Yin Yoga and Mythology Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 6

Ganesha Yin

35 min - Practice


Be proud of all your bumps and scars. They make you who you are, and they are often the things for which people love us the most. Ganesha is known as the Remover of Obstacles, but sometimes he puts just the right obstacles in our paths to help us grow. He also has the head of an elephant, so in this class we stay low and slow, working the joints of the lower body like a happy, heavy elephant. We hear the story of Ganesha's elephant head while we work with positive stress on our tissues in order to create strength. You will feel steady, solid, and present.
What You'll Need: Square Bolster, Blanket (2)

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Greetings, and welcome to your yin yoga and mythology practice today. I'm Kelly Kam. And our muse today is perhaps one of the most beloved of all the Hindu deities, it's Ganesha. And Ganesha is the God that makes everyone smile with his elephant head and his big giant belly. And Ganesha is considered the remover of obstacles, as well as the God of wisdom.

And Ganesha rules the lower body, the earth, the ground, our legs, our feet. And so today we're going to get super grounded. And so if you've got some blankets, pillows, anything at all that could help weigh you down, that would be great. Even a bag of rice from your pantry would do just fine. So we're going to start lying down today and you can lie down with your legs stretched out, your arms open a little bit out to the side.

So there's some room between your legs and under your armpits. And we're going to start just by feeling the weight of our own human body. And so to begin with, just pick up your right arm, not that far, just two or three inches off the ground. And as you hold it there for a moment, just feel the weight of that arm. Notice the weight of your bones.

Imagine the weight of your skin, muscles, blood, fluids, all of it. And then let it drop and just completely let it go. And we'll do the same thing with the left arm, picking it up just a few inches off the ground, just to notice the weight of the limb, the heaviness of your left arm, and then let it completely drop and relax. Do the same thing with the head. So picking the head up just enough that you can feel how heavy it is.

You know, our heads weigh a good 13, 15 pounds or so. And then let your head drop and see if you can just completely soften all the muscles around your face. And then right leg is going to do the same thing coming up just a bit. When we get to the legs, here's where you notice, whoa, what heavy creatures your legs are. So feel the heaviness and then let it go.

Just want to do the same thing with your left leg. Pick it up just a bit and feel how heavy those bones are and let it drop. And just feeling the weight of your whole body on the earth, letting it descend and drop, spread out and uncoil. Take a deep breath in, let it all the way out. One more like that, a big, wide, spacious breath.

As you exhale, maybe you could just let go a tiny bit more, all of you offering yourself to the ground, every drop, every inch. And then we'll try to keep that sense of being so heavy, so low to the ground as we come into banana. And for today, having lots of props around could be really nice and helpful. So I'm going to pull over two blankets and a bolster here, but whatever you got will work just fine, even a couple of pillows from your bed. So I'm going to set up the blanket above me by my head.

Another blanket is going to go down by my feet and then the bolster is going to come towards the side. And so what I'm going to do first is take the left leg and just slide it over to the left a few inches. The right leg can cross on top of it. And before I get the rest of me figured out, I'm going to put a blanket over my ankles and shins to add a little weight there. And then the bolster can lean up against the side of the hip.

And for the last piece here, I'm going to bring the blanket onto my wrists and forearms and then bend the upper body in that same gentle C curve. And now if the props are too much for you, if it feels like it's a little bit too much sensation, then you can drop the props all together. That's completely fine. You can also even bring your arms down if it's too much to have them above your head. Otherwise let the weight of the props help you to ground.

Let the weight of your props, whatever you got on your body, and you can improvise too. I mean, you could put 10 blankets on you if you wanted to, but just anything that helps you drop in, drop down, and let go. Can imagine gravity pouring down like water through the right side of your body, taking the right hip a little closer to the earth, the right thigh a little closer to the earth, and just scanning, looking for anywhere in your body that you're moving away from the ground and instead encouraging every cell to move in the direction of the ground. So Ganesh is part elephant, big elephant head, big coiling snake-like elephant trunk. So feeling the heaviness of your limbs like that of an elephant, just solid, steady, and rooted.

As you feel into your own personal body here, feel your bones. Feel your bones. You can imagine them with your mind's eye, bring your attention to them, and just notice how do your bones feel today? Do they feel light? Do they feel heavy?

Do they feel bright and joyful? Do they feel tired? It's welcoming whatever's present for you today. In this last few moments here, scan your body from the toes, the soles of the feet, slowly all the way up through the legs and up through the upper body, just looking for any resistance, any little pockets of tension, any of those places where you kind of habitually hold onto your stuff. Just checking in and maybe five or 10% softening.

