Ganesh, the son of Shiva and Parvati, is considered to be the remover of obstacles. The symbolism attached to Ganesh as the remover of obstacles is expressed in this common chant:
You of the twisted trunk and the massive body
With the dazzle and light of millions of suns
Lead me on a path that has no obstacles nor hindrances
Clearing the way in all that I do, ever, and always!
Ganesh is playful and mischievous, yet harmless. The legends of his birth and how he came to have an elephant head on a pudgy human body are plentiful. In each account of Ganesh’s birth, his mother Parvati shows deep love and compassion for her infant son, unconcerned about his unusual form.
He sits over doorways to auspicious buildings. Many ancient sculptures of Ganesh show him dancing with great relish despite his huge belly and short stubby legs. In this image of him from the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, he is dancing with his right leg raised a little, and his hip swayed in a way that conveys an inner joy in the dance. Ganesha dances, the hint of a smile in his eyes, something that continues into the joyous stance and gestures (mudras) that he uses. Behind his feet is his vahana (a deity’s mount or vehicle), a mouse.
Learning to be gentle with ourselves as we move into poses that cause us to wobble
Using this symbolism, see if you can summon the inner dancer in you. In Western culture, we often see fatness as something to be ashamed of, but keep in mind that Ganesha’s protruding belly is such an important part of him that two of his incarnations use names based on it. Remember, too, that Ganesha is an important, beloved, and widely worshiped god in India. But Ganesha does not take himself seriously, and that contributes greatly to his charm and appeal. We, along with Ganesha, can be playful, sensuous, and joyful, however unlikely that looks.
In yoga, we learn to be gentle with ourselves as we move into poses that cause us to wobble. Each time you take a posture, an asana, that causes you physical or emotional discomfort, remember Ganesha and let go of whatever is holding you back.
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