Welcome to my latest blog on the Mahavidya wisdom goddesses of yoga. Today I introduce Dhumavati, the grandmother spirit, the old crone, and the elder of the goddesses.
In the post that follows, I will:
- give an overview of the symbolism from mythology.
- point out where we can see the presence of Dhumavati in our lives.
- explore what she has to offer us on a path of yoga, including the blessings/boons that come from awakening and embodying this goddess.
- share 5 yoga practices for you to do at home to awaken the gifts of Dhumavati.
If you would like to read my earlier blogs including the background of practicing with these goddesses of yoga, please see Kali and Lakshmi/Kamalamika.
But first, a background on what has lead me to explore this goddess
I didn’t plan to write my next feminine yoga blog on Dhumavati. To be honest, I have shied away from practicing and teaching with this particular wisdom goddess. Let’s face it, the old, lonely crone is not very appealing…at least at first glance.
In the recent months, Dhumavati (and her crows!) have flown into my life with what feels like a divine gift. Her presence has helped me navigate major life challenges, in particular the grief, that is arising from a few situations in my personal realm. Recently, I have been holding space for my 80 year old mother’s last stages of dementia as well as for my teenage son’s chronic illness and subsequent darkness of the soul.
These events have come on top of 6 years of major disappointments and losses for me and my family. In recent years, we have also suffered: my adrenal stress breakdown in a corporate career, my father’s death, my son’s diagnosis of Diabetes 1, and my husband’s diagnosis, treatment and recovery through cancer.
I have found practicing with Dhumavati to help me in many ways. Most importantly, she has helped me to navigate the layers of grief that are arising from my family’s trials. I felt a strong impulse to write this blog because of the profound experiences and support I have received from working with this goddess during this time. I have also begun to teach her wisdom in my yoga classes and workshops.
Dhumavati’s greatest gift is the transmutation of disappointment, failure, loss and grief. She is the goddess we can call on when we are navigating the ‘void’ within life’s disappointments. She is especially powerful during the big losses such as relationship breakups, chronic illness and death.
Dhumavati can help us not only ‘be with’ these challenges, but practicing with her can help transmute these experiences into wisdom and peace. In essence, through suffering we can learn compassion, patience, tolerance, perseverance, understanding and forgiveness.
I would like to add, whilst I have found yoga to be hugely beneficial to dealing with the pain and loss, it can at times be a journey. It is important to seek professional psychological support if you are embarking on exploring the terrain of disappointment, loss and grief as outlined in this blog. In the ‘yoga world’ we need to be mindful of the ‘spiritual bypass’ which can be the tendency to jump to spirit prematurely, usually in an effort to avoid the difficult shadowy aspects of being human in our earthly reality. It can of course be tricky to explore the shadow world on one’s own, as by its nature it is hidden, and has in my understanding been built up out of our our deepest fears, and a need for self-protection.
Who is Dhumavati, the Archetype, and Why is She Important to Us?
As with all of the goddesses, examining the iconography of Dhumavati can help us gain a better understanding and connection to her energy. We can then invoke her wisdom into our embodied yoga practice.
Dhumavati is the grandmother spirit, the crone, the widow. She is the elder amongst the 10 Mahavidya goddesses and is an ancestral guide for the other younger goddesses. Here she is pictured as the 7th Goddess from the left in a stalled chariot with her crow.
Each of these goddess archetypes are a part of our psyche and lives. Some are more prevalent during different ‘seasons’ of our lives and some may be laying latent and unexpressed waiting for us to discover their power when the time is right. I want to point out that we are able to awaken any of the goddesses regardless of our own age and stage of life. We do not need to be older women to invoke and receive the boons of practicing with Dhumavati, just as we do not need to be sixteen to invoke the goddess Tripuri Sundari!
In the next section, I will unpack some of symbolism and meaning of Dhumavati including: her name ‘the smoky one’ and the portrayal of her as the crone – an old ugly widow who is alone, with just a crow for company, sitting on a stalled chariot with a winnowing basket.
Dhumavati – ‘The Smoky One’
dhum means smoke, hence, Dhumavati means ‘smoky one’, the one who is composed of smoke. The symbolism of smoke is paradoxical, as is the power of Dhumavati.
At one level, the experience of hardship and suffering, or the ‘smoke’, can cloud our vision and understanding. Her smoky darkness can take us into the clouds of pain and difficulty that accompany disappointment, loss, ageing, illness and death. These circumstances can seem to block out the light causing us to feel lost and bereft.
