Yin Yoga and Mythology Artwork
Season 1 - Episode 9

Durga Yin

30 min - Practice


May our tenderness be our greatest weapon. Durga means "fortress" or "impenetrable", but it is the warrior goddess' softness that ends up defeating the demon in this story. Kelly tells the story of how Durga subdues the demon Mahisha, as we work our spines in all directions, cultivating a strong back, a soft front, and a wild heart, prepared for any battles that we may face in our own lives.
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Hello, welcome. I'm Kelly Kam, and I'm here to share a yin yoga and mythology practice with you. Our muse for today's practice is the goddess Durga. Durga is a warrior goddess, and her name means fortress. You can think of her like the armor of love. And today we'll be inspired also by Brené Brown, who talks about living with a strong backbone, the soft front, and a wild heart. So we'll try to cultivate all those things as we work our spine in every direction in this practice. So to begin with, we'll take butterfly pose. For that one, you can bring your feet together in front of you, let your knees open, and just paying attention to what you feel in your hips, groin and thighs. If you feel any pulling, you're very welcome to put some blocks or pillows underneath your knees. You can also use a bolster here. Sometimes it's fun to lean the bolster at an angle. That way you can rest your forehead on it and hang out here. It's a good place to be if the floor feels very far away. It's nice to use the bolster. And the last option is to not use any props at all. Keep it pretty simple. The feet are a good distance away from the pelvis. You don't have to pull them in too close. Let them drift away. And then coming to start with a tall spine, feeling your backbone, feeling its rise from the pelvis up through the crown, your elegance, your nobility. And then begin to let it curl forward your spine, dropping the chin to your chest, feeling the rounding start in the upper back. Maybe even noticing one bone at a time, bone by bone, bending forward, like a fiddlehead fern in the spring, how they coil and coil into themselves, coiling down, dripping. And at any point, moving the hands forward for support. You can let the arms drift away to wherever they feel most natural and comfortable. And then just dangling the spine, rounding and pouring yourself down. And as you arrive into whatever is your deepest point, just letting yourself find some stillness, some quiet and some ease. So Durga's story, it starts with a demon and this demon, Mahisha, he did lots of yoga, actually. He did so much yoga, so many practices, austere practices and rituals that the God Brahma, the creator God, noticed. And Brahma gave him a gift, a boon that he could choose the way he wanted to die. And this demon, thinking that he was pretty clever, said, oh, that's so easy. Let it be at the hand of a woman because there's no woman who could possibly defeat me. And so Brahma said, may it be so. And this demon now thinks he's invincible. And he acts like it too. He just tries to take over the whole world, stealing, burning, looting. And none of the gods can defeat him. So they all get together. They all get together in a big circle. And they're kind of commiserating about the state of the world, how bad things have gotten with this demon in charge. And as they come commiserate, they start to feel this kind of a fire in their belly, fire like they want to change. They want to fix this problem. And that fire in their belly has started to move up through their spine and move up through their rib cage and heart space and move all the way up through their throat until each God in the circle opened his mouth and light came pouring out, energy and light beaming. So Vishnu opens his mouth, light pours out. Shiva opens his mouth, light pours out. Ananana, Ganesha, light pours out. Hanuman, light pours out. And all these beams of light met in the center of the circle. And it was so resplendent. It was so bright that the gods had to look away. And when they look back, there she was in the middle of the circle, this incredible goddess, Durga, which means fortress. And Durga was riding on a big furry tiger. And she was decked out in the most beautiful gold and red saree. She had bangles, she had jewelry, she had earrings, she had diamonds, she had diamonds. And she had many, many arms. And so each of the gods gave to Durga their magical weapon. Ganesha gave her a trident. Indra gave her his lightning bolt. Hanuman gave her his mace on and on until she had a weapon in every arm. And when she was decked out and armored, she let out a great battle cry, a great whooping howl. And she began to take the long journey on her tiger towards the demon's kingdom. Go ahead and roll your way back up, lifting your spine up. Just feeling every little nuance of sensation in your spine. As you lean back onto your hands here, you can windshield wiper your legs a bit, feet about as wide as you're mad and just rock your knees from side to side. Just a reset moment. So Durga's on her tiger and she's on her way to meet the demon. She rides right up to the demon's palace and there's a guard outside. And he sees her and he goes and runs to the demon, to Mehesha. And he says, there's a woman here. And she says, she's here to defeat you in battle. Go ahead and flip around onto your front side. We're going to come into a sphinx with the option of a seal as well. So you can bring your elbows underneath your shoulders and your forearms on the ground. If you like, you could use a bolster or a block to rest your head on. If you're using the bolster, you can put it on top of your arms to rest your head on.

