Sunday, February 26, 2012

Why Is That Guy Standing on a Baby?

My friend Rachel came to class to Prana Yoga around Thanksgiving time and brought 9-10 of her visiting siblings and/or their spouses. I thought it was really cool to have such a huge family together practicing yoga. Rachel’s comes from healthy and active stock, everyone seemed very athletic and capable, even though there were a few of them who were new to yoga. I welcomed everyone to class asked the class if they had requests or injuries I could be careful with. One of Rachel’s family member’s, one who was relatively new to yoga, raised his hand and asked, pointing to the 4.5 ft. statue behind me, “Why is that guy standing on a baby?” What a fantastic question! And suddenly I began to wonder how many people walk in and out of our studio each day and see this imposing statue of Siva with his many arms, surrounded by a wreath of fire, a snake around his belly, dancing dreadlocks, standing on an impish creature and wonder what is going on with that cat.

Yoga synthesizes ancient wisdom with our modern circumstances to provide a practice for being in the world and for understanding ourselves. Plus, it just feels good. Yoga’s many ancient symbols and philosophical tenants can seem not only confusing to modern, western practitioners, but also down right alienating. I’m always asking the question, “So what? What does all this ancient wisdom and symbolic gobbildy gook have to do with waking up each morning, dragging my butt outta bed, and going out into the world to live another day?” Well, let’s see.

So, the Dancing Siva, or Siva Nataraj (meaning royal dancer), is a statue that tells many stories. To understand the mystery of the squashed baby, maybe we could look at several of the symbols in this statue. First, it represents an idea of the creator of the Universe who propels the continuous dance of all things. Shiva’s limbs illustrate this cosmic dance of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

In his first hand, Shiva’s holding a drum, laying down the beat, the vibration that quickens everything in the universe. Modern science says that everything is vibration, frequency, from the smallest particle to the largest galaxy. As a musician, I like that idea of the universe being created by DJ Shiva laying down a steady backbeat that makes everything in the universe pulse.

Next Shiva is holding out his hand, fingers up, palm out, in the Abhaya mudra. A mudra is a symbolic and energetic hand gesture. This mudra represents sustaining. Shiva’s saying, “Hey, man. I got you.” Things were created and then are sustained or stay in motion.

Shiva’s third hand and holds a flame. It says not to get too attached because everything changes. Things wilt, fade, and die. Physics 101: energy and matter cannot be created or destroyed, rather it simply takes on a different form: leaves fall, become mulch, soil, nutrients, reabsorbed , become another leaf, etc. This might be a practical understanding of reincarnation. Let’s not get into that here. What I’m getting at is that Shiva is suggesting that change is the program.

Shiva’s fourth arm crosses his chest concealing his heart. He’s telling us that you don’t get a free ride to know the heart of God, or your own deep divinity. To know this heart you have to work to see it. And translate “God” however you want, the divine part of yourself, a supreme being, you choose. Either way, you can’t be a wall flower in this cosmic dance of existence. To really appreciate the fact that everything is moving you gotta to join the dance, gotta shake your booty, gotta be willing to scuff your shoes and sweat. But hey, the dance enthralls us.

Ok. This still doesn’t explain why Shiva is doing Riverdance on this poor creature’s back. So, with one leg, Shiva is standing on a creature known as Apasmara. It looks like a baby, sometimes a demon, sometimes pig-like, and while this seems a little callous of Shiva, this action is actually quite compassionate. That’s because this Apasmara isn’t a baby but a creature that represents our own ignorance. He knows our divine potential and won’t stand for anything less. So, while one leg stands on this demon-thing, his other leg is lifting in a gesture that invites us to rise from that old, ignorant self into a new understanding of ourselves. He’s revealing our true nature and with that perspective also revealing to us a new relationship with our old circumstances. He is the dance partner inviting us to rejoin the dance of our life, with new understanding, through the continuous dance of birth, sustaining, death, and rebirth. He’s telling us to constantly reinvent our relationships, our jobs, and our passions.

And THAT is why Shiva is standing on that thing that looks like a baby. My hope is at very least we understand this symbol a little better. Maybe this week when we are practicing yoga at Prana under Shiva’s calm gaze, in all his dynamic magnificence, we might remember some of the reasons we practice yoga. Maybe we can use the symbol of Shiva standing on Apasmara to allow this transforming practice of yoga to give us the strength, hope, and clarity, to take action in our lives and commit to reinvent it over and over again in this wild dance of our own existence.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Warror I: A Valentine

Dear Warrior I,

I love you. You’re so amazing. You make me feel so strong and powerful. With you, I feel so solid and alive. You remind me how to be strong and soft at the same time. Another thing I love so much about you is how you point me to heaven while keeping me grounded; I really love how you can connect both. It makes me feel so charged like I’m a circuit connecting heaven and earth. Thank you for everything you teach me and for how good you make me feel.

Dear, Camel Pose,

You’re so hot, I love your curves. I love the way my heart opens with you. I just tilt my head back and surrender to you. I feel so much bliss with you. I admit, it took me a little while to open up to you. Maybe it took me a while to learn how to open up my heart. Now that I can, though, I gotta tell you: you are second to none! If we were shipwrecked and survived but swam to shore only to find ourselves stranded on a desert island, I think I could live out the rest of my days with you. That kind of happiness, that kind of bliss, that kind of heart connection. . . especially if once in a while we could have some chocolate wash up on shore. I’m just sayin’ . . .

Dear Handstand,

You turn my whole world upside-down. I’m head over heels for you! I love that you’re fickle: if I don’t hold you just right, you leave. I respect that. I’m learning to hold you just right. Thanks for being patient with me as I practice. I’ll work my hardest to show up for you. One of the greatest things you teach me is balance. Plus, you’re just so fun to be with. When we are aligned, time seems to stop. I feel amazing! There’s nowhere else I’d rather be, no one else I’d rather be with. I’m so madly in love with you, I find myself thinking about you all of the time. Is that even healthy? I don’t care if that makes me codependent; I love you and can’t live without you. Please, turn my world over and over.

Dear Side Angle Pose,

You’re long lines are incredible. I always breathe deeply with you. You make my head turn upward; make me feel really good about myself. You help me to be a stronger person. You help me see that potential inside of me. What greater gift could you give someone? Feeling you, mirrors my own amazing inner-self. That’s magical. Plus, you can be a little kinky when you bind my arms behind me. So long as you’re gentle.

Dearest Savasana,

I’m so relaxed when I’m with you. The lights turn low, I close my eyes and I feel like I can just be myself, my true self, when I’m with you. I don’t have to prove anything with you. I can just be. I dream of you., you know. Every part of my body loves you. You are so good for me. You teach me how to pay attention. You teach me how to let the business of my mind go and simply trust my heart. I could die with you.

Your True Love,