Yin Yoga and Mythology Artwork
Season 2 - Episode 3

Avalokiteshvara & Tara

25 min - Practice


Sometimes we fall apart so that we can come together stronger. Listen to the story of Avalokitesvara, whose tears gave birth to the goddess Tara, while finding space in the legs, hips, and spine. You will feel a greater sense of compassion towards your self and others.
What You'll Need: Mat

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You're welcome. You can find a seat and as you come to your seat let your palms rest on your thighs. You can really invite some weight into your hands. Let the weight of your arms drop through your palms into your thighs all the way into the earth. Feel the elegance of your spine, space across the front of your shoulders and in the back of your heart and tune in to the rhythm of your breath, the flow of your breath as if your breath was waves. Just like the ocean, how some of the waves are small and rhythmic and then every once in a while there might be a big one that comes in. Just noticing what's the cadence of your breath. We'll start by making our way into Supta Baddha Konasana for our first shape today, Reclined Butterfly. You might bring your feet together here and let your knees fall open to either side and lie back on your back. If you like you can put some support underneath your knees here. You can tuck blankets or pillows or blocks under your knees if it feels like there's any strain in the front of the hips. Otherwise you can be like me, do it without props. I always like to press my elbows into the ground and just do a little backward movement of the ribcage to give my spine more breathing room here and then anywhere your arms want to go is great. I really enjoy having them on my body so I get that felt sense of my breath and it also helps I think to feel the way the breath moves the belly. Can we have a soft belly as we breathe? Can our whole body be sensitive and respond to the breath as it comes in and out? So there's a term in Buddhism, bodhisattva. Bodhisattva is someone who instead of crossing over, becoming enlightened and never coming back to be reincarnated again, instead they decide that they're gonna stay and they're gonna stay until they help everyone who's suffering. And so this is a story about one of those bodhisattvas, perhaps the original bodhisattva, a being named Avalokitesvara. Avalokitesvara was a lot like us, you know, did yoga and meditated and was really consistent about trying to practice and be a good person and help people serve others. And towards the end of his life on the planet Avalokitesvara was climbing a mountain, climbing a mountain and reflecting on this great life that he had lived. And when he got to the top of the mountain there was a wall, a low wall. And Avalokitesvara had this knowing, this sense that all he needed to do was step over the wall and that was it. Step over the wall into bliss, into eternal joy, happiness, connection, oneness. Step over the wall and never have to come back and be your incarnate and do this again. And so he took one leg and started to hoist it over the wall. And as soon as he did that he thought he heard something, he paused, he listened with his whole body. And he realized what he heard was the cries of the people down below, all the people at the bottom of the mountain who are still on earth struggling and suffering. And he thought, how can I do this? How can I be so selfish and leave, reach my own enlightenment when all these other people are suffering? And so he took his leg back, he stood on the top of that mountain and he made a vow, he made a vow that he wouldn't leave until he helped everyone who was suffering so that they could cross over too. And then Avalokitesvara, he went back down the mountain and he started helping. So we'll take another breath here, a long inhale and an extra long exhale. Let the exhale trail all the way out, right at all the way out until the end. And when you finish you can start to gather yourself in and we'll come up to sit, take your time, there's no rush, moving slow, like one of my favorite teachers, Pauli Zink says, move like a mama cow moving across a meadow, easy and slow. And when you come up, we're gonna come into a shape where we have one leg bent, almost like we just were in a half butterfly and the other foot's gonna be on the floor in front of you. Bringing my right hand to the shin, the right foot's on the ground, right hand on the shin, the left hand is gonna come up in Abhaya Mudra. This Mudra, this gesture means no fear and you often see the Buddha and many other deities including Avalokitesvara and Tara who we'll talk about in a moment. They do this just to let us know that we're okay, we got this. Taking a couple of breaths and feeling into the mood of this posture, the mood of this hand gesture. I think of Mudras they're like little channel changers and if our energy is on a particular channel that we don't really love, we don't want to be in, it doesn't feel great, you can use the Mudra to move the dial a little bit. And then the hand that's in Abhaya Mudra, take that one place it behind you on the earth, take the other arm, reach it up alongside your ear and we're gonna lift up here. So I'm pressing into my right foot and left shin, left shin is on the ground, top of the left foot on the ground and finding any amount of backbend that feels good. It couldn't be pure backbend, it could be a little side bend mixed into it, it's really just whatever feels nice and supportive for your body here. Stretching the whole front body open wide and then we'll come on back down, settling into the earth, feeling yourself arrive. You can stretch out your right leg, if your left foot is great there, leave it there, otherwise you might move it up a little closer to your pelvis. We'll turn towards the left foot and then starting from the top down, rolling down, folding into yourself as if you were making a cinnamon roll, just rolling your way down and you can walk your hands out to wherever they feel supportive and comfortable. Here's a place where you might want some blocks underneath your hands if the floor feels far away. You let your elbows get heavy, your head hang. If you like you might bring your elbows to the ground if you have space for that and if not no worries. So Abolokiteshvara, he's going back down the mountain, he's gonna go help everybody and he gets to the bottom of the mountain, he gets to where all the people are and he starts helping, he's helping this person, helping that person and pretty soon he gets exhausted. He gets exhausted and he starts to lose hope because he says there's so many people that need help, there's so much suffering, I don't know that I can do it all. Not only that, some of these people they don't even want my help and so he thinks you know what, if I can't help everybody I may as well just help myself.

