Lalitha Invites Beauty and Play Through Sugarcane Pose

Lalitha Devi Sugarcane Pose

I’m sure at some point in your yoga journey you have unknowingly experienced Sugarcane Pose. Sugarcane pose’s English translation is rarely used. Instead, it is referred to as Ardha Chandra Chapasana, or just Chapasana. It is a standing backbend version of Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana). Ardha means ‘half,’ Chandra means ‘moon,’ Chap means ‘bow,’ and Asana means ‘pose’.

I’m half Filipina and I was lucky to have a father working for the U.S. government who was interested in working in Southeast Asia because he is Filipino, so I lived there until the age of 17. Whether we were in Taipei, Seoul, Manila or Jakarta, there would always be a street stand selling raw sugarcane. 

As a result, I grew up gnawing on sugarcane husks, relishing in the flavor of the sugary sweet juice and the texture of the dense, fibrous cane. When I heard the name sugarcane pose and discovered that Lalitha was sometimes referred to as the Sugarcane Goddess, I felt very connected to both the pose and the goddess and wanted to know more.

Lalitha’s Depiction

One translation of Lalitha’s name is ‘she who plays.’ When we invite the essence of Lalitha into our lives, we are inviting spontaneity, playfulness, and joy into our lives. She is a form of Shakti Devi, the auspicious feminine energy relevant to the Universe or Source. She represents beauty, and her depiction conveys that.

Lalitha is usually seen seated on a lotus flower which guides us toward fulfilling our desires. She has long, black, gorgeous hair that smells like flowers, and a slight red tinge to her skin tone. 

Her skin color is beautiful and represents the color of the first dawn or the hopefulness of new beginnings, and she is sometimes referred to as the Red Flower Goddess. She has four arms and a crescent moon adorns her forehead. In her hands, she holds a bow of sugarcane, five arrows made of flowers, a farming instrument for rounding up cattle (a goad), and a noose. The goad and noose represent our ability to develop an aversion (goad) to attachment (noose) and eventually find true joy.

Lalitha’s Sugarcane Bow and Arrows

Lalitha and her accouterments represent the energy that motivates our mind and how it interacts with all our senses. The sugarcane bow exemplifies the mind. Like sugarcane, sometimes we have to chew through the fibrous textures of our belief systems and thoughts to get to the sweetness. This is how we learn to experience spontaneity, joy, and happiness.

The five arrows are flowers. In esoteric terms, the arrows stand for the five elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth. They also represent our various senses because the senses are consequences of the five elements. The sugarcane bow is used to discharge the arrows. Much like our mind has the ability to truly direct us towards fully experiencing sensations in the present moment. In this way, Lalitha is the power that enables us to feel and relish in sensations.

Experience Lalitha in Your Yoga Practice

If you’re like me and love using verbal callings (mantra), chant the following mantra out loud or silently to yourself as few or as many times as you feel compelled to. The mantra loosely translates to a simple way to call upon the mother goddess Lalitha.

 

MA AMBA LALITHA DEVI

NAMASTASYEY NAMO NAMAHA

 

I’ve personally found a combination of a long-held supine pose such as reclining butterfly, combined with a mudra (a hand gesture), and some breath work to be a quick and effective way to drop deeper into our internal world of consciousness and sensations. This is a potent way to relieve stress and feel more grounded within ourselves.

Lie on your back in reclining butterfly pose. Take a mudra called Pratyahara Mudra. This mudra means “withdrawal of the senses” and provides us with a way to filter what we experience from the outer world so we may focus on our inner world more keenly.

To form the mudra, hover your palms in front of your face, fingers pointing towards your nose jazz hands style:

 

         -Lightly place your index fingers on the eyebrow (touch)

         -Place your middle fingers on your eyelids (sight)

         -Ring fingers rest on your nose, just above the nostril flares (smell)

         -Pinky fingers lightly touch at the corners of your mouth (taste)

         -Thumbs reach back to close the ears (hearing)

Once you have applied light pressure to close off all the senses, start taking deep full breaths. Hopefully, you will notice how all distractions from the outside take a back seat to what is actually happening in your body, mind, and heart.

The mudra, coupled with breathing is a way to give your brain a break. When the mudra is released, and the breathwork restores to normal, rhythmic breathing, we still maintain a deeper sense of self. This also translates into a deeper feeling of all the sensations we are experiencing in the present moment.

