September 9, 2011

Around The World In 30 Asanas: Domestic Goddess ~ Joanne O.S. Kelly

Photo: Sanjay Patel

Perfect Balance or Oxymoron?

In a younger, more idealistic and yet somehow simultaneously cynical time of my life, I considered this phrase (domestic goddess) a total contradiction in connotations.

To be a goddess, I theorized, meant to embody that which you find divine: compassion, strength, wisdom, creativity, selfless nurturance.  Greek mythology most often portrayed the three goddesses known as The Fates as more powerful than the other gods, their predictions writing the course of all events, both human and divine.

In the Shinto tradition of ancient Japan, the sun goddess Amaterasu creates the island nation by gracing the earth with her life-giving light, after emerging from her cave to the sounds of a fabulous party outside (now that’s one way to make an entrance!).  And all things of the highest regard like nobility, wisdom, excellence in craft, healing ability, druidic knowledge and skill in warfare were, at one time, attributed to the Celtic goddess Brigit.

Photo: Amaterasu from Wikipedia

No question about it, goddesses were badass.

Compare these goddess associations to the term ‘domestic.’  By its very definition, ‘domestic’ brings us to the home (or home nation), and paints a quaint little picture of the happy nuclear family, perhaps enjoying dinner together at the dining room table, discussing the days events and tomorrow’s to-do lists.  Tra la-la tame, humdrum meal preparation, blah blah cleaning, yeah yeah nagging, and other similarly monotone tunes in life.

But the older I get, the more I realize that the two aren’t mutually exclusive at all, they’re actually perfectly complimentary, if we’re open enough and allow them to be. And why not clean with the verve of Athena and straight-up go to war with those dishes?  Have the patience and compassion to embody the goddess Kuanyin when faced with the complications of teaching children right from wrong.  Juggle driving the kids to music lessons, attending a parent/teacher meeting, picking up the dry cleaning and making four meals three times a day as though you have the many arms of Saraswati!

Photo: Fiona Sherlock


After all, what could be more goddess-like than actually growing a human being inside of your belly, then nurturing their growth into a happy healthy human?

Goddess Pose, on the Mat

Stand with your legs much wider than shoulder-width, outsides of the feet parallel to the mat.  Bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the earth and you can feel the strength of your legs and booty working to keep you buoyant.  Now, the subtleties of the pose!

Tuck the lower and middle belly into the core and sink a little deeper.  Bring control to the pose by engaging mula bandha.  Tuck the ribcage and roll the shoulders back so they support      your heart from behind.

Photo: “The Goddess Pose of Wood Dale, IL”

Raise the arms into cactus position, with the triceps parallel to the thighs, fingertips actively pointing upward, and the chest open and receptive.   Your neck is long and elegant, creating space between the shoulder and ears.  Chin slightly lifted, gaze soft and steady at an unmoving point in front of you.

With elongated breath spiraling in through the nose, down the spine and back up again, embody that which you consider goddess-like.  Pull from your ancestor’s mythology, or free associate words until something meaningful crosses your mind: shakti, energy, light, wisdom, courage, growth, bliss.

If you need something with more of a literary flavor to get you into goddess mode, a paraphrased version of the story of Durga:

In order to conquer the demon Mahish (who represented all that is grotesque and destructive about the ego), Durga was created by the gods and given each of their most deadly weapons: Rudra’s trident, Vishnu’s discus, Indra’s thunderbolt, Brahma’s kamandalu and Kuber’s Ratnahar. Riding atop a fierce lion, representative of power, will and determination, Mother Durga emerged from a sea of light to the mocking questions of Mahish who had already succeeded at striking down the gods in years of battle.  How could a woman, of all things, conquer the most powerful demon of them all

Photo: Durga from Wikipedia

Durga simply replied with laughter, its resonance so powerful earthquakes ripped through the land like a jackhammer.  She fought the demon with precision and grace, using each of the tools bestowed upon her to weaken the enemy, until finally, Mahish was conquered.  Durga is worshipped by Hindus as the Great Mother of all gods, savior even to the divine, and symbolizes the triumph of one’s will over temptations, skill over complacency, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil.

So sink that booty a little deeper and breath your way through another minute. This pose is not for the feint of heart!

This One’s for You, Ladies

Nigella Lawson first brought the concept of a domestic goddess to my awareness in 2001 through her now famous cookbook of the very same title.  It sat prettily atop my mother-in-law’s stove, a beacon of modern culinary craft.  Mrs. Holloway worked full-time as a lawyer, raised three amazing human beings, kept a perfect home, and cooked up a deliciousness worthy of more than her own food truck.

Photo: Ethiopian yummies & new yoga friends in DC

This pose is for all you domestic (and otherwise) goddesses out there!  For my aunts and cousins in Hawaii who bust out daily with full time jobs, long distance commutes, kids in school and programs, hardworkin’ hubbies, and a home to take care of!
To my mainland aunties, serving the community, dealing with teenage eye-liner battles, vacuuming dog hair twice a day, and still managing to keep in touch with your wayward Hawaiian niece!

Photo: House dog: your best friend, your vacuum’s worst enemy!


To my crew of amazing chicas, redefining the modern woman with style and grace!

To all you yogini goddesses out there, embodying the divine by flaming the fires of shakti both on and off the mat.  And to every single woman who’s ever shone in the face of adversity, who’s ever had to prove themselves more powerful than some person or organization that reeked of ignorance or hate.

Photo: Angelina Emily Grimke, a Southern woman and pioneer of abolition of slavery and women’s rights.


And finally, to all you dudes out there, unafraid of your innate feminine power and what it takes to harness it.  You know who you are!








Joanne O.S. Kelly is a Hawaiian yogini/writer traveling the world to visit family & friends, and offer service through yoga along the way.  You can check out the journey on The Weekly Jo or Yoga Lovin’, or connect on Facebook!

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