If you need a scary story to tell the kids on Halloween, here you go! Bhairava is the scariest form of Shiva! And if it isn’t scary enough to put your leg behind your head in a yoga class, that leg represents the nail of Bhairava chopping off the head of the ego.
Author Archives: april dechagas
First…I know it’s Tuesday! I was traveling from Chicago (where this video was filmed! Cloud Gate aka “The Bean”) and couldn’t get to posting until today. Forgive me!
Ākarṇa Dhanurāsana translates as “to the ear bow seat,” and looks like an archer stringing a bow and arrow. The perfect asana to tie to the story of Ram & Shiva’s Bow!
When Vishvamitra first introduced Ram to Sita, they locked eyes over a sacrificial fire and there was an immediate spark! Not just from the crackling fire! But there was still some courting to do…
Over the course of time, Vishvamitra became more and more excited about his match-making skills, and how perfect Sita and Ram were for each other.
Sita was proving to be extremely knowledgeable about the Vedas, as well as a really good cook, which doesn’t hurt 😉 She also has super strength and was able to pick up the bow of shiva – which was so heavy that 12 men together couldn’t pick it up!
Ram was also extremely knowledgeable about the vedas and was proving to be king worthy. He was smart, extremely proficient with a bow and arrow, and understood social constructs.
But Sita, as the daughter of King Janaka, was only allowed to marry the man who could string Shiva’s bow. When it was Ram’s turn she was extremely anxious as he already had her heart.
As Ram began to string the bow, he caught Sita’s eye and lost his concentration. All of a sudden the bow broke in two with a loud thunderous crack! Everyone heard it – the devas in the sky and the nagas under the earth! There was complete stillness in the room as everyone watching was waiting to hear from Janaka. This was completely unexpected, as no one else, aside from Sita, could even pick it up! But Ram broke it! What was to happen??!!
Finally, Janaka announced that from then on Ram would be the beloved of Sita, and thus began the start of their relationship.
Krishna’s older brother Balarāma is sometimes referred to as Haladhara because he carries a plow. While I’m not so thrilled with how he came to plow the Yamuna River, he is considered the “patron saint” of farmers across India.
The asana associated with Balarāma is halasana
Shiva in the form of Nataraja is the Lord of Dance. His Tandava dance is said to represent the universe being created, maintained, and dissolved, and for those watching it a veil of ignorance and arrogance is lifted. So find your Atman and get your dance on!
Today is Ganesh Chaturthi – Ganesha’s birthday! And he has a huuuuuuuge sweet tooth! He also has a bit of a temper – just like his dad, Shiva. So much so that he broke off his own tusk!
Ganesh is also the reason the moon (chandra) has phases, and one of the asanas associated with him is Ardha Chandrasana (Half moon).
Parivritta Ardha Chandrasana & Ardha Chandrasana
Arjuna was the greatest archer in the world, but not always! It took a lot of hard work, persistence, deep listening, reflection. Overall he was a really great student! (And a little bit annoying – he was always underfoot! But if he weren’t then he wouldn’t have been able to save Drona!)
Dhanurasana (Bow pose) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward facing bow – sometimes incorrectly called full wheel) are meant to be the shape of an archer’s bow.
I went to to turtle pond in Central Park just to film Kūrma with Kūrma!!!
Vishnu, the sustainer of the earth, appears in various forms to save the planet when necessary. There are 10 avatars of Vishnu, whose appearances seem to coincide with evolution. Kurma, the tortoise, was the 2nd avatar.
- Matsya (The Fish)
- Kurma (The Tortoise)
- Varaha (The Boar)
- Narasimha (The Lion Man)
- Vamana (The Dwarf)
- Parashurama (A Warrior/Saint, bound by codes of honor)
- Rama (The Perfect Man)
- Kalki (The Horseman – has not yet appeared)
I learned recently while doing research for #mythmonday that in the etymology for Ṭiṭṭibhāsana, Ṭiṭṭibha actually means “small insect” and has nothing to do with a firefly other than that it happens to be a small insect, and is the one the yoga world chose (I’m guessing because they are pretty.) In fact this asana could very well be called “gnat pose!”
