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Siddhasana, or Accomplished Pose, does not look like much from the outside, but the ability to hold this pose for long periods of time is known to be a marker of meditative excellence. In a sitting position, with the left heel placed against the groin, or perineum, and the right ankle placed over the left, Siddhasana represents the ability to sit upright in a state of perfection, or siddha.

The siddha is one who has “perfected” yoga and achieved mastery over the gunas. There are three gunas: tamas (darkness, destruction, chaos), rajas (excitement, activity, confusion), and sattva (goodness, harmony). One who is sattvic has overcome the pull of tamasic or rajasic behavior, abiding in the peace of his own true nature. In this state, according to the Yoga Sutras, one can attain great mystical powers called siddhis. But these powers are to be used appropriately, as the story of Durvasa teaches.

Durvasa was one such siddha who had achieved such siddhi powers. One day he came upon the court of King Ambarish, who had been fasting for the day. When it came time to break his fast at sundown, Durvasa was nowhere to be found. King Ambarish did not want to be rude and eat before his guest, so he drank some water to help ease his hunger. When Durvasa returned and discovered the king had taken water before him, he was furious. With his siddhi powers he created a demon that he sent to kill King Ambarish.

But King Ambarish was a devotee of Vishnu, the god of preservation, and was not attached to his wealth and kingdom because he knew that it was all temporary. Because of his devotion, he was protected by the chakra of Vishnu, a spinning vortex of energy. As soon as the demon came for the king, the spinning wheel instead killed the demon and chased Durvasa away. Durvasa sought help from Bramha, the god of creation, Shiva, the god of destruction, and Vishnu himself. Only Vishnu offered advice, “Only if my devotee Ambarish is willing to forgive you make the chakra withdraw.” Of course, King Ambarish forgave Durvasa and the spinning chakra retreated.

“In the end, the mystical powers of Durvasa proved to be less powerful than the devotional path of yoga that King Ambarish had been following,” states Alanna Kaivalya, author of Myths of the Asanas. “The true power of Siddhasana is its ability to give us the space to meditate on the power and beauty of selfless giving and unconditional love.” The same can be said for the attainment of peace within the yoga practice rather than the attainment of the perfect yoga pose. Yoga is an inner, not an outer practice.