On another level, her smokiness is a gift. Dhumavati’s gift is obscuration. By obscuring all that is known, she reveals to us the depth of the unknown and the un-manifest. The smoke offers us the capacity to reveal a deeper truth beneath the illusionary world of our current state of awareness. Dhumavati helps us to let go of attachments to perceptions by looking through the smoke screen and revealing what is underneath or beyond. When we can finally see what is hidden, it can bring us great freedom and a sense of deep relaxation.
Uma Dinsmore-Tuli reflects that Dhumavati can help us to see all angles of a situation, and through cultivating a sense of detachment and perspective we can gain a deeper insight. We can “see the light in the cloud… and can appreciate the power of time as a healer” p414
The Symbolism of the Crone, a Lone Widow with a Winnowing Basket on a Stalled Chariot
Most imagery of Dhumavati portray her as old, ugly, disheveled, and skeletally thin. Half of her teeth are missing, her wild hair is matted, and she wears dirty old rags. There is a sharp look on her wrinkly face. She is, in essence, a bag lady.
Below are some images of Dhumavati that I share in my yoga classes. I find using black and white images can be helpful in minimising any cultural overlay of meaning.
Dhumavati (Artist Nirlipta Tuli from Yoni
Dhumavati’s ugly, fearful appearance is not intended to frighten us, but instead to reveal the danger of considering sensory pleasure as bringing fulfilment. She teaches us to look beyond apparent beauty to inner truth. Teaching us the negative side of life, she liberates us from the attachment and unfolds the inner reality Frawley, 1994, p126
Dhumavati and her crow. Artist: Rabi Behra (www.exoticindia.com)
As Kempton (2013) describes, Dhumavati is seen sitting on a stalled chariot which represents “the stillness of the eternal present.” Here Dhumavati exists as a potential force until the experience of suffering awakens our consciousness and provides us with the motivating, directional focus to release her immense energy.
One of Dhumavati’s hands is held in cin mudra, the gesture of knowledge. In the other hand she holds a winnowing basket. This represents the power of discrimination whereby we can separate the grain (the ‘real’) from the chaff (the ‘unreal’). As Frawley points out, the winnowing basket represents the need to discern the inner essence from the illusory reality of outer forms.
Without passing through Dhumavati’s winnowing basket, we remain trapped by our dreams of success, our fear of loss… With her grace, we can mine the exquisite wisdom hidden in the heart of life’s most difficult moments. Kempton, 2013, p222
The basket represents her power to teach us discrimination through suffering, and how we come to understand what really matters in life. As Uma Dinsmore-Tuli describes, at the end of the sorting process we discard the chaff in the same way we learn to discard thoughts and beliefs that no longer feed life and the growth of spirit.
Dhumavati is Kali as an old woman. She is time that has passed. She gives us the wisdom to recognise that change, transience and impermanence are the only constants in life. She give us the power to live with our presence, and the focus on what truly matters free from attachment.
In the mythological stories, Dhumavati is portrayed as a lone old woman, a widow with no male consort. She represents the power of solitude. As Sally Kempton says, Dhumavati brings great comfort in being alone, so much so that we can find that we crave time alone. It is an aloneness that is not gripped with loneliness, rather an aloneness that brings a kind of solitude that is very happy to stand outside from the game of life.
When I was 45 years old, I first experienced the wisdom of Dhumavati in my yoga teacher training. I felt the comfort and peace in being alone, holding the many deep emotions that I was experiencing with my husband’s cancer diagnosis. I also observed that the younger women in the course (I was the oldest) did not seem to embrace this particular goddess. As Sally Kempton reflects, most young people have too much bubbly energy and an urgent desire to surrender to a path of giving up and letting go.
Dhumavati is a widow, with no male consort. This has significant meaning. In Tantra, goddesses are understood to be half of the Shiva/Shakti pair representing consciousness (Shiva) and energy (Shakti). Dhumavati, on the other hand, is solitary. She is the only goddess of the 10 Mahavidya wisdom goddesses who does not have a male consort. In this way she can represent the unsupported feminine.
“Dhumavati is the feminine, devoid of the masculine principle. She is Shakti without Shiva, as a pure potential energy without any will to motivate it. She contains within herself all potentials and shows the latent energies that dwell within us” Frawley, 1994 p122
Traditional practices in India advise that married or household devotees should not practice with Dhumavati. I assume that it is believed that invoking her power will dissolve marriages and relationships. However, it makes me wonder if this is yet another aspect of patriarchal culture that represses the wisdom of the wise woman.