Or you could put your arms on top of it and that'll give you a little more sensation. So you're choosing where you want to be in this one. I'm going to not use any prop and keep it simple with the elbows on the ground underneath my shoulders. So let your spine just hang. Let your legs be long and heavy and spread out. Checking for anywhere you're gripping any place that feels like you've got an energy blockage or restriction and just placing your loving attention on it. And inviting maybe just a layer of softening. Doesn't even have to be the whole thing. Just a layer of softening through the belly. A layer of softening through the heart. So Mehesha peers out the window. He sees this beautiful woman riding a tiger and he goes and tells his guards. He says, go tell her that she's way too beautiful to fight, that she should be my wife instead. And so they go relay the message to Durga who laughs and says, well, he has to defeat me in battle first. And so instead of fighting her himself, first the demon sends his biggest, strongest warriors after her. They come charging all these big, big warriors charging after this one goddess. But she's amazing. She doesn't lose her cool. She doesn't scream and yell and freak out. She sits down as they're coming at her. She sits down and closes her eyes. She settles herself, drops down into her heart. And just as the demons are about to get to her, her third eye opens and out comes an army of warrior goddesses. And they make quick work of all the demons pretty soon. She's defeated every single one of them. And now the main demon Mehesha peering out from behind the curtain in his castle. His knees are shaking. He knows he's in trouble. He knows he's got to be the one to defeat this goddess. And so he charges at her and he changes form again and again and again. It's checking in more time, doing a body scan, softening through the shoulders, the face, the cheeks, feeling the structure of your spine, the lovely steadiness of your spine, and allowing your skin to drape, your muscles to drape on that beautiful spinal column. If you like, you stay here. You can always come into seal. If you're craving more of a backbend, bring your palms to the floor, straighten your arms and turn the fingers slightly out. And if this turns out to be too much, you can come back down to Sphinx.

Noticing any feeling of compression in your low back and just letting your body drink it in. It's like nectar to your spine, this compression, feeding it with hydration, making it more resilient. So this demon charges at Durga, first taking the form of an elephant. And with its trunk, the elephant tries to pull the legs out from under her of her tiger. And she quickly stabs the elephant and the elephant changes, turns into a lion. And the lion fights with Durga's tiger and she defeats the lion. And then it changes again, it turns into a giant soldier. Durga pierces the soldier with one of her weapons and it changes again, this time turning into a buffalo. A big, wild, scary looking buffalo. Come on down gently. If you're in seal, you can come back through Sphinx, bend your elbows back to the floor. And then from Sphinx, you can start to climb your way up real slow motion onto all fours. Sometimes after a back bend like that, you feel achy. You feel maybe like you even aged a hundred years, but it's not a bad thing. That feeling of compression and release, that little bit of ache you might feel after a long held yin pose, it just means that your body's getting stronger. We apply a gentle amount of good stress so that we bounce back more resilient, strong and hydrated than ever. So moving your spine in any intuitive way. You can cat and cow here, simple arching and rounding. You can make any kind of a side bend with your spine, ear and hip coming towards each other. Or you can really improvise, just shake it around in any way. Like you're polishing the inside of your torso, polishing your inner skin with your ribs. So trying to move the rib cage all around the inner lining of your body, imagining yourself getting shiny with every movement, with every breath, a little brighter inside, a little sparklier. From here, we're going to take it into something called a dancing camel. So toes can turn under here. I'm going to start by sitting back onto my heels and then my left hand grabs my left heel. The right arm sweeps up into the air as the pelvis lifts. Any amount, it can be as big or as small as you like. And then coming down to change, right hand to right heel, left arm sweeping across the sky, lifting the pelvis up any amount off the heels. And you can always do this holding your back as well with your hand on your low back and the other arm sweeping up like this. So a few times just swirling, imagining you're like this goddess with all her arms. Some say she has six arms. Some say she has eight arms. Some stories say she has infinite arms. And on every arm, a magical powerful weapon. I like to think of her as like the ultimate multitasker, you know, like the moms who do everything for their kids or just people who just, you know, they've got an answer for every problem. They've got the right tool. That's what we work on in yoga, right? Collecting all these different tools that we can use so that when life throws a wrench at us, we've got some options. We can reach into our pocket for a tool of meditation or a tool of pranayama. A couple more times, just dancing, dancing around, arms sweeping through the sky like a wild warrior woman. And then from there, we'll just let it settle and come into a soft child's pose. So walking your arms out in front of you, uncurling the toes, just settle hips towards heels, head towards ground. They don't have to touch, but if they do, that's great. If they don't, that's great too.