        There are other ways to give our senses a break in our daily lives. 

Monitor how much and what types of TV and social media you’re engaging in. 

  • Become discerning of loud noises and negative talk from certain people. 
  • Feel the soft fur of your pet or walk barefoot in the grass. 
  • Reevaluate your diet and opt to choose more whole foods. 
  • Fill your home with beautiful, even nostalgic scents.

On your yoga mat, after you’ve warmed up your hips, quads, shoulders, and hamstrings, you are ready to try Sugarcane Pose. It’s a balancing pose, so often I’ll use tree pose as a warm-up to help the body and mind prepare for balancing. 

From triangle pose (or get more launched into it from warrior 2 or extended side angle), with the hips remaining open, balance on your front leg. First, take some time to feel Half Moon Pose with your top arm stretching to the sky and your top leg lifting towards parallel with the ground.

Once you feel stable and familiar with the pose, start to bend your top leg and practice reaching back to grab what you can. Remember, Lalitha is about not attaching to outcome and also relishing in the play of the pose!

In the Sugarcane Pose, your hand grabs your leg towards the ankle to create the sugarcane bow. Think of your side ribs and your heart as the arrows of the flowers. They blossom their petals with your breath and aim towards the front of your mat. Infuse your yoga pose with intentions that invoke sweetness and joy and non-attachment. 

Remember to stay playful, and remember you are always beautiful!



Ridding Your Negative Personal Narratives With Lord Shiva

adiyogi statue isha foundation coimbatore image

Lord Shiva is a well-known and worshipped Hindu deity. He is one of the Holy Trinity (the Trimurti), which consists of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva. What each represents in our familiar terms are brand new beginnings (Brahma), the middle of everything in existence (Vishnu), and the endings (Shiva). When Shiva, as the Lord of Dissolution, gives us the endings, he also provides the space for Brahma to instill a bright new beginning. It is from the void of nothingness, or space, left after something comes to an end, that Brahma responds by bringing the start of something new.

Shiva, Lord of Dissolution

Shiva, The Auspicious One, is also known as Mahadeva or The Great God. He is worshipped as the Supreme Being in Shaivism, a major institution within Hinduism. I like to explain the concept of endings giving way to brighter new beginnings with the metaphor of a bookshelf filled with storybooks that represent our own considerations about ourselves.

Imagine you have a large bookshelf in your mind. The bookshelf is jam-packed with books whose titles represent your own self-judgments or concepts of yourself. One thing to mention is that we are constantly in judgment of ourselves. We are usually in judgment of something and judgments can be good or bad. For instance, we might see a book entitled ‘I am a great Mother,’ or ‘I am a giving person.’

Conversely, we have the debilitating narratives. ‘I am unworthy’ or ‘I am not flexible enough’ as some of the titles we’re experiencing. But the debilitating narratives are simply opportunities to grow or bring Shiva into our lives.

Shiva comes along as the Lord of Dissolution; he shows us where we are hindering our growth with certain stories or ways of being. For instance, when you decide you are fed up with thinking of yourself as unworthy, or not good enough, Shiva gives you the willpower to dissolve that story. The ‘I am unworthy’ book gets removed from the shelf and thrown to the wayside.

What is left behind is an open space, an open space ready and willing to house a new book with a new title. Brahma steps in and gives us the capacity to formulate a new storybook title that feels brighter and shinier as a new beginning, or judgment of self. For example, we switch from the ‘I am unworthy’ mantra to ‘I am good enough.’ In this way, Shiva and Brahma give us the ability to challenge our belief system and change it for self-betterment.

Shiva, Lord of Dance

A common depiction of Shiva is one of a dancing four-armed deity. In this form, Shiva is known as Nataraja, or the Lord of Dance. He is seen dancing in a halo of fire which represents samsara, or ‘flowing around.’ In his upper right hand, Shiva holds a hand drum said to have drummed the first drum beats to help create everything, paired with the sound of “Om.” 

His upper left hand holds a flame said to have the ability to destroy on behalf of transformative new beginnings. His bottom lower right hand holds abhayamudra, a gesture used to convey fearlessness. His bottom left hand mimics the lifted position of his left leg. This symbolizes a respite soul’s find from the earthly troubles on a path towards soul liberation. His lifted left leg is a journey towards this elevated consciousness.  Finally, the snake he wears around his waist is the creative energy that exists in our psychic body.

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