Chanting, Ganesha, & the Magic of Yoga

Something amazing happened. Unknowingly, I took my first step onto the path laid out for me. 

 

I was maybe 21 or 22 years old. I was married to someone who had been keeping big secrets from me since the very beginning. My heart knew something was off, but my head couldn't figure it out. Knowing that you're being lied to, but not having any proof or any reason to believe it is a tricky situation. I was in love. We were riding this roller coaster together. Big highs, and even bigger lows. Sometimes I felt like I was losing my mind. Like pieces of me were getting lost along the ride. I floated on.


I don't remember how I found it. But somehow I learned about a group of yoga teachers that taught all donation based classes outdoors.  I found this great teacher and I went to her classes really regularly. Sometimes I was the only one who showed up. It was my therapy.


Those hours spent doing yoga in the park made me feel sane. They helped me see that there was so much more out there. And that it was okay to want more.


One day after asana practice she taught the group the chant to Ganesha. I had never chanted before. I had no idea who Ganesha was. I'd seen pictures of him before, but I never really knew who he was or what he represented.


She explained that Ganesha was the remover of obstacles. He is depicted with the head of an elephant and the body of a boy. His ears are large, for listening. His belly is large enough to digest any problems, any obstacles, anything that we can't stomach alone. He is often depicted riding a mouse, which symbolizes how light he is - free of any attachments to weigh him down.


Chanting felt... natural, but also other worldly all at once. I felt like this weight had been lifted. And it felt good.


Chanting opens up the most beautiful space around everything. This space is always there. Sometimes we forget because we're so focused on what's happening in our minds. When we chant, the sounds bring us back home to that space within.


After that very first chant to Ganesha, I had a strange almost out of body experience. Maybe not out of body, but certainly out of mouth. I went to the teacher after class to thank her and give a donation, and something strange came out of my mouth. I asked her where she trained to become a yoga instructor. I told her that I had been thinking of becoming one myself.


In fact, that thought had never crossed my mind. I felt like I had just lied to her. But to my surprise, she told me that she knew that I would do it. That I would become a yoga  instructor. Her faith in me gave me faith in myself. I let the thought linger. 

 

That night a friend of mine who is quite psychic read my tarot cards. The message could not be more clear. The cards told me that I was stepping onto my life path - the path of a healer. They told me to follow through with the thoughts that I had been having.

 

Sometimes signs are subtle. Sometimes they're so subtle that we may miss them. Other times, signs are neon

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set yourself free.

So humbled.


One of my students today shared with me after my chair yoga class that she cries in closing meditation every time. She lost her son to a car accident in January and she takes care of her sick husband at home. She has nowhere to cry. She hasn't been able to grieve.


I could see her pain. I could see her confusion. She almost wanted to stop coming so that she wouldn't cry.


Two other women noticed her crying and came over to comfort her. These are the two self appointed "chairmen" of the class (it's chair yoga, get it?). And it just made me realize what an amazing little tribe I have. They support each other, they laugh together, and for many of them that class is the highlight of their week. And the three of us just talked with her about what was going on and reminded her that it's okay to cry, and why it's healthy to cry.


We release things when we cry. When we bottle up emotions they cause tension in the body, and sometimes they can cause some very real harm.


Crying sets your pain free.


Human beings are not meant to carry the heaviness of emotions with us. We're meant to feel them. Process them. And then, let them go.


And in doing so, we set ourselves free.

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sacral chakra & creativity

I've been wanting to write a blog about each of the chakras for a long time now, but not anything formal or even informative.  I just wanted to write the first thing that comes to mind about each. What I've written below actually wrote itself yesterday. It's about creativity. Which is exactly what I think about when I think about the second chakra. 

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But first, a little about the second chakra.

The second chakra is the sacral chakra, or svadisthana. The element of the sacral chakra is water.

Flow. Movement. Emotion.

