Off The Mat

Ode to the Animal Kingdom

AshtangaYogaOBX — May 20, 2013
Off The Mat

As Spring is ripe and the Earth is full of new life, I wanted to take this time to honor the sacred connection to the animal realm.  After all, I sometimes joke that we as humans are not much more evolved.  We just have bigger and better toys, aka technology.

Is this why we hold such a close and loving connection?  Throughout time and space we continually rely on our connection to our animal friends.

For example, in Native American medicine it is believed that every animal contains a medicine within their nature, something sacred is contained.

The Second Series of Ashtanga Yoga is almost completely full of postures named after various animals, not to mention the primordial downward dog and upward dog. I often tell my students it is “the animal sequence” and that it is time to get in touch with our primitive nature.

We cannot forget that every Hindu deity is assigned their own vahana, or vehicle to ride upon.  Saraswati is seen upon a swan or a peacock, Lakshmi has her owl, Durga the lion, Vishnu the serpent, Shiva the bull, Ganesha has an elephant head and rides upon a mouse, Hanuman is a monkey, etc….

This sacred relationship is full of spiritual symbolism and wisdom.  The animal represents our primitive nature and the deity is exemplifying control over these desires.

Ganesh is the ruler of the root chakra and one must not forget where we come from. In these times of fast evolution, it is easy to forget the most basic aspects of our nature. Perhaps that is why we need our animal friends close by; to keep us down to Earth and remind us who we are and where we come from.

In honor of this sacred contract I would like to draw attention to the fact that we continue to destroy their ecosystems with our many roads and buildings. I have seen so many dead animals on the side of the road lately; I am constantly praying.  I think it is important for us to remember that we are not the center of existence on Earth; that we are a part of its divine creation and we must be conscious to share it with the myriad of other life forms that exist. What would we do without the sweet song of the nightingale, the chorus of frogs, or the delightful colors of the butterfly?  Our souls would be lacking fulfillment indeed.  We are all a part of the beautiful dance of life; everyone included down to the last insect.

With this said, I wanted to honor my own personal relationship with my animal companions.  Like the ancient Egyptians, I hold dear my relationship to my cat. My cat is a great all natural pest control along with the stoic connection to the divine I observe him to possess.  He is a mystic and he keeps me looking into the sublime through his intense beautiful green eyes.  I do believe there is something etheric about his existence and he is connected to a deeper reality.

For anyone who visits my yoga studio you will be happy to meet me and my faithful companion Yoda.  Yoda is a boston terrier equipped with the charm and personality of the joker. It is my belief that his mission this lifetime is to keep me laughing; light at heart.

He is worthy of his name and you will know it when you see his appearance. And, yes, we even get dressed up for the holidays. This is a picture of us on Halloween last year when he dressed up as batdog and me as a fairy princess.  We make a mean team!

I honor in every way our connection to our animal companions.  Let us be compassionate and joyous in their existence with us. Let us honor their space and way of life. Be careful when you are driving!  They do not understand our complex world.  It is mating season and they are driven to take risks they may not normally take, ie, like crossing major roads. We can all relate to this!  Remain aware and full of a loving presence towards their process.

I am thankful for my animal companions; they make the greatest and most reliable friends.

The Force is with us!  I will be in town teaching all summer. We hope to see you there!

Om Gam Ganapataye Namah.

Michelle Dorer
Owner, Director, Teacher – Ashtanga Yoga Center, Outer Banks, NC

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