Origins of Bagheera Yoga

Bagheera Yoga logo with Panther
Bagheera Yoga

What’s In a Name?

by Bobbi Ponce-Barger

Shortly after I began to live in the city, I had a special dream. In that dream a black panther was on the inside of the zoo fence and I was on the outside. The panther deftly climbed over the fence and ate me whole. In Native American imagery, the being eaten often connotes the start of something important or a re-birth into something else.

Not long after this dream I needed to change the name of my yoga teaching practice. I had been using the name Kali yoga but over the years a number of prominent yoga teachers had taken “Kali” as part of their legal name. My students and I pondered new names together for many weeks but nothing felt quite right. Concurrently, Nimet Monastery was painting ceremonial kimonos for Curt and my wedding; she was painting the reaching black panther on my kimono which represented the power animal of my dream; and on Curt’s kimono she placed a howling wolf pup to represent his affinity with canines. I spent more time imagining trees, flowers and various felines as possible logos. I also began to play word games while driving to and from work searching to find something original and compelling to name my teaching practice.

One morning I did awake with the answer. And that answer was “Bagheera”. Bagheera is the name of the black panther in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Bagheera is the benevolent guide to the little human boy Mowgli. The qualities of Bagheera’s character spoke directly to how I want to view and conduct my Yoga teaching practice. Bagheera has no agenda but to see that the little boy survives and is given the opportunity to learn what is important. Bagheera, motivated by compassion, employs wisdom and love in his actions. If I could embody these qualities in my teaching I would consider myself a good practitioner of yoga.

Concerned that Kipling might have used a native name or word with meaning that might conflict with the use of Bagheera for my purposes, I asked my friend Alan Gilbert to investigate the meaning of the word Bagheera. Alan’s research indicated that it is close to the word “fakir” in the Urdu-Hindi language of India, in which the “B” and the “F” are often interchangeable. A “fakir” is a wandering holy person. And adding the “a” sound connotes the diminutive form, and thus personal or female. Bagheera is also close to the Urdu-hindi word “bakara”(it is pronounced with the last two A’s long, like “bakaaraa”). This word means “to give an answer…, to be a messenger, a courier, a harbringer…, to forward intelligence orally.” With those questions answered the name was chosen. Nimet’s reaching panther became the basis for the new logo and Bagheera Yoga became the new name.

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