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Sunday, January 25, 2009

a multitude of gods

i spent my early years in catholic school, where i was taught that there is only ONE god. nevermind that it is a three-in-one god -- god the father, god the son, and god the holy ghost (who was later renamed god the holy spirit so as not to frighten youngsters like me); there was only one god we were to worship, lest we find ourselves breaking the first commandment,

I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods before me.

but now that i've become more immersed in the hindu religion because of its association with my yoga practice, i find myself learning about the gods and goddesses that surround me in class, in kirtans, and so on. and honestly, when it comes to getting through my day-to-day issues, it can't hurt to ask for extra help, can it? :)

so with it being the new year and everything (including chinese new year, which starts tomorrow -- gung hay fat choy!), it seemed like a good idea to spend some time learning about the hindu god of all beginnings, ganesh, as well as to get in a good yoga practice, too, while i was at it.

i attended a workshop taught by hagar harpak, an anusara-inspired teacher, at black dog yoga in sherman oaks. here's the write-up:

Ganesh is the lord of all beginnings.
So now, in the beginning of the year, what are your wishes, goals, determinations?
Ganesh is the remover of all obstacles, and also the one putting them there.
In this workshop we will learn how to use our obstacles for the process of breaking through them. What would you like to break through this year, in your life?
Maybe a habit or a pattern? Maybe something you wish to overcome, somewhere you feel stuck, something you want to manifest? What pose/poses do you wish to break through?
Please bring a pose you may be struggling with, or even a class of poses you find challenging. Bring an open mind and heart, and the willingness to play with possibilities.

there were almost two dozen of us in the class. hagar talked about ganesh, the remover of obstacles, and how he came to be. about how he was created by parvati to stand guard outside her door while she bathed, and how he blocked shiva from entering because he'd never met him, and how shiva, angered, cut off ganesh's head then had to replace the missing head with an elephant's head when parvati found out what happened... how do they come up with these wild stories, anyway?

after chanting a mantra to ganesh, hagar had us sit in a circle, and as we introduced ourselves, we were asked to share with the group the poses we found challenging. a number of poses were mentioned, such as parsvottanasana, parivrtta trikonasana, pincha mayurasana, hanumanasana, chaturanga, and handstand. i, somewhat hoping for an aha! moment, offered headstand as my personal waterloo. i mean, i've been practicing for how long now and still can't figure out how to do something that's fairly basic?

and during our two-hour workshop, hagar was able to touch on most of the requested poses, including my beloved headstand. in fact, not only did she spend some time using me as the demo model for the correct way to do a headstand, but i got some additional tutoring from peter barnett, owner of black dog, who was also there for the class. and while i still can't do a headstand on my own in the middle of the room, i now have more pointers under my belt that might help me get there sometime soon. or so i hope.

just as our class was about to wind down, daniel stewart showed up with a few of his musician friends to give us a nice musical interlude during our savasana. sooo nice!

once our class ended, more of daniel's entourage joined them as they set up for the kirtan later that evening. and of course, i stayed right where i was and chanted late into the night with "daniel stewart and the family om" and all the others who showed up for the kirtan. and yes, not only did we chant to ganesh, but to the other deities as well. i'm sure the nuns are shaking their heads, pointing at the confessional. oh well...

yesterday's workshop was the first of 12 monthly workshops that will be taught at black dog:

Playing With the Gods

Join Hagar Harpak each month in 2009 for 12 exciting workshops that focus on a hindu God or Goddess.

In each workshop we will:
• Learn the important symbols of each deity and what it means in our own lives.
• Tell one or more stories about the specific deity.
• Learn a mantra to invoke the energy of the god/goddess in ourselves.
• Practice Asana weaving all the different aspects into the practice, so that you can feel what we learn in your body.
• Be guided through a meditation on the deity as a gateway to one’s own heart.

The gods and goddesses of the Hindu tradition play an important part in our yoga practice because they each represent aspects of the divine in ourselves. A journey through the hindu mythology is an opportunity to explore the heart, mind and body in a new way, and deepen the understanding of who we are.
The intention for this series of workshops is to awaken to our own power through the discovery of these characters, and learn from the mythology how to enhance the beautiful and human qualities of these characters in ourselves.

so far, only next month's workshop has been posted on their website:

Join the dance of balance between contraction and expansion, revelation and concealment - the dance of life through the play of balancing poses.

in an attempt to guess at the other ten deities who will be covered in the series, i took a look at the workshop flyer to determine the gods and goddesses from their pictures, based on how they looked or what they were doing.

some weren't too hard...

the elephant-headed boy is ganesha --
Ganesha is the lord of success and destroyer of evils and obstacles. He is also worshipped as the god of knowledge, wisdom and wealth.

the monkey is hanuman --
Hanuman is worshipped as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion.

the blue god playing the flute is krishna --
Krishna is the embodiment of love and divine joy, that destroys all pain and sin. He is a trickster and lover, an instigator of all forms of knowledge and born to establish the religion of love.

the god in dancer pose is shiva --
Shiva is the most powerful and fascinating deity in Hinduism, who represents death and dissolution.

the goddess riding a tiger is durga --
Durga, also called Divine Mother, protects mankind from evil and misery by destroying evil forces such as selfishness, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, anger, and ego.

the dark goddess sticking out her tongue is kali --
Kali is a goddess associated with death and destruction. Despite her negative connotations, she is not actually the goddess of death, but rather of Time and Change.

the goddess holding a lotus and sitting on a lotus is lakshmi --
Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, both material and spiritual.

the goddess playing a lute is sarasvati --
Sarasvati is the goddess of knowledge, music and the creative arts.

and then there were those i had to research...

the multi-headed white bearded god is brahma --
Brahma is the creator of the universe and of all beings.

the god pictured with a multi-headed snake is vishnu --
Vishnu is the Preserver or Sustainer of life with his steadfast principles of order, righteousness and truth.

with two still left to be identified, i found myself stumped. luckily, i spotted peter barnett online and asked him for the complete list...

the goddess holding a pot of water turned out to be ganga --
Ganga represents the innermost pristine coolness, piety and purity. The goddess Ganga incarnated herself in the form of a river for the welfare of mankind: the Ganges, the holiest of water which is used in all the Pujas of Hindus and is believed to wash away the sins of mortal men.

and the last goddess, who really had no distinguishing features, was parvati --
Parvati is looked upon as the mother of all creation; the Mother Goddess. She is usually represented as a fair and beautiful. Parvati is depicted with bare breasts, a mark of divinity in ancient India (and the picture didn't really show those bare breasts, by the way, which is why i couldn't figure her out).

so here's the schedule peter sent me:
January - Ganesha
February - Shiva
March - Parvati/Uma
April - Lakshmi
May - Sarasvati
June - Vishnu
July - Krishna
August - Ganga
September - Hanuman
October - Durga
November - Kali
December - Brahma

while i don't think i'll be able to take all 12, i'll probably pick a couple more as the year moves along. maybe i'll concentrate on those who might grant me what i'd like more of, like lakshmi and krishna. or maybe even those i don't know much about, like vishnu and brahma. we'll see...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I almost attended this as well! Thanks for your reply about teacher training programs, by the way. So appre ciated! - Inga

10:50 PM  

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