Honoring the Mother

This Sunday, we honor mothers. Relatively young as holidays go, Mother’s Day dates to 1907, when an American woman held a memorial service for her mother. She campaigned to make the second Sunday in May a nationally recognized holiday, and in 1914, her lobbying paid off … at least for greeting card companies, floral shops, candy makers, etc. She went on to protest the empty commercialism of the holiday, but by then it was a wrap … in pink ribbon and tulle, of course.

Here in the states, we give moms flowers, candy, jewelry, and 140 million Mother’s Day cards, spending nearly $2 billion on flowers alone. But if we look beyond the commercialism, we see that there is a long tradition across cultures celebrating motherhood, often in springtime. Fertility, renewal, and childbirth are associated with the feminine aspect of the universe, along with Earth and its satellite, the moon.

Roses have been associated with love, beauty, and hidden knowledge.

We find male and female symbolism throughout yoga. Samkhya, one of the traditional philosophical systems of India, and the foundation of yoga and ayurveda, is based on a dualistic view of the cosmos: pure Spirit (male) and the creative force (female). In asana, we honor the feminine with Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose), forward bends such as Upavista Konasana (Wide-Legged Forward Fold), Balasana (Child’s Pose), and most especially, Salamba Sarvangasana, the shoulderstand, considered the queen of all asana.

There is a cooling, relaxing element to feminine asanas, which focus on the parasympathetic division of the nervous system, our “rest and digest” state. Left-nostril breathing, the pranayama known as chandra bhedana (“moon passing through”) also cools the physical body and is excellent for treating sleeplessness or a restless mind. All these practices are nurturing and regenerative—qualities that we associate with mother love. More than ever, we need these qualities in order to find balance in our fast-paced, thought-dominant society.

Earth herself is nurturing and patient, endlessly giving—she holds us in her arms during Savasana. She supports and grounds us during meditation and pranayama. Prakriti—the feminine aspect of the cosmos—is the mother of us all, shaping our experiences and connecting us by our humanness.

On Mother’s Day, we honor those who’ve embodied the feminine aspect in our lives. Along with the flowers, the candy, the cards, we can also celebrate by remembering the creative, regenerative power that is essential to our earthly experience.

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