The Twelve Days of Xmas (Yoga Edition!)
by Camella Nair
“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me……..”
Most of us can recall at least some of the robotic incantations recited as a child of the popular Christmas carol entitled, The Twelve Days of Christmas.
I remember people banding together singled out the fifth verse especially, “Five gold rings!” singing it much slower and louder than the other eleven.
But what significance of this song that marks the twelve days of Christmas from the birth of Christ to his Baptism could possibly have for the ardent yogi, wary of religion and all the havoc it has created “in the name of Christianity?”
For many people Christmas is a time of partying, festivity and goodwill that spans from December 25th to Jan 6th or Epiphany (Baptism of Jesus). The symbolism of that alone makes me smile. Don’t we all seek an epiphany?
The path as we know is from unawareness or avidya to awareness or a realization that we are a more than our ego self. We need to step off of the wheel of samsara and the merry-go-round of habitual repetitive mistakes, and this is usually marked by a “satori” or a revelatory experience that is symbolized by the ritual of circumcision at a Baptism.
Many of the traditions are veiled with superstition of course, and I remember my mum would think it terribly bad luck to take down decorations before or after twelfth night. Much of our religious upbringing is based on fear of what will happen to us in this life or at the advent of the body’s death if we do something that is not deemed “right” in accordance with God’s law which is to say, man’s interpretation of God’s law.
But enough of the negative stuff…..what of Santa’s “pressies?”
What is the spiritual promise that lurks behind the three wise men’s gifts when they finally arrived at Christ’s manger after twelve days from the East?
Gold has long been a symbol of wealth which is more than just financial wealth but considered esoterically to the mystic to be one’s memory track. If avidya or forgetfulness is the reason for our “fall into unawareness”, then all we need to do is tap in to the vast collective unconscious to remember our true nature once again. The process of attaining Gold is alchemical and symbolizes God consciousness, power and perfection. It is resistant to corrosion and conducts electricity very well and so could be a symbol of the guna of Sattwa or Brahma the creator.
Myrrh, like Frankincense comes from the bark of a tree. It was used to dress wounds as well as a fragrance and worth its weight in gold for it could be used in embalming mummies, preparing them for the afterlife. The heavy, lunar guna of tamas linked to Shiva in Ayurveda.
The uncanny and tenacious trait of Frankincense allows it to grow even in solid rock formations, and it has a disc shaped base to firmly anchor itself lest a storm seeks to challenge its foothold. It is said to symbolize sacrifice and any aspirant on the path will tell you we get to do plenty of that. From giving up meat to our desire to eat the last piece of Christmas pudding!
Like Myrr it is valued as a fragrance and is used in aromatherapy, notably in rituals of passage throughout life. It is also known as “Dhoop” in Ayurveda and has a purifying effect if used as incense, clearing spaces of negative energy and promoting a more healing environment. Rajas would be the active guna that could best denote this gift of the Kings or Vishnu the great preserver.
The three become two as prakriti(matter) and purusha (spirit) unite, and in England particularly at this time of year Pantomime’s such as Cinderella where the lead male role is played traditionally by a pretty young girl and the comical female lead Dame is played by a woman enchant full capacity crowds. A humorous play on the matriarchal and patriarchal societies! Men and women are different and that is quite natural. Both have strengths and weaknesses. When they come together and balance one another that can be the ultimate fairytale.
So back to the song and how it’s symbolism can serve as a reference for the practicing yogi.
“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me………………………”
Day 1. Consciousness within a human body (a primary desire to emulate God).
Day 2. Various expressions of duality such as inhale/exhale, feminine/masculine, attraction/repulsion etc….
Day 3. Strands of energy (gunas) as passionate activity, inertia and equilibrium (faith, hope and charity in religion)
Day 4. Directions of movement. North South, East and West. (apana,udana,samana and vyana vayu’s)
Day 5. Elements that morph within the time and space earth realm (earth,water,fire,air,ether).
Day 6. Chakric levels that give animation to karmic proclivities. eg. limitation at the root chakra, greed at sacral and anger at navel.
Day 7. Astrological aspects that are the trigger for the karmic proclivities. Some bring harmonious karma and some bring inharmonious karma. (trine, sextile, opposition, square, conjunction, inconjunct, parallel of declination)
Day 8. Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga that help us to navigate within the system of yoga.
Day 9. The time it takes to forget what the heck we were coming back for. By the time we are ready to be born we have become allured by the senses and sense objects.
Day 10. Planetary forces that represent psychological urges within the human psyche. (Saturn relates to the element of earth. It can be viewed as confining or stable.)
Day 11. Two one’s make eleven! That special someone is out there for all of us. This person can get up close enough to be a mirror, reflecting back to us what is within our mind (one’s spouse typically).
Day 12. The areas of our life that need to become more balanced. Our natal chart! It is like a pie with twelve segments. Each segment represents an area of our life such as money, relationship with friends, home environment, career etc….
As we all know the song only has twelve verses and this is where anyone but the yogi can stop. For the yogi the individual is the anointed one, the Messiah, the 13th factor that can if they chose, step outside the mechanism of the habitual paradigm of the mind to change what has become ingrained, and cyclical. To think a new thought in other words!
As my Paramguru says, “A problem is just the inability to think the thought that will solve the problem in your life.”
Day 13. You as a spiritual traveler in time.
Sat Chit Ananda
(Reality Consciousness Bliss)
Camella Nair (Swami Nibhrtananda)
Yoga has been Camella’s passion for over 25 years. As a certified instructor for the past six, she has traveled, studied, and taught in India, England, and throughout the United States. She offers classes in every aspect of yoga, including vinyasa yoga, aqua yoga, pre-natal yoga, ayurvedic yoga, and meditation. She is the author of Prenatal Kriya Yoga: Mystical Wisdom in Pregnancy and Motherhood.
A direct disciple in the Kriya lineage, Camella’s roots in yoga began with her Guru, Enoch Dasa Giri, and Parmahansa Yogananda. She is ordained a Swami (i.e. “she who knows the Self“) by the Temple of Kriya Yoga in Chicago.
Camella enjoys volunteering her services at a local hospice and has a natural love of chanting and kirtan. She teaches courses for every level, from beginner’s yoga to yoga teacher training. Her success as a teacher can be credited in part to her irrepressible sense of humor and to her keen sensitivity to the needs of each of her students.