Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fierce Feminine

 As a devotee and teacher of yoga I have studied the culture, philosophy and religion associated with the practice (important to remember that yoga itself subscribes to no religion but being from India has strong Hindu associations). Although I do not call myself a Hindu, I am actually a universalist yogini, I find the Hindu deities and the stories of those deities fascinating and powerful. I see them as archetypes or symbols of the divine qualities that permeate the universe, including each one of us.

 I love that Hinduism is so very inclusive, the divine is kind, fierce, loving, violent, creative, destructive, light and dark, masculine as well as feminine. In this paradigm nothing is outside of God, nothing is separate from God or Goddess. Oh yeah right, Goddess. Hinduism includes various goddesses in its rich banquet.

Right now in India the festival of Navratri is in full swing. Navratri means "nine nights" and it is a celebration of the divine feminine. It focuses on Durga in particular, who is fierce and mighty. She is known as "the vanquisher of evil" and she is invincible. Durga is depicted with up to eight or ten arms each wielding a weapon gifted to her by a god. She rides on the back of a lion. She is a courageous warrior who does not hesitate in battle. She destroys her enemy with determination. Durga is the champion of courage and compassion. She fights for peace and defeats fear.

The fierce feminine! I will joyfully get on board for this celebration! We need a Durga injection right about now, a Durga revolution as far as I am concerned.

So in this auspicious time of honoring Durga I pray.

I pray to Durga and all divine source that moves through this universe for my sisterhood.

I pray for a world free of rape, battery, and assault. I pray for a world where female castration is a long forgotten barbarian brutality. I pray for a world without human trafficking and sex slavery. I pray for an end to women being treated like property; misused, abused, unjustly punished, cast away or killed for her very victimization.

I pray to live in a country where my daughters will have equal opportunity and equal pay to my son. I pray to live in a country where equal pay for equal work is not something we even have to debate or discuss, it just is!

I pray to live in a country where my body is not a political punching bag, a novelty to be exploited or legislated. I pray to live in a country where my leaders don't consider vagina a dirty or offensive word, and instead remember that it is in fact the very sacred channel that brought them into this world.

I pray to be recognized as a being that knows what is best for my body, my health, and my life.

I am tired of a nation that supposedly stands for liberty and justice for all, but where the political powers insist on speaking about women like we aren't even in the room.

I am tired of women being shamed instead of honored.

We women must fight this battle though, we can't wait for someone to fight it for us. We have to channel our inner Durga and speak up with voices ,votes and continued action. We have to commit to our cause and with great courage and determination continue to act regardless of immediate or even long term outcome. That is to refuse defeat, to be steadfast and strong.

And that women, we are!!  We can change ourselves, our country and the world.    

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Here's Looking At You

Yoga is so much more than a physical fitness regimen, it is in fact a spiritual practice that includes a vast and beautiful tapestry of inquiries and expressions. What most people think of as yoga, on a mat, moving the body, is called asana, and asana is only one piece of an eight limbed system that is hatha yoga.

If you only do asana you are only doing 1/8 of the yoga, only diving in 1/8 of the way. You are missing the boat, swimming in the kiddie pool instead of embarking on the grand voyage.

In my yoga teaching I consistently incorporate themes and practices to educate and encourage my students to come on the journey, the grand expedition into the inner universe; grand, magical, beautiful.    

Since January, once a month I focus my class on a yama or niyama. These are the first two limbs of yoga, they are the ground to root into, the foundation of practice. They consist of ten moral and spiritual precepts, restraints and observances intended to be studied before any physical practice begins.

Yet most yoga students have never heard of them and set out to swim without support or direction.

Today in my class we explored swadhyaya, the niyama of self study and also the study of philosophy and scripture. I focused on self study, on the mat, to then be taken off the mat.

Swami Kripalu said, "The highest form of spiritual practice is self observation without judgment. "This is a great challenge in our western culture which is endlessly strict and endorses self deprecation as an ideal. We confuse self scrutiny for self study and self judgment for humility.

Many of us embarked on our yoga paths with lofty expectations of molding our bodies, sculpting them into a vision of strength and flexibility. The problem is that the body is limited and those expectations don't take into account bone structure, genetic composition, aging and endless physical variances that make us unique and beautiful. We often choose to see these variances as flaws and defects.

We are great at self observation with judgment, self observation with loving kindness is unfamiliar territory.

"Who am I?" is the question at the heart of yoga.

How do you choose to see yourself? You are more than the things you do, the role you play, the identities you fill. You are spirit embodied, you are light and grace, you are perfect and powerful. Infinite, eternal and whole. It always comes back to that.

Bapuji said, "Do not fight the dark, just turn on the light. Breathe and let go into the goodness that you are."

Study yourself, on the mat, off the mat. Look, listen, feel, awaken. Freedom awaits within.