That's it, I'm going back up to the mountain, I'm going over that wall by myself. Take a deep breath in, let the exhale empty out and ride it out into one more layer of softening. You keep riding your out breath out into spaciousness. So in that moment when Abolokiteshvara breaks his vow and decides to go back up the mountain, all of a sudden his head explodes, his head explodes into a million pieces and as he's trying to pick them up off the ground, the Buddha comes down from the heavens and Buddha comes down and looks at Abolokiteshvara and he says, friend I have good news and bad news. Bad news is you made a vow, you can't break it, you got to do it, but the good news is I'm here to help you. So the Buddha puts Abolokiteshvara's head back together and instead of just one head he gives them 11 heads and then he gives them 1,000 arms and each arm has a hand and then center of each hand is an eye. So that Abolokiteshvara now can see more, he can see vast all over space, he can see everyone who needs help and he's got a thousand arms to reach out to everyone who's suffering. You can start to roll your spine up, slow motion, super slow-mo, pouring your spine upward into the sky bone by bone, inch by inch and then we're going to take a pose, a little bit of a stronger pose than most of the other ones, a boat pose. It won't last forever, just a tiny little boat, you can have your feet on the ground, your hands underneath your knees leaning back until you feel things start to light up in your center and that might be where you stay. You can always pick your feet up if you like, you can reach your arms forward, lots of options here, you might even want to straighten your legs if that feels okay for your body. Take a deep breath in, expanding in all directions, then as you breathe out slowly lower yourself down, trying to go slow if you can, if it's just one big plop that's okay too and when you come down feel yourself land, feel your body on the earth and then we'll come into a flowing bridge, so bringing your feet underneath your knees here, take your arms down by your side, palms to the earth, we're gonna lift not just the hips and the spine but the arms as well, so with each inhale you're pressing into your feet to raise the pelvis and your arms reaching overhead, maybe the backs of your hands touch the ground if they don't get that far that's fine too and then as you breathe out let it spill down, arms coming down, spine coming down until you settle, so flowing like that up and down at the pace of your own breath here, trying to match the inhalation with the lift and the exhalation with the pouring down, you can imagine that underneath your body is wet sand and as you roll your spine down it's like you're pressing the bones of your spine into the wet sand and as you lift up you could imagine the imprint that your bones would leave in the sand and then coming down again to bury them even deeper, let's do one more of those, one more inhale and one more exhale that you ride all the way out to the very end, finding a moment of pause, let it all sink in, feeling it all and then we'll begin to come back up so you can gather your knees in, you might like to rock over on your side and press up or you can rock right up to sit and we'll come back to visit this shape with one knee bent and on the ground and the other knee facing the ceiling and so I've got left foot on the floor so my left hand is coming to the shin, right leg is bent like a half butterfly and then the right hand this time coming up into Abhaya Mudra and just tuning in to the quality, the quality of the shape, mood of your heart and this pose and then drop your right palm behind you to the earth, raise your left arm alongside your ear and begin to lift your pelvis up off the ground, pressing down into your right shin, your left foot, spreading out your left foot on the ground, feeling what touches the earth, root down so that the rest of you can spread open and fly, soft throat as you breathe here and when you come down, coming down slow, stretch out the left leg, turn towards it, arrange your right leg how you like, you could bring it closer and then we'll take a slow and gentle roll down over the left leg little by little, landing at the place where you first feel a sense of an edge and leaning into it just enough, not in any way that's urgent or aggressive, just a soft gentle leaning towards the sensation. So where we left Avalokitesvara he had gotten 11 heads, 11 new heads, a thousand arms and a thousand eyes in the center of each palm and so with renewed hope and energy he starts helping again, he's reaching out with his thousand arms to help everyone and anyone who needs him and and it's still difficult but he doesn't give up and sometimes he cries. Avalokitesvara sometimes when it gets hard he cries a lot so much that his tears actually form oceans and sometimes when he cries and his tears form an ocean one of the tears that falls from his eye becomes a goddess. This goddess her name is Tara she's born from Avalokitesvara's tears and Tara is the goddess who helps various across the ocean of suffering that's her job she's there to help she's like a little rowboat in difficult times. You can let your exhales get even longer here perhaps it could be twice as long as your in your inhales each out breath spreading you out like a great lake like an ocean and so there's all this beautiful mythology about tears there's stories about queens who cry tears that turn into gold there's even a famous Gustav Klimt painting with golden tears and tears are pretty amazing actually tears you know the chemical composition of tears is fascinating you know the tears that we cry when we're happy or the tears that we cry when we're cutting onions are very different from the tears we cry when we're sad the tears we cry when we're sad have a special chemical in them that makes them roll down our cheeks more slowly because they're a signal they're a signal for other people they're a little cry for help or connection isn't that beautiful you can go ahead and slowly