Maybe just one place, maybe just your eyebrows or just your lips could relax a bit. And so we've got lots of props on us as we come out of this one. It's carefully kind of pushing your blankets, pillows, bolsters, whatever you've got off of your body. You can kick the blanket that's on your legs off to the side. And as you come back to center, just being with that sensation for a moment, the powerful feeling of returning from a side bend, letting everything kind of recalibrate all the energy, restore itself.

And then to release that one for our little rinse off in between moment, we'll take the feet to the floor and arms down by your side, preparing for a really gentle bridge. So feeling your feet like elephant feet, really planted, really spread out, anchored and wide. Go ahead and start to lift your pelvis, lift your spine off the ground. And you might do one of these and hold it for a bit, or you're also very welcome to make it a moving practice. If that feels better for your body, you could roll down and roll up a few times, but I find there's something lovely about doing that side bend where you get a bit pulled apart at the seams and then taking this bridge practice feels a bit to me like kind of knitting yourself back together.

So a feeling of harnessing yourself again, of calling everything from the edges to the core, from the periphery to the center, taking another moment. And then we'll find the other side of our banana, but we'll do so really slowly. So if you're in the bridge still rolling down, feeling the ground beneath you as you come down, making meaningful contact wherever you touch the earth to really drop in. And then we'll take the legs long again and getting the props ready is really helpful to have them set up first. So the blanket comes down by the legs and I'll start here moving the right foot over, crossing the left ankle on top and then adding that weight on the legs, doing the same with the bolster, bringing it over to the outside hip.

Very helpful to have something on the outside hip because often the body wants to kind of peel up away from the ground here, excuse me, so putting that on the hip and then using the weighted blanket over the arms to just add that little bit extra sense of rooting down and finding a gentle C curve, a half moon curve with the whole body. And as you settle in and let your muscles soften, your bones drop, your skin be nice and gentle, face easy, can picture this elephant headed boy with giant ears. He's got big ears to remind us to listen a lot, listen more, talk less. And he's got a great big tusk and one of his tusks is broken actually, which I love and sort of this reminder that even when we're broken, we're still really wonderful and beloved and you know, Ganesha, perhaps the most beloved because of his brokenness. So I'm going to tell you a story about Ganesha's brokenness, his challenge that he went through in life.

So Ganesha was the son of Shiva and Parvati and he actually started life as a regular boy with no elephant head, with a real head and his father Shiva would go away and meditate in the mountains for very long periods of time. And in one of these moments when Shiva was gone, Parvati actually made Ganesha from clay and sandalwood paste. So Shiva didn't even know that he had a son. And eventually, Shiva wanted to come back home, he was done meditating, so he came down from the mountaintop, tried to enter his house, but there was a boy guarding the door. He had no idea that this boy was actually his son.

And so he barked at the boy, get out of the way and the boy said, no, my mom's in there taking a bath and confused. Shiva got really angry and he chopped the boy's head off, and I know that sounds very terrible, but don't worry, this story has a good ending. Take another couple of breaths here, let your limbs really drop. So the boy's head gets cut off and Parvati comes out running, oh my goodness, what have you done? And so they try to fix the situation, she explains to Shiva that this is her son.

And so they quickly go look for another head to put on the boy. There happens to be an elephant nearby who offers so generously his head. Breathe into your bones and let your bones be as heavy as an elephant. Breathe into your bones and let your bones be as heavy as an elephant. Last few moments here, let everything soften and move in the direction of the earth.

Beginning to undo it, move your props away, take your time, go slow, heavy, and still like a big elephant, going to kick the blanket away, come back to center, and moving very slowly into that gentle bridge. So feet underneath the knees, arms down by your side, feel what touches the earth and really anchor it down, and then slowly peel your spine up off the floor, spreading out through the soles of the feet, pressing down through the palms and the forearms, lifting up to your peak, and then slowly descending bone by bone, Ganesh, the ruler of the lower body, the ruler of our root chakra, and all things sort of grounding and heavy. So that includes our bones. So today, really spending some time feeling into your bones, listening to your bones. You could roll up and down through the spine a couple of times, real slowly, and then eventually settling bone by bone, drop by drop, back down onto the earth, where slow and steady you can roll over to your side, use your hands on the ground to press yourself up to sitting, and we'll begin our journey through the lower body here, the seated version, with a half shoelace pose.

So I'm going to stretch the left leg out and cross the right leg on top. An option here would be that you could sit on a blanket or a bolster if it feels like it's a little tight in the hips today. Sit on some support and wrap your top leg over, otherwise you could do it without props. So the right leg is wrapped, the left leg is long, and then dropping your head, have a sense of just really coiling down, letting go, and rolling in. So we're not reaching for anything, but we're just emptying down.

