Firm Feet and Inner Wind

Introducing Posture in the South Indian Martial Art, Kaḷarippayaṟṟ ̆

  • Lucy May Constantini Open University


Kaḷarippayaṟṟ˘ developed as an intertwined martial and medical system in various styles across South India. While its final śāstric authority resides in the body and practice of a gurukkaḷ (“lineage-holder”), in contrast to haṭhayoga contexts, a kaḷarippayaṟṟ ̆ gurukkaḷ safeguards, consults and transmits his lineage’s manuscripts and thus this relationship between practice and text offers potential insight into traditions where that connection is either lost or never existed. Like yogis, practitioners of kaḷarippayaṟṟ ̆ conceive it as a form where the gross physical body is employed to activate and affect a subtler inner body with which it is fundamentally interconnected. Focussing on the CVN lineage of “northern style” or “Malabar” kaḷarippayaṟṟ ̆ and drawing on both its practices and manuscripts, this chapter examines how vaṭiv ̆ (“posture”) relates to the inner kaḷari body and how the foundational principle of cuvaṭ ̆, the action of the feet, initiates the circulation of vāyu, a subtle inner wind that gives virtuosity in kaḷarippayaṟṟ ̆. I also consider how this lineage differentiates the control of vāyu in kaḷarippayaṟṟ ̆ with what is perceived to be the deeper prāṇa accessed by the more static āsanas of haṭhayoga.

Author Biography

Lucy May Constantini, Open University

Lucy May Constantini began doctoral research at the Open University in 2019, exploring the relationship between practice and textual traditions in kaḷarippayaṟṟ ̆, funded by the UKRI’s Open-Oxford-Cambridge Doctoral Training Partnership. In 2018 she completed an MA with distinction in South Asian Area Studies at SOAS. Her initial undergraduate and post-graduate studies were in English literature, theatre and dance at King’s College London, RADA and Trinity Laban in the 1990s. After these, she worked as a maker, performer, facilitator and educator in theatre and contemporary dance focussing on the confluence of her praxes of postmodern dance, martial arts and yoga. Her present academic methodology is informed by her background in dance and somatic practices.

How to Cite
CONSTANTINI, Lucy May. Firm Feet and Inner Wind. Journal of Yoga Studies, [S.l.], v. 4, p. 347 – 371, apr. 2023. ISSN 2664-1739. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 21 apr. 2024.