 Amorgos Island, Greece  

Amorgos Island, Greece  

Imbalances here can show up as bottling emotions, or being overly emotional, intimacy issues, repressed sexuality, or issues with addiction. It can also show up as writer's block, loss of creativity, or a loss of authenticity

My svadisthana mantra is "Creativity flows through me like water." And some days it's, "I feel, I'm in touch with my emotions, I'm in touch with my sensuality."

So below is what I wrote yesterday about living a creative life. I felt like it was appropriate to share along with this. Hope you dig. :)

Writing can me to tears.

Reading about writers writing gives me butterflies. It's something that I know is mine. I can feel it in my blood. It rushes through my veins like words rush onto a page. 

I feel this way about teaching yoga. Sometimes I feel this way about painting too. 

You don't have to stick to one calling. You can have all the callings you care to. I nourish my inner creator every time I step on a yoga mat, every time I pick up a paint brush, every time I write.

Sometimes I feel like I don't do it enough but the truth is, I just do it when I feel inspired. And sometimes that's five times in one day and other times it's five times in one year. 

The reason I'm writing this is because it asked to be written. But also because I want you to know that you have permission to create whatever your heart desires. 

You have permission to become anyone or anything that you choose. You do not have to stick to the path you're on.  As human beings we are truly blessed with the ability to create. And we do it every day. We create style when we get dressed. We create culinary art when we cook. We create so much more than we give ourselves credit for.

 And that inner artist in you is begging to be recognized. Just to be acknowledged. Then maybe inspiration will flow to you too. And if it doesn't, just play. There is nothing wrong with making art that isn't "good", whatever that means. It's the process that counts, the journey if you will. The act of making the thing, not the thing itself that is important. 

This is our gift. 

To create. To be inspired. To play. To connect with our divine. Our inner creator. 

This is the magic that exists within each and every one of us. 

Whether you choose to accept the gift, or not is your choice.

This is a public promise to myself that I will write when I feel inspired. That I will paint when I need colour. I will move when my body asks me to move. I will live creatively, because it's the only way I can. This is my soul pledge. 

This is a formal invitation to join the movement. There is enough room for all of us. There is enough inspiration to go around for everyone. Will you come create with us? 

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root chakra & ganesha.

In honor of the #SevenDays7Chakras instagram challenge I thought I'd post a blog about my own personal experience with each chakra and I plan to let this be sort of stream of consciousness-y, rather than informational or planned out. 

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Starting with the Muladhara chakra, or root chakra. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of the root chakra is Ganesha. Ganesha is the Hindu god with the body of a man and the head of an elephant. The very first chant I ever learned was the chant to Ganesha. I cried that very first time, without quite knowing why. It opened up something in me. That same night I found my spirit animal. Ganesha is also the lord of beginnings. It seems fitting that the chant to Ganesha would be my first chanting experience. 

I've chanted to Ganesha countless times since then. Sometimes joyfully, sometimes choking on tears every other syllable. The reason I think of Ganesha when I think of this chakra is because he is the ruler of the Muladhara chakra. "He guards the gate to the pelvic floor" as MC Yogi puts it. He is the remover of obstacles, depicted with an axe to cut through the delusions/illusions or maya of this world. He has a big belly, able to digest all of life's problems. He's also a child god, created by Shakti. I love the story of the birth of Ganesha. Hinduism is rich with elaborate and magical stories. 

To understand the birth of Ganesha, it's important to first understand Shiva & Parvati.  

Shiva&Parvati

Shiva is the great creator. He dances universes into existence. And Parvati is the mother of the universe.  Shiva would often leave for months at a time, dancing in the forests as Nataraja. One day while Shiva was away, Parvati created a statue of a boy out of some clay. He was so lifelike that she decided to give him life. She named him Ganesha. She grew quite fond of him and treated him like her own son. One day she asked Ganesha to stand guard at the door of the palace while she went to take a bath. While Parvati was in the bath, Shiva came back home. Ganesha, following orders and not having met Shiva, wouldn't allow Shiva to come in. Shiva was enraged, and asked his soldiers, the Gunas, to move him out of the way so that he could enter his own home. Each of the Gunas tried, but Ganesha stood his ground. He would not allow Shiva to pass. Shiva grew so angry that he lost his temper and killed the boy, chopping off his head. Parvati heard the fighting and came back to see her now lifeless son. Her rage was greater than Shiva had ever witnessed. She threatened to destroy everything in creation. Brahma, the Creator, took issue with this and pleaded with her to stop. She agreed not to destroy the universe on two conditions; one, that her son be brought back to life, and two, that he become a god worshiped forever above all other gods. Shiva agreed and quickly found a replacement head, the head of an elephant. Ganesha received the name Ganapati which means leader of the Gunas.