By denying or suppressing this archetype, we sadly miss out on her profound teachings. Now that contemporary tantric texts are available to us (including David Frawley (1994), Sally Kempton (2013) and Uma Dinsmore-Tuli (2014), the teachings of this crone goddess are readily accessible. We can more readily awaken and embrace the wisdom of the grandmother/crone into our lives and society.
The crow is Dhumavati’s animal emblem. The crow can be seen either sitting beside her or as portrayed on a flag attached to her chariot. In Hindu belief, crows are considered ancestors as seen during the practice of Śrāddha- the ritual that is performed to pay homage to one’s ‘ancestors’, especially to one’s dead parents. This imagery has personally brought me great meaning during this time of holding space for my dying mother in her long and drawn out experience of dying from dementia.
Below is an overview of symbolism of the crow from shamanist traditions, including that from my medicine cards (Sams and Carson, 1988). I am struck by its parallel symbolism with Dhumavati and how the archetypal symbolism of both crow and crone from different traditions bring a similar medicine and message.
The crow is associated with life, mysteries and magic. Crows are considered to be the keepers of the Sacred Law/Lore. Nothing escapes their keen sight. Just like with imagery of Dhumavati, they are often portrayed with sharp, clear eyes. Crows are also symbolic of hearing the ‘unheard’ sounds, as they can hear very low sound frequencies, that which the human ears cannot hear.
The crow can be seen as the archetype of the trickster. If you see a crow, it is thought that you should be aware of deceiving appearances. Again, we see a parallel with Dhumavati’s ability to see through the smokescreen of illusion.
Other traditional meanings associated with the crow include: death, inauspiciousness, darkness and decay. The crow can also be a deeply powerful symbol of transmutation or transformation through death as well as the void or core of creation.
When we meditate on the crow and align with it, we are instilled with the wisdom and knowledge beyond the limitations of one-dimensional thinking and laws.
Where Can We See Dhumavati in our Lives?
As with all the goddesses, we can see Dhumavati in different aspects of our internal and external world. The more we practice with these wisdom goddesses, the more we come to see and feel their Shakti energy everywhere. In the recent months as I have practiced with Dhumavati, I have been astounded by how visceral and real the imagery has become.
I have seen crows each and every day in different circumstances, calling me to reflect deeply on this medicine. I have journeyed with crow medicine through a number of shamanic drum journeys. Each day I see crows in my garden or whilst driving through the countryside. I see them sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs, and oftentimes in groups. I have seen them eating dead kangaroo carrion on the side of the road. And if I am not seeing them, I often hear their call, “CAW!”
I have been harnessing the wisdom of these shamanic messages by reflecting on my thoughts or what is arising for me in the moment when I see/hear the crow, which brings greater consciousness to the moment.
Despite seeing so many of them, I have found it very difficult to take a clear photo of the crow. I have heard this from several bird photographers as well. This demonstrates to me the transient nature of this medicine, the surrendering and the letting go.
Because she is an old woman, we most obviously see Dhumavati in the elderly. We can also see her in homeless people, in the ill and in the dying. We can see Dhumavati en masse in old age homes. I have been contemplating this deeply in my recent visit to my mother’s old age home dementia ward.
My Mum, Jenny Mallick, at St Annes Nursing home, April 2018, 80 years old (Photo by Jane Mallick)
As I have been immersing myself in my practice with Dhumavati, I was struck on two occasions by how the physical manifestation of this goddess can present in our body. First, I started to feel the growth of a small clump of wiry hair growing on my chin. It felt to me as if I was growing a hairy wart on my chin, conjuring up the symbolism of a witch. Whereas in the past during my days in the corporate world I would have been horrified, I have become quite fond of this growth during these months of practice with Dhumavati.
Secondly, one of my regular students, on the night of the Dhumavati class, messaged me to tell me that she had broken a front tooth and that she was very embarrassed so she would be slipping in and out of class unseen. At the end of the class, I caught a glimpse of her after the meditation with her beautiful toothless cheeky grin beaming across her face! In this moment she was to me the perfect embodiment of Dhumavati.
We can also see Dhumavati in the natural world. In the cycle of the moon, she is represented by the end of the moon cycle – the Dark Moon. We can tune into the energy of Dhumavati in the blackness and the void on these moonless nights. She is further represented by the season of winter and the coldness, darkness and bareness that it brings.
