Throughout the ages, gods and goddess have been seen as mighty, powerful beings with whom we trust our beliefs, our fears and essentially our lives. In yoga, gods and goddesses are often referred to without much explanation as to their origin, symbolism or meaning. Studios have sculptures and artwork of Hindu Goddesses Lakshmi and Kali, and Laughing Buddhas in the corners of the studio space. We see these figures all around us, but what do they really represent, and how is it relevant to us, today?
Goddesses have known powers.
Every goddess has what you could call hersuperpower. For Kali, it’s destruction and death, moving on from things and people who are no longer of service to us; whereas Guan Yin’s known for her compassion and unconditional love. As humans, we also have superpowers, but we more often refer to them as our strengths. For some of us, it’s easy to pinpoint what our strengths are, perhaps you’re a talented painter or are a strong public speaker. But for others, their power comes from a way of being. Your superpower, like Guan Yin, can be a personality trait. Are you extremely patient? Do you always look at others with compassion and understanding? We all have these strengths inside of us, whether they are prominent or waiting to be discovered.
Goddesses use their energy wisely.
Women like Michelle Obama, and Instagram yogi Rachel Brathen have the same number of hours in a day as you do – it’s all about how you use them. Goddesses are smart about how they are using their time, who they’re spending it with and how much energy they putting out. They understand their strengths (see above) and how to use them to their advantage. This doesn’t mean that they are selfish, deceitful or manipulative, rather, it means they understand where they need to focus their energy to reap the greatest rewards. This also means that your actions need to come from your heart; they need to be fueled by passion and purpose. Rachel Brathen earned such a huge social media following because she was raw, honest, and authentic about her journey in life and with yoga, and people appreciated it. So much. She has since built a yoga “empire,” including studio, retreats and online yoga video portal not out of vanity, but out of her love for yoga and the community that has grown alongside her for years. She understood her power – authenticity – and used it to inspire people all over the world.
Goddesses are patient in their lessons.
It could be said that goddesses all have lessons to teach, or at the very least there is something we can learn from them and their stories. In ancient texts, goddesses often took on the shapes of other forms, like animals or people, in the human realm so that they could better teach a lesson to their student. The student wouldn’t know it was the goddess who was right beside them the whole time, all the while interacting with their incarnation like they were just anyone or anything. This requires great patience on behalf of the goddess. It also required extreme compassion, unconditional love, and the belief in the spiritual strength of their student. It’s easy for us to forget these behaviors as we walk through daily life, getting upset with coworkers over silly mistakes or rolling our eyes at pedestrians while we’re driving. But all of these interactions have something to teach us, even if it is to just slow down, take a deep breath and open our hearts a little to find some compassion for another, and see things from their perspective.
Goddesses are in it for the long haul.
A goddess knows that life is a journey, and the lessons we learn along the way take time to set it and come to fruition. This is something that our yoga, orasana practice teaches us; it takes time to improve a posture, to transition from one pose to the next, and we need to slow down breathe if we’re going to make it out alive. When we’re thrown back into the fast pace of our lives, we often forget what we’ve learned on the mat, and instead demand things to happen immediately. Part of this is due to societal structures, but we do need to remember to be patient and compassionate with ourselves. In old stories, goddesses are never pushing or fighting to make something happen that clearly isn’t ready yet. They are kind and take the time with themselves and others, letting them grow and move at whatever pace necessary to eventually get to where they were going in the first place, even if that destination wasn’t always clear. We must learn from the goddesses and find that ability within us to slow down a little, and take the time we need to get where we’re going.
Featuring Kristine Le-Esposito and Celeste Esposito. Photos: Musashi Flores