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The chant to Ganesha is simple, Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha. Om is the universal sound. Gum is the bija mantra, or seed sound of the root chakra. Ganapataye is the formal name given to Ganesha. And Namaha means I invoke you. 

Click this link to hear Wah's version of the Ganesha mantra on Spotify. 

This chant not only taps into root chakra energy, but it also expresses a willingness to release attachment and a little prayer to help remove obstacles. Happy chanting!

 

say aaa-ommm!

You've heard the sound "om". You've seen the om symbol plastered on the walls of yoga studios, in sticker form all over your yogi friend's cars, all over your favourite celebri-teacher's instagram page, maybe even tattooed on bodies. But what does it mean? According to Google, it's "a mystic syllable, considered the most sacred mantra. It appears at the beginning and end of most Sanskrit recitations, prayers, and texts." And it comes from Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism. 

To go into a bit more depth, OM is a sound vibration. It is said to be the sound of the Universe being created. To chant OM brings you into harmony with the Universe, with all that is. Chanting OM in a group fosters a sense of community, togetherness, because it actually synchronizes the brain waves of everyone in the room. It makes you feel at hOMe. Beginning a yoga class by chanting OM gets everyone on the same frequency and produces a powerful, spiritual tone for the class. Ending class with OM lets you leave the class on that same high frequency. It has also been proven to produce a state of mental calmness, serenity and euphoria. 

But let's break it down a little bit more. OM is technically a four syllable sound. A-U-M-silence. The first part, the "aah" sound, represents the beginning or creation. The majority of the world's languages begin with the "ah" sound. It resonates in your lower abdomen, stimulating the lower chakras. The root (Muladhara) and sacral (Svadisthana) chakras. Grounding and connecting you to the Earth, and opening you up to the flow of universal creation. The "ah" sound is also said to symbolize the physical realm of existence.

The second part, the U "ooh" sound, represents the realm of thought or consciousness. The dream state, the imagination. This sound travels up the abdomen, resonating in the upper abdomen, chest, and throat. The "oh" sound activates the solar plexus (Manipura), heart (Anahata), and throat (Vishuddha) chakras. It connects your physical and esoteric worlds. Inspiring truth, clarity, and balance in your life. 

The third sound, the "mmm" sound, represents unmanifest potential. This is your experience during deep, dreamless sleep. It represents the void before the universe came into being. The "mmm" sound resonates in the head, the third eye (or Ajna) chakra. This is the home of your intuition, the pineal gland in your brain. It stimulates your inner sense of knowing. It inspires.

Silence. The final sound in "om" brings about a state of bliss and a feeling of oneness with all that is. It is experienced in your crown chakra (Sahashrara), which is your connection to cosmic consciousness. 

OM represents the waking state, the dream state, the sleep state. It encompasses past, present, and future. Physical, thought, and unmanifest. Essentially OM means everything

Now try it! Aaaaauuuuuuuuummmmm......

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higher vibes.