Oak Tree in Taradale
Our Nashi Pear Trees in Winter
Winter trees in Taradale. Photos by Jane Mallick
On an emotional level, we can feel Dhumavati in our lives when we experience loss or disappointment. She shows up especially in areas of our life that we are very ‘attached’ to. Dhumavati represents the negative aspects life: disappointment, loss, frustration, humiliation, defeat, sorrow and loneliness. She is the ‘dark night of the soul’. When all that we know is gone and we can no longer see a path forward.
It is often through external forces like illness, disappointment, endings and death that we are introduced to Dhumavati. She shows up in our bigger losses when we are in mourning and in states of depression and hopelessness. We can also experience her at any point in our own lives. All of us, at some point will experience disappointment, loss and suffering. It could happen at an early age or all at once and ultimately, all of us will meet the Dhumavati energy when we face our own deaths.
You may ask why invoke this goddess? At the surface, it hardly feels enticing. But if you look deeper, you will see that she has subtle and profound boons to share.
As Sally Kempton says in her Dhumavati Shakti Meditation:
Dhumavati might not be a goddess you choose to turn to and awaken and embody. You may not need her, nor identify with her energy right now, but know that she is here and that you can call on her as and when you need her. Kempton, 2013
Dhumavati Medicine and Boons
I will now describe some of the gifts and boons of practicing with the goddess Dhumavati, including examples from my personal journey and that of some of my students.
The Art of Surrender
Dhumavati offers us the gift of letting go. Whilst Kali is also a goddess of letting go, in my experience Dhumavati’s medicine can be felt much deeper. Kali helps us navigate the blockages in our path and is often expressed in ferocity and anger. Dhumavati’s energy, on the other hand, is expressed in stillness and surrender.
There can be so much tension and anxiety in trying to control aspects of our life. Dhumavati can show us that when we let go of control of expectations and outcomes, we can experience a profound sense of peace.
As a highly anxious person, I have spent many years of my life trying to control many aspects of my life. This all changed during my mid-life crisis, where a whole series of events, one by one, called me to let go and surrender. I have found that the only way through these challenges has been to let go of expectation.
The first time I experienced the power of letting go is when I left my corporate job and I had to release the identity that I had spent years building. In the end I found peace in letting this identity fall away to a point where all that remained was my deeper self.
More recently, practicing with Dhumavati has helped me let go of anxiety as well as control of my son’s health. I know intellectually that it is part of his rite of passage as an adolescent to navigate his own life journey, including his chronic health challenges. But, as a mother it is one of the hardest things to see our children suffer. My practice with Dhumavati has been a key medicine for me to navigate this time of transition in our relationship.
After my yin yoga class with Dhumavati, one of my students (M.W.) shared with me how she experienced the goddess’ medicine. As an older woman practicing with the archetype of the crone goddess very much resonated with her. She described how in the week prior to the class, she had had a really difficult week, one in which she had held herself to unrealistic expectations.
Our practice with Dhumavati helped her to recognise and accept her own wisdom, whilst helping her to let go of the expectations and subsequent punishing thoughts. In doing so, she felt a greater acceptance of what is, as well as a deep peace and understanding. She described feeling more room for acceptance of herself and others, and for life in general.
Dealing with Disappointment, Loss and Grief
Dhumavati is the goddess that helps us navigate the ‘negative’ aspects of life. She represents the good fortune that come to us from misfortune – the auspiciousness that can arise from inauspiciousness.
“Disappointment is a multilayered teacher. Not many of us would choose to apprentice with her, yet sooner or later, most of us do. People disappointment us, luck runs out, status declines, strength fails us. Then the goddess Dhumavati flies into our awareness, accompanied by her crow, a harbinger of worldly misfortune, who ironically also bestows the inner gifts of detachment, emptiness and freedom. Kempton, 2013, p221
To be able to receive the gifts of disappointment and loss is a rare skill and not something that we are necessarily willing or choose to open to. This is where Dhumavati is a valuable guide, a helpful medicine for us to invoke in our yoga and our lives.
All of us have experienced disappointments and loss in some way or form: relationships break down, we or our loved ones suffer from illness and people around us die. All too often, the grief associated with loss gets tucked away, often pre-emptively, and we move on. We are often encouraged (or required) to return back to the functioning world. Grief can become lodged and stuck. This can limit our ability to grow and move forward in life. It can limit our ability to love.
Yoga asana can be a powerful tool for connecting with these deeper emotions that are held within the body. As we open the energy in the body, emotions can be free to move.
