tamil Nadu. Angamardana is an element of the Isha yoga system.

Their yoga program has spawned several Isha certified yoga teachers who adhere to its Hatha yoga system, spiritual ethos, and teach Isha angamardana.


Angamardana 101

What does Angamardana Involve?

Angamardana is a set of 31 dynamic floor exercises that address different aspects and parts of the body to work on the whole human mechanism. These exercises are practiced in a specific sequence and involve different poses combined with movements and breathing patterns.

Angamardana has been developed to promote greater physical strength and flexibility of the muscle. As well as working on the muscular system, it, like many forms of exercise, can positively impact the nervous system and blood circulation system and influence the basic energy system (chakras).

Angamardana requires no yoga props or fitness equipment, although a mat might be useful, so long as you have a 6ft x 6ft space, you are good to go. It emphasizes using your own body weight, which is an excellent (and affordable) way to improve your fitness.

Angamardana is essentially a form of preparation for yoga, but it makes some pretty big claims well beyond warming up the body and skeletal structure. The intention of Angamardana is to reach the peak state of ultimate health. Through this focus on the physical other elements of the human being are influenced, including mental health and general wellbeing. Some pretty mighty claims, to say the least.

How Old is Angamardana?

There are claims that Anagamardana is an ancient practice founded by Agastya, a revered Ancient Hindu sage who appears in some of the most important yoga and Hindu texts, including the Rig Vega, Ramayana and Mahabharata.

So, is this true? No. Agastya is, however, the patron saint of Kalari, the oldest form of martial arts in India. There are definitely parallels between the warmup sequences for Kalari and the Angamardana exercises; however, these warmup sequences are likely a modern invention.

To be clear, Angamardana is NOT an ancient spiritual practice. It is an exercise sequence invented by Sadhguru (or adapted from the Kalari routines he would be familiar with), probably sometime within the last 30 years.

What does Angamardana mean?

When I looked up the meaning of Angarmadana, all I could find was the explanation by the Isha foundation claiming it means ‘gaining complete mastery of the limbs, organs and other parts of the body’.

Hmmmm. My initial instinct was that it might be a Sanskrit word (like many yoga asana names, such as Gomukhasana and Bhujangasana) that has come to mean that in time — Sanskrit is a gloriously flexible language. But, nope, that instinct was wrong.

After trawling the internet, looking up India’s many, many regional languages and using phonetic transliteration charts (your girl does her research), Angamardana is actually a Kannada word! Kannada is the dominant language of Karnataka state — and Sadhguru is from Mysore, a city in Karnataka).

So what DOES Angamardana mean? As far as I can tell, it simply means… massage (there is actually a book that details the specifics of Angamardana massage, written in Kannada in the 1970s). Make of that what you will.

Is Angamardana yoga?

The short answer — no. The long answer — yoga and angamardana are definitely interrelated (in the Isha system), but ultimately no.

Angamardana is considered a precursor to hatha yoga. Unlike yoga, which is a pathway to liberation and the complete integrated union of our entire beings, potentially with the universe or a higher power. Angamardana claims to be a powerful system solely concerned with the physical: the nervous system, muscles and connective tissues, skeletal structures, circulatory system, and basic energy system.

In fact, although Angamardana is affiliated with the Isha yoga system, the exercise doesn’t require you to have an existing yoga practice. Presumably, if all you are interested in is the physical, you can practice only Angamardana.


Angamardana Benefits

These are the benefits angamardana claims:

  • Builds strength and flexibility across the muscular, soft tissue, and skeletal system
  • Improves spinal mobility
  • Improves overall physical fitness
  • Increases overall energy, leading to greater wellbeing
  • Prepares the body for hatha yoga

I think these are all plausible and potentially realistic. Most of those you will get from pretty much any exercise regime or fitness system. 

However, it also claims:

  • To ‘prepare the human mechanism for a higher possibility’ (let me know if you know what that means)
  • That it is one of the ‘most powerful ways to gain fitness’ (right, seems a bit niche for that, but okay)
  • That it has ‘universal appeal’ (I’m yet to come across anything ever that is actually applicable to every single person ever)
  • That it leads to ‘ultimate health’ (oh boy). 

So can the angamardana benefits extend to that level? Well, I’m not sure anyone can make those claims in good faith.

I definitely think that angamardana can improve fitness and be helpful for a yoga practice, but I don’t believe it is the ultimate method that will work for everyone.


Angamardana Red Flags

On a general note, the Isha and angamardana system, like many yoga lineages, claims to do a lot. But claiming to be a power system providing complete mastery of the physical aspects of the body that has universal appeal… sent my red flag alarm bells into overdrive.

When you give angamardana a google, you will find that pretty much all the hits are associated with Isha Yoga. This means it’s hard to get an impartial perspective on it. Also, you can’t practice it except under the guidance of an Isha trained teacher.

Sadhguru’s close affiliation with President Modi, the leader of the currently elected right-wing Hindu nationalist party (the BJP), is deeply troubling. Although Sadhguru is choosy about how he interprets the BJP political agenda, undoubtedly, he shares some of their appalling ideology.

Where do I practice Angamardana?

Unfortunately, angamardana keeps itself pretty under wraps — you won’t find instructional videos or tutorials online (although you may find little snippets of the practice). However, there are quite a few Isha affiliated teachers around, so if you are keen to practice, you can look them up.

Of course, you can always make your way to the Isha Ashram in Tamil Nadu for the Isha yoga training. But, be warned, that training will cost you upwards of $9,000 USD (slightly less if you are an Indian citizen living in India)!!

For some infinitely more affordable teacher trainings in India, check out my recommendations.

I think angamardana can benefit the body, especially yoga practitioners. Given that angamardana is intended to improve strength and mobility, specifically in line with a yoga practice, I think it’s a great choice if you are looking to break out of a plateau in your yoga practice. However, I find it unfortunate that it falls so firmly under the Isha/Sadhguru umbrella, as that is not really my vibe.

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