One thing we all love is: stories.
Stories connect us, teach us, transform us, and set us free.
It was through stories that I fell in love with yoga oh-so-long ago. And, I’ll bet you love stories, too.
They light up our brain!
When we hear a good story, our brain steps into the role of the hero. What the hero feels, we feel. What the hero experiences, we experience.
Through the magic of mirror neurons, our brain literally mirrors that of the character within the story.
Pain, love, heartache, suffering, triumph…it’s all ours.
This is what makes stories so powerful.
It’s learning without the struggle.
It’s connection across great divides.
It’s how we see ourselves as something greater than we realize we currently are.
In fact, this is the power of mythology.
Through mythology – especially yogic mythology – we come to know the truth about ourselves.
Yogic myth dresses itself up as imperfect characters, so we see beyond it to the divinity hidden underneath.
We understand Shiva’s terrible anger at his wife.
We empathize with Hanuman’s forgetful nature and his desperate need to remember his loved ones.
We long for Ganesh’s charismatic ability to make even the most difficult things easy.
We see ourselves in these characters because they are imperfect, and so are we. Their imperfections help us realize that under any exterior is a unique spark that is lit within us all.
I remember the first story I learned in my course on the religions of South Asia in college. It was a well-known South Indian tale called “The Ankle Bracelet” (Silappadikaram), and I was moved by the powerful woman in the story who, through her integrity and authenticity, brings justice to an unlawful king.
Wow, I thought. For a woman to yield such power!
Today we have many conversations brewing around the power of women, the importance of believing them when they speak, and we have seen modern “kings” fall because of the integrity the women speaking out.
The myth brings to life the age-old desire for women to be heard, respected…equal.
All myths have this power.
As a yoga teacher, our ability to discuss modern, political, social, moral, or any other potentially challenging topic is aided by the power of myth.
When we have the right story, we can teach about anything. We let the myth deliver the message for us.
Messages of hope, understanding, unity, love, connection exist in our yogic mythology.
Anything we want to share, we let the gods speak the messages for us.
In this way, the lessons are seamlessly delivered, and most importantly, people hear them on a deeper level…because they become the story. They learn the lesson on their terms, in their own way.
It’s time to learn the myths. They are not an addendum to our yogic education, they underpin every aspect of what we teach.
Are you ready to explore them further with me?
Myths are the beating heart of the spiritual practice of yoga. Their richness, playfulness, and life-lessons give us fodder (and freedom) for all the work ahead. Life is made easier through myth. I hope you’ll join me this week in exploring more of it, and finding out which characters you connect with!
For my weekly Facebook live broadcast, I told you some awesome stories.
Storytime with Alanna: The Myths of Yoga (Our Favorites!)
Links and Resources
I have some ways for you to learn more about your favorite stories (and perhaps even learn some stories you didn’t know)!
First, join me for an upcoming webinar on yogic myth. Myths of the Asanas: Yogic Tales and How To Weave Them Into Your Practice I’ll share with you the stories of the sacred triumvirate that embodies Om and the cycle of life.
Second, take a guided tour of the myths and how to implement them into your yoga classes in my course Becoming the Hero: The Myths of Yoga.
Third, explore the myths in my book, Myths of the Asanas: The Stories at the Heart of the Yoga Tradition