A Ganesh refresh to Inspire your life and practice:
As practitioners of yoga we are faced with obstacles daily on our mats. Through our asana practice we learn alignment, cell memory, breathwork, and meditation to help us break through these obstacles. The image of Ganesh helps us to remember what he stands for: Learning, Persevering, and succeeding in the face of challenge.
Ganesh, the Hindu Lord, is known and respected by most people in the world, and his symbolism and message is relatable to most of the human race. Most Hindu sects worship him regardless of affiliation, and his devotion extends to Jains and Buddhists.
Ganesh is known as the remover of obstacles (and placer of obstacles when need be), the god of success, the patron of learning, the regulator of energetic flow in the body, the master of transformation, the remover of ignorance, and the messenger of God. He is the benefactor to the fulfillment of human needs (wealth, enjoyment, liberation) while also teaching divine control over human flaws such as vanity, selfishness, and pride. Much like our asana practice, he is the bridge between material and divine worlds. He is able to do these things because he is the son of both god and nature.
That’s quite an amazing resume for a god! So why is he depicted as an elephant with multiple arms? Why is he carrying those objects? Is one of his tusks meant to be broken? And aren’t elephants afraid of mice?Below are just a few aspects of Ganesh symbolism explained. Hopefully you will be inspired to tie these into your daily life and yoga practice.
Many eastern cultures respect the elephant. Not only is it a majestic and intelligent creature, but it’s positive symbolism is cross cultural. Elephants are both wild survivors and friends of mankind. Elephants are resilient animals that “never forget” and therefore are perfect caricatures for the ups and downs of the past, present, and future. They are grey, which is the color that represents neutrality, or the opposite of extremism. An elephant’s trunk is an ancient symbol for efficiency and adaptability, which is necessary for reaching success in the material world.
Ganesh has an enlarged, round belly as a symbol of generosity and total acceptance. It tells us to digest the good with the bad, and all that life hands us. An objective view and open mind is a powerful tool on the path of success.
He has an enlarged head to symbolize greater consciousness and big thinking. It is told that Ganesh was ignorant as a child, but with the help of his father Shiva, he became wise. It is a symbol of our ability to learn, grow, and improve. He has a small mouth which symbolizes that the wise do not need to speak often, and big ears to emphasize the importance of listening. He has small eyes that symbolize the importance of inner focus, concentration, and attention to small details. From his mouth grow two tusks: one broken and one full. This is a metaphor for retaining what serves oneself and leaving what does not.
Ganesh is usually depicted with anywhere from 2-16 hands that hold different objects. His raised hand means protection, or “I am here with you.” Among other meanings, it is a beacon of light to the practitioner or follower that feels alone on the path to enlightenment. His lowered hand means endless giving and a loving invitation to bow down. It is also a symbol of the fact that we all return to earth. This lowered hand is sometimes shown offering food as a sign up mutual giving. His hook,or “ankusa” symbolizes awakening, and his noose, or “paasa” symbolizes control. The hook and the noose balance one another, as every lesson in divine awakening and enlightenment must be balanced with material control. He carries an axe to cut ties of attachment, as increased knowledge and consciousness create opportunities to let go of old ways and past behaviors. His lotus flower symbolizes growth, purity, and beauty in the face of opposition.
Ganesh is often accompanied by a mouse that is a metaphor for human desire. It is often shown sitting at the feet of Ganesh, wearing a saddle. The message is to ride desire, but keep it at your feet, or under control. It is also said to be a sign of humility: To be your true self, even if you are an elephant-headed god who rides a mouse.
One of the greater and most advanced benefits from a yoga practice is that it causes us to grow, improve, and change by increasing our overall awareness. The symbolism and story of Ganesh is one that mirrors that journey, helps us to feel less alone, and to remain on our path despite all obstacles.”Jaya Jaya Jaya Ganesh”