So once the head starts to drop, the spine starts to round, little by little, you can walk your arms out any amount until you feel like you've met your first edge, that first place where your body kind of says, hmm, something's happening here, I feel this. And then just softening in and leaning into whatever it is that you feel might be in the back of the left leg, might be the right hip, might be the back. Wherever you feel it, notice it. And then in the most friendly way, just leaning into it. So Ganesh gets a new head, the elephant offers his head to the boy.

Shiva puts the head on his son, breathes life into it. And as soon as the boy opens his eyes, he begins to dance, this beautiful ecstatic dance. And in that moment, Shiva knows, this is my son, because Shiva too is a dancer, the cosmic dancer. And so because of this trauma, this difficulty that Ganesh went through, he gets a gift. He gets to be worshipped first before any endeavor, before any other deity.

Ganesh is the one that's prayed to first. Ganesh is the one that's offered rituals, food, devotion to, before beginning anything. And so it's interesting that this thing that really could have been the worst thing that ever happened to him turned out to kind of be the best thing. A couple more breaths that really take you down, just searching for any holding back and inviting every drop of you to move downward, to let go, and to be so soft and heavy. All right.

Notice the weight of your head, the weight of your shoulders as they wrap forward, and the weight of your arms. Could you let the forearms soften down a little bit? Feel the weight of your hands on the earth. Coming up now, bone by bone, inch by inch, roll up through your spine. Sometimes when you're really well anchored and planted, that can provide the ground, the foundation for so much spaciousness and openness. So let's try this. Bring your right foot to the ground outside your left leg. Just step it down anywhere. Lean onto your left hand and then you can raise your right arm and raise your hips coming into this kind of joyful effervescent shape. And it might not look exactly like mine. You could bring the top arm over your head or open it back or round it a little forward, but just a little bit of playtime here. Just feeling into this joyful shape and then letting it all soften down like water into the earth, resting. And we'll wash that off with a little windshield wiper. So leaning back onto your hands, you can open your feet to about as wide as your mat or your blanket. Just let the knees go side to side. This is such a wonderful exercise because it tugs on all the ropey tissues that are around your hips, that run through your pelvis, and that little tugging there that we're doing is actually turning the lights on inside your whole body because everything's connected. So working the hips like this, this gentle way, actually lights up the whole living matrix of tissue inside you. So before we go to the other side of our half shoelace, we'll take an interlude in dragonfly. So for dragonfly, you can open your legs out pretty wide. It doesn't have to be the widest you've ever opened them, but wide enough. And then the option, if you want to use some props, you might bring a bolster, a pile of pillows, or anything else in front of you to lean on. I'll use my bolster here. And then just to start with, lean back onto your hands for a moment. And just like we did in the beginning, lift up one leg just an inch or two, and then really let it drop. And then do the same thing with the other one. Pick it up just a bit and let it drop. You could even shake them out if you need to do that a few times. You could do it as much as you need to so that you really feel the muscles loosen off the bones of your legs. And then when you feel ready and nice and loose through the lower body, you can start to walk your way out through the center of your legs. You can lean on your elbows. Some of you might come all the way down and put your head down on the ground.