An alternative etymology is from the story of a pair of Tittibha birds that nested by the sea; the ocean swept away their eggs, and the birds complained to Vishnu, asking for the eggs to be returned. The god gave the order, and the sea gave the eggs back.
According to the Ashtanga Yoga website: “The story is often used as a symbol of yoga. The sea with its might and power represents the power of illusion, ignorance and prejudice or the general Chitta (चित्त, Citta), i.e. all aspects of human existence subject to change. The small Tittibha (टिट्टिभ, Ṭiṭṭibha)-bird stands for the effort of the yogi, an effort which seems ineffectual when compared with the challenge. But just as the little Tittibha (टिट्टिभ, Ṭiṭṭibha)-bird succeeds in spite of seeming superiority, the yogi can calm Chitta (चित्त, Citta) through practice and shatter illusion.”
I often practice walking meditation, and there is always one as part of the retreats I lead!
Here are some simple instructions for a walking meditation. This can be done anywhere – even the crazy streets of NYC- but ideally you are surrounded by the beautiful sounds of nature:
– if possible, leave your phone at home
– if you are somewhere you can walk barefoot, like on sand or grass, leave your shoes at home too!
– if this is a group walking meditation, walk in one straight line, each person a few steps behind. Try as much as possible to follow the pace of the person ahead of you.
– pick a mantra to match with your steps. I like to use lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu. As you walk silently repeat each word with each step – right foot lokah, left foot samastah, right foot sukhino, left foot bhavantu…
– walk deliberately and slowly, heel, ball, toe; silently repeating the mantra. If you are barefoot, feel the different textures of the earth as you walk.
– keep your chin parallel to the earth, gazing forward as you walk, allowing your peripheral vision to take in your surroundings. Notice what you may see, but without labeling or judging. Just take it all in. Continuing to repeat the mantra.
– hear the sounds around you – waves crashing, birds chirping, insects, leaves rustling- but without labeling or judging in anyway – just notice
– if you pass any other humans along the way, just nod and smile 😊
– when you come to the end of however far you are walking, stop for a few moments – 3 to 5 minutes – and just gaze outwards at your beautiful surroundings
– continue to repeat these steps on the way back. Just before you finish pause again for a moment and close your eyes. After a few moments, Om 3x out loud.
I had jury duty yesterday…so I had a lot of time to think about ‘time’.
Time is an interesting concept – a set amount of time (in this case the 8 hours I spent at the courthouse) seems to either speed up or slow down depending on our situation/frame of mind. For example – if you are at a movie with a friend and you are not into the movie, you might keep checking your watch to see when it will end, and when you look at your watch, you’re like, “how can it have only been 15 minutes! How am I going to last another hour and a half??!!” You can’t leave because your friend is totally into it… On the other hand, if you LOVE the movie, it may seem like it ended in a flash, and you want to see more! (Hopefully I’m writing this in a way that makes you want to keep reading 😉
One more quick example, because…yoga. 1 minute is a pretty short amount of time. Especially when you only have one minute to catch a train…but when you are holding a one minute handstand in the Magic 10, it feels like FOR-EV-ER.
