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September 15, 2013 / Melissa Yuan-Innes

My Year of Yes: Kali Yoga for My Birthday

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For my birthday, I’ll be teaching two yoga classes. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do. Googling around just got me a lot of people wanting to sell yoga birthday parties to kids (“What kid would want that?” asked my husband. He is a yoga heathen. Ignore him) and a few people who attended classes on their birthdays, because some studios will comp you, but nothing about choosing asanas for your own birthday.

Then I found this article and quote by Beryl Bender Birch: “According to some traditions, on your birthday you should do one drop-back from standing to Urdhva Dhanurasana for every year of your life.”

Well, that’s not going to happen. But it got me thinking about wheel pose/Urdhva Dhanurasana/chakrasana, that thing where you’re on your lying on your back, push up on all fours, and either look like a super cool arch or, if you’re like me, you’re just hanging out on top of your head, wishing you could push up.

So I started researching that, and I came across this video by Dr. Melissa West. What? Another Canadian Melissa doctor who does yoga? Yes, but she’s a blonde who’s a Ph.D. in Madonna, so you probably won’t mix us up. And she’s how I figured out the perfect theme for yoga on your birthday: Kali.

Kali is one scary-looking Indian goddess. She’s got three eyes. She’s got four arms, one of which holds a sword and another holding a freshly-severed demon head. She’s black, so she won’t be starring in any Aryan films soon. She’s naked except for a garland of fifty human heads and a girdle made out of severed human hands. And you usually see her standing on top of her husband, Shiva. He’s lying on the ground, and she’s got her feet planted on him, sticking her, big, red tongue out.

Plus, she’s all about change. She will flatten you and hand it to you while you’re still reeling.

Yeah. You really want to invite her to your birthday party now, right?

But wait! Kali kills demons, not people. Always handy to have someone who can save the universe. In fact, that’s why she’s standing on her hubby. She was fighting a demon that, every time it shed a drop of blood, it formed a new demon from that drop. It was impossible to defeat, until Kali drank every molecule of blood. Then she went on such a demon-slaughtering spree that Shiva was afraid she’d kill everything, so he fell at her feet. When she realized that she was standing on top of her own husband, she stopped her rampage and stuck out her tongue, pleased as a dog with two tails. So, no matter how destructive Kali seems, she will always pause.

Wars always end.

As Theodore Parker said, and Martin Luther King, Jr., summarized, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

And all those gory-looking attributes? Pretty perfect for a birthday, or at least my birthday.

The name Kali means time. Her three eyes represent the past, present and future. Nice!

She’s naked, i.e., in her birthday suit.

Her lolling red tongue means that she has a voracious appetite for all flavours in the world, and I love to eat.

The fifty-head-necklace symbolize the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, or infinite knowledge. I like learning, now that I’m no longer burned out from med school and residency. I’m on Coursera.org right now, doing a course in Modern Poetry.

Plus the all-important demon-slaying thing. I can’t say that I invited Kali into my life, but I spent a lot of my last decade reeling anyway. At one point, I would wake up and say, “Is anyone in my life dying today? [Pause to think.] No? Then it’s a good day.”

Every day you’re alive and happy is a good day. A birthday is just an excuse to celebrate one more revolution around the sun.

Thanks, Kali.

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2 Comments

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  1. Melissa West / Sep 16 2013 7:18 am

    Happy Birthday! May Ma Kali’s fire of transformation destroy all that is no longer serving you as you enter into a new year! 🙂 Namaste, Melissa

    • Melissa Yuan-Innes / Sep 16 2013 1:09 pm

      Thanks, Melissa! I look forward to a new year, learning more from you (and Kali). Namaste, Melissa II.

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