To come out of this child's pose, walk your hands back, walk your hands back and you can come onto your back now. I'll show you this step by step. Usually we call it cat's tail, pulling the cat's tail. Today it's a tiger tail. So I'm going to lean back onto my forearms and come to my left hip so that I'm stacking the knees. Both knees are bent and I'm just kind of in a loungy posture here. And then to begin creating the twist, the top leg, the right leg is going to come a little further forward across the left leg. With my right hand, I'm going to reach down to try to hold onto the left foot. If you don't reach it, that's totally fine. You can just have it going and tending in that direction, but I'll hold the foot and any amount of moving the knee, that bottom knee in towards the midline of the shape. Be nice. You could stay happily here or you could lower the whole shape down onto the back of the heart. And then the last option would be straightening out the leg that's on top. You could straighten it and you might hold it with your hand, but you definitely don't have to. If the hands don't reach the feet or if you just don't want to hold onto your feet, you can just let them drop too. It's very much up to you, right? Everything I say is a suggestion that you can interpret as you need to for your own body. But wherever you do land, land with some quiet, with some stillness like Durga. When all those warriors were charging her and she didn't lose her mind, she landed in her heart. She collected herself. She harnessed her power before reacting. And then when she did react, she was ready. She made the right choice. So this demon keeps shape shifting and attacking her again and again. And each time the demon shape shifts, she defeats it, but it comes back again. Kind of feels like that sometimes, right? Like, what? This problem again? I thought I dealt with this. Well, eventually Durga is done. She leaps off her tiger. She lets out that wild battle cry one more time. And she lands on the throat of the demon with the soft underbelly of her foot. It's a really soft and tender part of ourselves. You know this, if you've ever stepped on a Lego, right? Yow. So it's with this really sort of vulnerable part of her body that she lands on the demon. She drops all of her weapons. And she looks down at the demon. And the demon looks up at her. Take a breath right into your heart, your rib cage. Imagine all the muscles between your ribs softening. Space between the ribs. Imagining your diaphragm right there underneath your heart. And can you relax the diaphragm enough to breathe a little easier? Take a big inhale and let your exhale be so long. Follow it all the way to the end. Do that a couple of times. Breathing in and then an exhale focused breath that you follow all the way to the end. Maybe there's even a little pause, a little empty space at the bottom of the exhale where you can fall into your own heart. You can collect yourself. We're not coming out just yet. But before we do, just preparing yourself that if you are holding onto your feet, when we let go, we want it to be really gentle so we don't get a big slingshot of that bottom foot. But there's a softness to it. So it's very gradual. Letting go of the feet. As you let go, you can unravel from your twists and slowly return to your back. We'll settle into a constructive rest shape here. So on your back, just widening your feet about to the edges of your mat if you're using one or a little wider than your hips if you're not. And let your knees fall together like a little teepee. Rest your hands, one on the belly, one on the heart. Feeling your strong backbone. All the places where your spine touches the earth. Imagining like it's wet sand underneath you. What the impression of your spine would look like. Letting your heart and your belly soften under your hands. And we'll come to the other side of that tiger tail by turning over onto your side and pressing up to sit so we can start the same way we did the other one. Leaning onto the hands or the elbows behind you. And then just tipping yourself so you're on your right hip. Knees are stacked. Just lounging. And then the top leg, the left leg, will cross over the bottom leg. And if you can, you might reach left hand for right foot and hold on. Move the right knee more towards the midline. That's a great place to stay if you want to hang out there. You can. And like before, you don't even have to hold the feet. But if you do feel so inspired to, you can let yourself down easy onto your back. And maybe there's that option of reaching for the feet. And then you find a place to live. You find a place where you can land and call it home for a little while. You have sensation, but it's not unbearable. It's sustainable. So where we left off was Durga with a soft underbelly of her foot on the neck of the demon and the demon Mehesha looking up at her. And as he looked up at Durga for the first time, maybe ever in his life, he saw someone looking at him with eyes of love and recognition. Because Durga looking down on this demon, she saw him for what he really was. Just somebody that was hurting. Anybody who wants to cause so much harm, chaos, and destruction, usually it's because they're hurting themselves. And so she could see that with her big soft eyes.