roll your way back up on by bone inch by inch it's a velocity touch for us tears are so special they become a goddess and our tears are so special that they signal all of our loved ones to come and help us you can bring your feet in front of you we're gonna come back into that boat again right so sometimes we're the Tara right sometimes we're the ones that shuttle our friends across the ocean and other times we need the boat we need to call out for help so taking your boat however you like to take it legs bent or legs straight calling on Tara for a little help and then we'll pour down little by little until we fall on the earth taking a deep breath and then bending your knees getting ready here to come into this flowing bridge one more time palms by your side feet spread out on the earth under your knees and maybe this time even a little bit slower as we move maybe you could stretch your breath out so it's extra long inhaling arms floating up feather fingers reaching overhead hips to the sky and exhaling emptying all the way down so I love this story and about Avaloki Tushvara because it makes me feel better about my tears when they come grateful for them and it's also a story about falling apart and coming back together not just better and stronger but with a renewed sense of hope sometimes we might lose our hope or get discouraged you know it's hard not to sometimes when you look out at the world it's a messy place and then sometimes we fall apart right we all do sometimes we crumple and we fall apart but we can come back we can come back better stronger there are thousand imaginary arms ready to reach out and take on the challenges again so we're gonna add some breathing into this bridge here try this breathing in as you lift up stay here as you breathe out and empty the breath out as if you're emptying a balloon empty every drop out hold the breath out and then roll the spine down we're gonna keep the arms there but just the spine rolling down and when you get to the bottom breathe in you can bring your arms down and just pause for a moment feel the effects of that and we'll do that a couple more times so the inhale is the lift up and to bridge the lift of the arms all the way up feeling completely you stay there as you exhale hollow out your belly imagine every drop of air leaving hold the breath out with that emptiness you'll come down just with the spine pressing it again into that imaginary sand underneath you bone by bone until you're all the way down and then your arms come down and you breathe easy and free a nice normal breath or two just to clear the land get yourself ready for one more round spread out into your feet lift your arms lift your hips up to the sky like climbing a mountain you reach the very top empty yourself empty yourself completely of every drop of breath and then holding that beautiful emptiness as you lower the bones of your spine drop by drop feeling the moment you reach the bottom and then recovering arms down breath easy and we'll take one more moment here in this Supta Baddha Konasana and on the belly and on the heart so sometimes this pose with the legs like this in this butterfly position is called Tara Tarasana and Tara the goddess we talked about her name Tara it means star it's like like your North Star that you can look for when things get difficult and so just taking a moment here to think about is there anyone in your life is like a North Star to you that helps ferry you out of your ocean of suffering who's there when those tears roll down your cheeks and you could send out a big moment of love and gratitude to them and to all the bodhisattvas all the helpers in the world might feel really good to stay here for Shavasana at any point you're of course welcome to change your position and shift if you prefer you could stretch your legs out bring your arms down by your side have your palms turned open the skin on your palm sensitive and soft relaxing your hands your feet and pour your awareness into the whole right side of your body like liquid gold like Avalokiteshvara's tears and let the whole right side of your body get soft and heavy and then pour your awareness into the left side let the left side get soft and sweet and heavy on the ground feel the whole back of your body everywhere you touch the earth let it sink in and imagine the front of your body softening sinking down towards the back of your body imagine yourself like a little pebble dropped into a lake that falls all the way to the soft sand on the bottom and settles calling in the breath a bit wider deeper calling in tiny movement of your fingers and toes gradually bringing yourself back from the depths to the surface little by little as you come up arranging your legs into any seat that serves you best bring your hands to your body one more time one to the heart one to the belly taking a deep breath in and riding the out breath all the way out into spaciousness and then let your palms fold together in front of your heart thank you so much for joining me in this practice today


Alessandra  Y
Beautiful practice Kelly, thank you! 
Jenny S
7 people like this.
This was so meditative and sweet. These practices are a moving meditation in that there is that physicality of the poses that focus the mind but also the charming tales of these very relatable humans and spiritual beings. It’s almost like yogi bedtime stories and I am all in for it! ✨✨✨✨✨
4 people like this.
a nice evening wind down. Thanks Kelly.
Sandra Židan
Interesting practice and great story! Thanks, Kelly! Namaste! ❤️🌹
Oana P
4 people like this.
coincidence or not, i cried during the practice, thx, i needed that
Kelly K
2 people like this.
Alessandra Y thank YOU!
Kelly K
2 people like this.
Oana P thanks for sharing that wishing you so much love xoxo
Kelly K
2 people like this.
Sandra Židan thanks so much!
Kelly K
2 people like this.
Matthew thank you so much
Kelly K
2 people like this.
Jenny S thank you Jenny! I'm so grateful for your continued support. Lots of love and happy new year 
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