January: Ganesha

New Beginnings – Who is Ganesha?

In the Hindu mythology, there is no other deity than Lord Ganesha that would be more fitting to kick us off into the New Year. Ganesha, the god with the big belly and an elephant head represents new beginnings and prosperity, is known as the remover of obstacles and is called upon before every new venture. Hinuds make offerings to Ganesha especially in the mornings and call upon him to bless new projects, marriages, the birth of a child, and even simple acts like buying a car. You might also often see the Ganesha statue at the entrance of buildings, temples, or Yoga studios.

Interestingly enough, while many people recognize Ganesha as the remover of obstacles, he is also the one who puts obstacles in front of us, so we might find a different way that is more meant for us, or to overcome the obstacles and grow from the challenges we encounter. Success is not simply about getting everything presented on a silver plate or even receiving everything we wish for. Oftentimes it is through challenging times that we develop the most strength and courage and discover resources deep within us that enable us to move through difficulties. Thus, whether Ganesha removes obstacles or presents them to us, there is always something for us to learn and to grow from. In this sense Ganesha is here to not only clear obstacles, but also to grant new perspectives, and guide us to recognize our inner strength and wisdom.

By symbolizing new beginnings and building a firm foundation, Ganesha also relates to the the root or Muladhara chakra. Energetically the root chakra represents our personal foundation in life, a sense of being grounded and standing in life with both feet. So, if you ever feel like you need a bit of extra grounding and a sense of strength it might help to softly chant “Om Gang Ganapataye Namaha” as an invocation to Ganesha. There is no “hocus-pocus” to chanting; each mantra simply vibrates at a specific frequency that corresponds to the qualities we wish to invoke with it. Also the related chakra will respond to these vibrations.

In our asana practice we can cultivate Ganesha-qualities of strength, courage, prosperity, and a solid foundation for our endeavours for example through standing postures. There are hardly any asanas better suited for creating a sense of grounding than these poses where our feet are firmly planted on the ground. These poses ask us to find a way to draw the energy upwards starting at our toes and arches in order to find balance and strength in these poses.

After standing poses also hip-opening poses are well-suited for stimulating the root chakra and therefore allow us to discover the qualities connected to this area and Ganesha.

Indian mythology knows many stories about Ganesha, for example of how he got his Elephant head or why he only has one trunk, and where his name comes from, which literally means Lord (Isha) over all living beings (Gana). It is said that there were many different gods who competed in a contest to become the ruler over all living beings. The one who would race around the entire cosmos the fastest would receive that honour. As the gods set out determined to win the race, Ganesha simply walked around his mother, Parvati, and his father Shiva, who are known as the source of all existence. As the entire cosmos is represented in Parvati and Shiva, Ganesha won the race and rather than proving to be the fastest, proved to be the smartest and thus deserving of his title.

Entering into this new year with many intentions, wishes and dreams to come to fruition, this story may remind us that before setting out to accomplish whatever we have put our mind to, we might pause for a moment and ask ourselves what is already there – what is already in us – that will help us to get where we want to be. Perhaps we will realize that just as the entire cosmos is already embodied in Parvati and Shiva, what we desire is already in us and we only need to find a way to materialize it.

May this year bring you much love, strength, joy, and abundance.