Why do we talk about "vibes"? What does that mean? Vibe is short for vibration - which you probably could have guessed. Everything is made up of atoms. Atoms are roughly 95% empty space. Therefore, everything  is mostly empty space. We see things as solid because our eyes can only process electromagnetic vibrations. Electrons are constantly circling the nucleus of the atom, constantly moving, vibrating. This is what we, and everything else in this world are made of. Constant vibration. Energy. Energy which cannot be created, nor destroyed. What is consciousness? Energy. We can feel energy. We feel vibes. The heart generates an electromagnetic field that can be measured several feet away from the person's body. An aura. When two people are in close proximity, within each other's heart space, there is an undeniable exchange of energy. So what does it mean to "raise your vibration"? It means to be a source of positive energy. To me it means to let your heart radiate an aura of loving kindness. In order to raise your vibration, you first have to let go of fear and fear based emotions - like anger, jealousy, guilt, laziness, and selfishness. Replace those with love, and love based emotions - like forgiveness, generosity, peace, bliss, and unity. Meditate on the visceral sensation of love within the body. Radiate that energy out into this world. Vibrate higher, friends. 

 Painting by Alex Grey, Yogi & Mobius Sphere

Painting by Alex Grey, Yogi & Mobius Sphere

Be love.

The truth is, we are more alike than we are different. We are more united than we care to recognize. We can't be separated. Not by religion, not by race, not by country, or whatever senseless border we choose to create in our little minds. We are stuck here together on this tiny planet hurling through the vastness of the universe. When one of us is hurt, we all hurt. When wars are waged over petty stories about what God we subscribe to or what chunk of land we think is ours, the whole of humanity feels it. The truth is, we are one people, one love. The sooner we recognize that truth the better. We may not be able to change the world, but we can treat each other with compassion, respect, and love. If the only thing you accomplish within this lifetime is learning to treat others with compassion then I'd say you lived a successful life. Fuck religion, fuck money, fuck what country you came from or what career you had. Just be love. Infinite love. 

 Reflection at Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ. 

Reflection at Cathedral Rock in Sedona, AZ. 

just breathe.

Inhale. Pause. Exhale. Pause. Inhale.

It always comes back to this, the gentle flow of breath. Exhale. Pause. This natural rhythm that keeps us going, gives us life force energy. Inhale. Peace. Exhale. Simplicity. When we turn our attention to the breath, we are immediately brought into the present moment. Inhale. Now. We are brought into this very moment. Where everything is happening, always. Exhale. Surrender. Let go of the need to chase thoughts. Let go of worry and struggle. So often our thoughts can turn into a wild goose chase of what ifs and then whats. Breathe in. Be here instead. Why allow the mind to run in all directions? This moment isn't so bad. And by the time you've had a chance to over analyze and critique this moment, guess what? It's gone. On to the next. Exhale. Enjoy the ride. This life has plenty of chaos. Why live in chaotic thoughts? Let it be. Half the struggle happens in your own mind. Inhale. Peace comes from within. So does happiness, and love. Take a deep breath and just be with that breath every now and then. Exhale. Be grateful for each and every breath that graces your lungs. Someday there will be no more breath. And that's okay too. It all comes full circle. But for now, while you can, pause and enjoy what happens when you inhale. Notice the chest rise, notice the way it feels. Exhale. Feel the chest fall. Notice the way you feel when you exhale slowly. The way your heart beat gently slows and relaxes you. Pause. Inhale. There is so much beauty in the simplicity of the breath. So much to discover about yourself by simply quieting the mind. When you strip away the layers and layers of mindless chatter, the stories, the thoughts, the nonsense...what you have left is you. Not the story you tell to describe you. Not what's happened to you that makes you the way you are. Not your name, not your profession, not your hobbies or skills or fears or insecurities. Not your hopes or dreams. Just you. Exhale. That's where you'll find yourself. In that innermost space that's always been there and will always be there. That tranquil place that we forget exists because we are just so busy thinking and thinking and thinking and. Inhale. If you look into a mirror that's been covered with mud you won't see yourself. You'll see mud. That doesn't mean that YOU are mud. Strip away the layers. Wipe away the mud. And there you are. Exhale. Some call it spirit. Others call it the soul. Some call it atman. Why bother with names? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. It's you. Inhale. Peace comes from within, do not seek it outside of yourself. The more frequently you go back to the breath, the easier it is to find that inner space of serenity. The easier it is to find yourself. Exhale.

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