If you live in northeast Ohio and are a fan of hot yoga, pinch yourself, because a brand-new yoga studio, Yoga Bliss, has just recently opened in Akron, Ohio. I have been pinching myself for the past few weeks, because I am lucky to be one of the yoga instructors at this beautiful studio. I’ll probably never teach a power yoga class in the Hot Studio (this large room is heated to between 85 and 90 degrees using a state-of-the art system that heats and humidifies fresh air and is downright tropical) but am thrilled to be teaching Yoga Basics classes in the slightly cooler Basics Studio. I was so delighted when I walked into the Basics Studio and saw that Caroline, the owner of Yoga Bliss, had painted Ganesha on the wall. For those of you unfamiliar with Ganesha, he is the Hindu god of wisdom, learning, and the remover of obstacles. Ganesha is also the destroyer of vanity, selfishness, and pride. Pretty powerful stuff, eh?

It is felicitous that Caroline has painted Ganesha on the wall, because before any undertaking is begun, a prayer to Ganesha is said to ensure success. Be it the building of a new house, the writing of a book, the start of a new journey, or starting a new yoga-studio business, Ganesha should always be your go-to guy! I didn’t know this, but after doing a bit of research, I found out Ganesha images adorn the walls of countless businesses across India, and it is customary for people to seek his blessings each morning.

Ganesha is actually a potbellied man with the head of an elephant, four arms, and a broken tusk. He is most often depicted as sitting with one leg folded beneath him. In three of his hands, he typically is holding various objects that are symbolic tools for enlightenment. The rosary across his body suggests that the pursuit of knowledge should be continuous. If you would like to learn more about the symbolism of Ganesha, I found Wikipedia to be a great resource (the part about how he got the elephant head should be made into a movie).

Since many of the students in the Basics Room are just starting their yoga journey, I love the fact that Ganesha is there to ensure their success, and for my first few classes, I used Ganesha to provide these pointers for the beginners:

  • During the practice of yoga, you will encounter many obstacles. Maybe it’s being able to touch your toes in a forward fold or to keep your mind present during class or finding the courage to do a headstand. Ganesha is here to remove those obstacles, to give us the strength we need, and to help us lose the fear of trying something new or uncomfortable.
  • Yoga is not meant to be perfect. It is a practice, a pursuit of knowledge that should be continuous. Don’t worry if you can’t do all of the poses today or if you can’t do them the same way a fellow student can; what is most important is to go where it feels right for your body. Listen to and honor your body in each and every yoga class, and know that each class is an opportunity to continue to learn and grow in your practice.
  • Finally, let Ganesha destroy your vanity and pride. No comparing yourself to others in class; this is not a competition. And no beating yourself up if you can’t balance in tree pose or go fully into a pose. No judgment, just acceptance of where your body and mind is today. It’s all good.

Ganesha’s fourth hand is always free, with his palm extended in a blessing. So, I wish Caroline many blessings with her new business venture and many blessings to the teachers and students as we begin new yoga journeys together at Yoga Bliss.

Image: Asif Akbar