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#MythMonday : Bhairava

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.

Supta Bhairavasana
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#MythMonday : Ram and Shiva’s Bow (Akarna Dhanurasana)

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.

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#MythMonday : Balarama

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

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#MythMonday : Nataraja

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!

Naṭarājāsana
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#MythMonday : Ganesh & Chandra

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

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#MythMonday : Arjuna

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.

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#MythMonday : Kurma

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.

  1. Matsya (The Fish)
  2. Kurma (The Tortoise)
  3. Varaha (The Boar)
  4. Narasimha (The Lion Man)
  5. Vamana (The Dwarf)
  6. Parashurama (A Warrior/Saint, bound by codes of honor)
  7. Rama (The Perfect Man)
  8. Krishna
  9. Buddha
  10. Kalki (The Horseman – has not yet appeared)
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#MythMonday : Tittibhasana

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.”

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Walking Meditation

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.⁣

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#MythMonday : Ram & the Boatman (Navasana)

Life is filled with stormy waters. Rivers are never still. Even when frozen, things are still moving around underneath. Sometimes it’s helpful to have someone to help steer the way.

In the Indian epic Rāmāyaṇam, Rāma, Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa began their 14 year exile in the forest by sneaking off in the middle of the night so as not to upset all those they would be leaving. Soon into their journey, they came to the Ganges River and called out to his friend Guha, the boatman, to ferry them across.

Rām asked Guha to take them across, but to also wait an entire day before ferrying anyone else, so that no one could follow them. Wanting to spend more time with Rām, Guha tries to convince them to spend the night, but Rām wants to get a move on, and says he wants to leave now.

Trying again to spend more time with Rām, Guha suggests they eat some rice before they go, but Rām again orders the boat “RIGHT NOW!”

As Guha readies the boat, he jokingly says to Rām, “I heard the dust of your feet turned a stone into a woman. I hope you don’t turn my boat into a woman! Can I at least wash your feet before you enter?”

Exasperated with this ordeal in just the first leg of their 14 year journey, Rām agrees to allow Guha to wash his feet. They finally set off in the early morning before everyone wakes up. Guha ferries Rām, Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa across the Ganges river. Now that they have a river separating them from the people of Ayodhyā, Ram takes a moment to hug Guha goodbye, and then Rāma, Sītā and Lakṣmaṇa enter the Daṃḍaka forest to begin their exile.

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