She looked at the demon and she just knew that all he really wanted was to be seen, appreciated, loved for who he was. And the demon, as he looked up into Durga's eyes in that moment, he felt free. Being seen, being known, someone witnessing his pain was just what he needed to find freedom. And in his last dying breath, he looked up at the goddess and just said, Maa, Maa. So we call her Maa Durga, Maa like mother. She's got the tough loving armor of love, like a mother, like a best friend, like anyone who really cares about people and wants to see them for who they are. Durga defeated the demon and got back on her tiger and rode off into the sunset until they needed her for the next battle. So thinking about letting go, not just quite yet, but just imagining that when you do release from this pose, it'll be so soft. It'll be so gentle and slow. You can start by letting your hands release from the feet. And then little by little, slowly undoing the twist and falling onto your back again. As you arrive on your back, let your limbs spread out. Feel your palms soft, your feet soft, and your heart. Your heart, you'd imagine it going from a clenched fist to a soft open palm, like as if you're Durga in that moment of dropping all of her weapons. Her only weapon being her love, her great fierce love and tenderness. Feeling your strong back on the earth, your soft belly, and your wild heart. Brene Brown says a wild heart is one that's willing to stand on the battlefield, willing to experience the ups and downs of life without stealing against it, willing to stay open, even in the midst of great challenge. Brene Brown said a wild heart is one that's willing to stand on the battlefield, willing For beginning to stir like a tiger waking up from deep slumber, it can start to feel your tiger paws wiggle, blink your eyes a few times, take a big cat-like stretch, and make your way back up to sitting. As you sit, sitting with soft eyes, a tall strong spine, a soft belly, and that wild heart, that wild heart that welcomes all feelings, all emotions, because that's part of being human. You can't close off one part of yourself and only want things to be lovely and sweet and easy. Got to welcome the whole package. And so we'll take the hands into a soft interlace and bring that loose interlace right over your chest like a little fortress for your own heart, armor of love. This is called Vajra Pradama Mudra. It means unshakeable trust. And as you let the hands rest on the heart, your spine grow a little bit taller. And may we remember that all of us just want to be seen and loved for who we are, and that often the people who cause us the most difficulty, the most trouble, or the ones who need love the most. May our tenderness be our greatest weapon. You can release the interlace, bring your palms together in front of your chest, tip your head down towards your heart. Thank you so much for joining me for this practice. May you have a strong spine, a soft belly, and a wild heart.


Jenny S
2 people like this.
The lesson of Durga is a powerful one and feels apropos of this intense time in our world. A brave and fierce, yet tender heart is needed right about now. Thank you for this season of yin and mythology - every episode offers physical and spiritual comfort. ❤️🙏🏻
Ali H
1 person likes this.
Thank you so much Kelly for this very special yin series. I am going to return to this a lot. I hope you do more 💫
Oana P
1 person likes this.
super show. i hope u do a season 2, for me it's a must :) thx a lot
Kelly K
Oana P Thank you!! I am hoping for season two as well!!  xoxoxo
Kelly K
Ali H Thanks so much!! xoxo
Kelly K
Jenny S Thanks Jenny, I really appreciate the feedback and lovely comments. It makes what I do so much more fulfilling! Sending you love 
Diane C
1 person likes this.
This was a lovely class and an amazing series. I benefitted so much from your wisdom and insight, not to mention the poses...
Sandra Židan
Wonderful practice! I've really enjoyed doing it! Thank you very much, Kelly! Namaste! ❤️💝🌹
Misty Eve Hannah
Feeling spacious and peaceful, even in my bones. Thank you Kelly, just what my whole being needed. Loved this practice so much. Gratitude from my wild heart to yours...
Debbie Kephart
ahhh...you are of a wild, lovely heart dear Kelly- jail Ma!
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