I was a bit nervous about having jury duty because I REALLY couldn’t be picked to sit on a jury. I wholeheartedly agree with the process, I find it interesting and I actually think I would really enjoy it, but as a yoga teacher, I only get paid for the classes or private sessions I teach, and could not sub out my classes for a week or more. My mantra throughout most of this process was “Don’t pick me, don’t pick me, don’t pick me.” Funny – the last time I was called for jury duty I REALLY wanted to be picked, but the attorneys didn’t want anything to do with me for that case…
This is how jury duty works in Brooklyn: you are required to arrive at the courthouse at 8:30 a.m., stand on a line outdoors (yesterday the temperature in Brooklyn at that time was already 84ºF) for a good 15 minutes while you wait to get through security. You sit in a very large, barely air conditioned room, with hundreds of other people, and go through an orientation process that lasts until about 10 a.m. This process consists of ridiculous instructions on how to fill in bubbles on a form, and a very outdated video that talks about MySpace (!). And then you wait, and wait and wait. At least 10 groups of 16 people were called before I heard my name. This was great! Maybe I’d get through the whole day without being called! It seemed like a loooooong time had passed. I looked at the time on my phone and it was only…10:30 a.m. Seriously??? 10:30? This was going to be a ridiculously long day. Rather than doing anything constructive like reading the book I brought, or doing work, I was playing a mind numbing game that was sucking up my battery life. At about 5 minutes to 11 I decide to plug my phone in, and then of course my name is called…
Once you are called into a panel room – which is SUPER tiny and has one rotating fan that really only hits the front row – the lawyers randomly split the group up. There were 16 of us in the room – they chose 10 people to question, and the other 6 had to just hang out and listen. I was of course NOT part of the first 10 to be questioned, so more waiting and more stress about not knowing if I’d get picked…
(P.S. – I have brought up the temperature multiple times now – studies have been done (check out PubMed) that show that increased body temperature can slow down our perception of time by up to 20%! If NYC were smart they would turn up the AC to cover up the slowness of bureaucracy…)
By the time the lawyers gave us background on this particular case, it was already close to break time, so they didn’t start questioning until after lunch. We were told that if we had anything personal to discuss with them, we could do so privately, so as we were about to go to lunch, I told them it would be a financial burden if I were picked. Believe it or not, one of the lawyer’s wives happens to be a yoga teacher, he totally got it, and they pretty much guaranteed that they would not pick me, but I had to still sit through the day’s process. Totally cool with me!
A weight was lifted off my shoulders. I KNEW I didn’t have to come back. I was able to sit back and relax, and enjoy (yes, enjoy) the afternoon’s proceedings. I find it completely interesting. I was enjoying hearing about the two sides of the case (the limited details they can tell you without a judge in the room) and how people answered the questions; what people’s biases are, or if they are just trying to get out of jury duty (you can tell.) The afternoon sped by. By the time the last 6 of us were questioned it was the end of the day, and they didn’t even bother with me. I just had to hang out. This is where time slowed down again…at this point I just wanted to get out of there! Finally at 4:30 p.m. we were set free, with a lovely piece of paper in hand, good for 8 years, that said JURY DUTY SERVED.
In verse 1.2 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, he gives us the definition of yoga: yogaś-citta-vr̥tti-nirodhaḥ – Yoga is when we stop identifying with the fluctuations of the mind. Then in verse 1.12 he gives us two ways to stop that identification: abhyāsa vairāgyābhyām tannirōdhaḥ – Through practice (abhyāsa) and non-attachment to the results of practice (vairāgyā). This is how we find yoga.
I became more engaged in jury duty when I wasn’t so attached to the outcome. I was enjoying the process, and in a way I wish I could have sat on the jury.
This also happens with our yoga practice – if we can let go of the outcome, of what we think the “goal” of yoga is – in that particular moment or if we think there’s some sort of “end-game” – then we can be in the present moment and experience the practice for what it is – a practice – and maybe even enjoy it!
Our practice will be different today from what it was yesterday or what it will be tomorrow. It changes – like our perception of time – based on how we feel that day, stuff that happened that day, injuries. It changes with time, changes with life experiences. But the practice is always there, and offers to us what we need in that particular moment, or allows us to at least recognize it. We notice where we are stuck, or what thoughts keep coming up and when, and then we work through it. And through this practice, and with time, we also change. We become more engaged in our everyday lives – not just on the mat – where hopefully rather than stressing about past or future events or projecting what we think will happen, we can move around this earth in the present moment in a way that is to the benefit of everyone. What’s the point of a “goal” of yoga if you are not living, breathing, enjoying it? (Check out the Myth Video on Bharadvaja)
I’ll leave you with some thought’s from Jivamukti’s co-founder Sharon Gannon. In this month’s focus at Jivamukti , Sharon discusses the concepts of time and alchemy. She describes alchemy as “the ancient practice of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.”
Yoga is also an ancient practice of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary: “Abhyāsa–regular continuous practice, done with detachment, meaning no matter what, will help the settling of your mind and lead to peace of mind. The implication is “with” time a number of obstacles to freedom will fall away. The practices of yoga— as well as alchemy— are magical practices that alter one’s perception of the world, one’s self and of time. Such an altered perception can help you to live in harmony with nature, rather than viewing yourself as separate from nature.”