But anywhere along the way, you're still doing the pose. And once you settle in, just checking back, doing a body scan to see if anything is tightened, if anything is gripping that doesn't need to be. And loosening muscle from bone, feeling into your bones. You know, we think of bones often as kind of dry, dead things because we see these skeletons in a classroom or something and they look so dry. But in fact, our bones are very much alive, very feeling, very sensitive. The fascia that wraps around our muscles, the fascia that's everywhere in our body, it's in our bones too. So when we work in, we're also really working our bones when we do this practice. So Ganesh gets his head cut off. I mean, you think you've had a bad day. Did you get your head cut off? And it turns out actually to be the best thing that ever happened to him because people love him so much for his elephant head. And to me, that's a reminder that the things that I might feel embarrassed about or ashamed of or the things that I want to Photoshop out of my life are often the things that people love me the most for. Imagine the fascia, their connective tissue, like a wrapper around all of our bones. And could you imagine breathing into all the bones, breathing into the space between that wrapper and the bones and all of your bones just loosening, all your bones breathing, all of your bones moving away from each other to make space through the joints. Swami Satchitananda one time said, enlightenment feels like space in the joints. Start to walk your hands back, lift your torso up slow and heavy like a happy elephant. You can take your bolster or props off to the side if you had them in front of you and then just windshield wipering a little bit more, just tugging on all those tissues and lighting up the whole thing. One of my teachers says that yin yoga is kind of like those kids that wear the light up shoes when they step on them. There's a crystal in the soul and the pressure lights up that crystal and that affects the whole matrix of tissue inside you. So you could picture that, imagine that, that when you're doing a yin pose it's like all the crystals inside you are lighting up with bioelectricity. So let's take the other side of shoelace, so this time the right leg will be outstretched and the left leg will cross over. You can sit on your props if you like or keep it simple and then when you feel ready, grounded, soft and heavy, you can start that process of just spilling down, spilling down, giving over to gravity, every limb heavy and soft, head dropping, spine rounding and we're just applying the weight of the upper body to dense tissues in our lower body. Pretty simple what we do here in yin but pretty profound. And so when you find that first landing place just meet it with gentleness and soften in and we'll hang out here a bit. So what we practice here is called eustress, e-u-s-t-r-e-s-s, which is not bad. We think of stress as a bad thing but sometimes it's a good thing. And so this eustress, it means that we're putting a positive amount of stress on our tissues and that results in stronger, more hydrated, healthier tissues. And it's a little bit like what happened to Ganesh, that he had some stress, right? Cutting your head off is pretty stressful I imagine. But what happened was because of that stress, he became so much better for it. Ganesh is called the remover of obstacles but I like to think that he's also the one who puts just the right obstacles in our path so that we wisen up. My friend Betsy, she calls Ganesh our divine GPS system. You think you're going from point A to point B and it's gonna be really easy and the universe is like I'm gonna have you go all over the place before you get to point B because you need those things to make you stronger. If life was always easy and everything worked out the way we wanted, probably wouldn't be that interesting and we wouldn't have that many opportunities for growth. As we linger and spend time here, you might notice a sensation get stronger and that's just a really good opportunity to notice what you do when that happens. Do I want to run away? Do I want to steal against it and protect? Or can I continue to lean towards it in the friendliest way and let the weight of my upper body do the work, the you stress, that put the positive stress on the tissues of the lower body so they bounce back super hydrated and resilient. Begin to walk your hands back, slowly roll up through your spine, coiling up like a coiled elephant's trunk and then we'll drop the right hand behind us and step on the sole of the left foot to find that lifted shape, the left arm coming up like a rainbow, the hips lifting any amount of reaching the top arm overhead or a little behind you or a little in front of you just to find that sense of joyful freedom, bubbling, effervous and energy and then letting it all come back to earth, feel your bones touch the ground and we'll finish it just the way we started, coming to rest on your back if that's comfortable for you, spreading the limbs out and just for a moment picking up each limb, right arm lifts and then drops, left arm lifts and then drops, head comes up just enough to feel its weight and then falls and finally the right leg lifts and drops and the left leg lifts and completely empties, feel the weight of your whole body on the earth and just let it sink.


Jenny S
3 people like this.
Oh Kelly your classes are such a gift 💝 I love the way you weave the mythology with poses that evoke the deity being discussed. Ganesha is one of my favorites - I have little statues of him everywhere (even in my car!) and he always brings a smile to my face and makes me feel safe. Thank you ❤️🙏🏻
Alessandra  Y
My day was downright traumatic, and this practice was such a good antidote to it. 
Kelly K
Jenny S thank you so much!! sending you hugs!
Kelly K
1 person likes this.
Alessandra Y I'm so sorry about your terrible day, but glad that the yoga could help a bit. hope things get sunnier for you xoxoxo
Alessandra  Y
Kelly K Thanks. I think it will be quite a long process, but at least I have my yoga.

Elizabeth M
Kelly this was perfect for me today. I needed something to quiet my mind and my body and these grounding postures and smooth transitions, with your storytelling and calming voice, were sent to me from beyond. Thank you for the invitation to imagine my bones! What a neat layer to sensation! I feel so settled and consisted Will be doing this one again! ❤️
Kelly K
Elizabeth M aww Elizabeth you are the best of the best! thanks for always being super supportive. you are such a big part of what makes teaching for yoga anytime so wonderful xoxoxoxoxo
Sandra Židan
I really needed to hear today's story because I also couldn't accept some bad things that happened to me in the last few years! Thanks, Kelly! Great practice! 💖💝❤️
Kelly K
1 person likes this.
Sandra Židan So sorry to hear about your difficulties, but glad that you're getting through and that the class helped. Thanks so much for your comments - I appreciate them so so much xxxxx
David G-
3 people like this.
I am thankful that others also felt cathartic on the mat. This dropped me deep into a state, and I had to linger in meditation for a few minutes to regain my bearings. I also dug the imagery of fascia and bones and breathing into the spaces in between, and of course, Ganesha's symbolism is in all of us too. So many of my scars (countless bike crashes) are a roadmap to my life. Thank you for allowing us to feel more deeply on the mat, to find our stress edges, and sink into them. 
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