I often find that emotions are unlocked through my yoga practice. In my early days of practicing yoga at an ashram in London, I recall a class where practicing Cobra/Bhujangasana opened a huge amount of tears and emotional release for me. I also remember there was no acknowledgement nor checking in with me from the teacher, which for me established the tone that the expression of tears and emotions were not welcomed into the yoga.
Since then, after practicing many styles of yoga and feminine embodied practices, I now embrace and move with the emotions as they arise adapting the practice to what is needed in the moment. Practice with Dhumavati has further helped me to be with and enter further into the layers of grief. Dhumavati can bring a reverence to the sorrow and disappointment that we can feel.
I have found as I surrender to the feelings of grief and sadness, the wave of tears flow. The tears last for few minutes, followed by a sense of peace and stillness that arise after emotion has fully moved through. I also notice the attachments and perceptions in the stories of these past experiences begin to dissipate.
Seeing Truth Beyond the Illusion
Dhumavati as the ‘smoky one’, helps us see through the illusionary world, taking us inward to reveal a deeper truth. She invites us to be with the deeper inner reality, and can help us transmute desire leading us to experience deeper truth and wisdom.
This year, I burnt a massive bonfire for Samhain, from trees and branches that had fallen during a ferocious storm last summer. Samhain is a traditional Northern European festival that marks the beginning of winter. I made a Dhumavati ceremony of it.
As I burnt the bonfire, I was alone calling in and meditating on Dhumavati to hold me, in my holding of my mother’s dementia, my son’s illness, and the layers of grief that were coming up for me. I drummed my medicine drum. I spent time gazing into the smoke. I watched the smoky translucent layers that dance around. I watched as they disappeared and then reappeared. I saw the dance between the flames of Kali, burning away the old, and the smoke of Dhumavati.
Photos by Jane Mallick. Samhain 2018: Dhumavati ceremony.
Through this practice I experienced deep and gentle waves of grief that moved through me, followed by deep feelings of peace. At the end of the ceremony a rainbow appeared. To me awakening the deeper beauty that lies beyond our illusionary world.
Finding Peace in the Void
Dhumavati is the void, where all forms have been dissolved and nothing can any longer be differentiated. When what we have known no longer applies.
As Sally Kempton says in her Dhumavati Shakti Meditation “In any creative, growth process or change process, there is a difficult but necessary stage of void. All efforts have been fruitless, nothing is working. You know there is further to go, but you don’t know how to get there”.
The void is often felt or described as darkness, as is the Dhumavati energy. However as Frawley points out the void can be a Self-illumining reality, free of the ordinary duality of subject and object. It is not just emptiness, but rather it is the cessation of the movements of the mind.
The Black Void. Photo by Jane Mallick I ‘accidentally’ took this photo during my recent Samhain ceremony.
Practicing with Dhumavati can help us to sit and be ‘with’ the void, the not knowing. She can help us to look within, into the darker, shadowy, more painful aspects of life. Her form is not pleasant or appealing, but rather shows us the dark shadow of the world so that we are no longer entranced by its superficial joys.
When we sit in the unknown, in the void, what can arise is a knowing from a deeper place of wisdom. Dhumavati can reveal to us the imperfect, the transient, unhappy and confused state of ordinary egotistic existence so that we can then transcend it.
As both Frawley (1994) and Kempton (2013) point out, if your goal is to move deeply into meditation consciousness, Dhumavati is an essential part of the journey to awakening.
From Dualistic Thinking to Greater Wisdom and Freedom.
We live in largely a dualistic world. Dualism is defined as the conceptual division of something into two opposed or contrasted aspects, or the state of being so divided. (English Oxford Living Dictionary). Dualistic thinking can contribute to great suffering in our modern world.
Non-duality, on the other hand, is a state of consciousness in which the dichotomy of I-other is transcended. Non-dualistic teachings and meditation/contemplation practices can be seen in many eastern and western spiritual traditions.
Dhumavati offers us a powerful window into the transcendence of duality. In my yoga teacher training, I recall being so inspired and awakened by the Dhumavati practice and my experience of the embodiment of non-duality through the yoga asana, meditation and contemplation practices. I had a clear vision of how much of a struggle and how exhausting the dualistic western mindset had been on me, my body and my life.
Through meditating and invoking Dhumavati, we can cultivate a sense of detachment from our possessions, relationships and identities so that we can experience a deeper truth. We can cultivate a ‘birds eye’ view from the perspective of the higher self, looking down at the parts that play out in our lives. Just like the crow’s sharp and wise perspective!
Dhumavati can also give us the paradoxical wisdom of forgetting. I was struck when I last visited my mother in her last stage of dementia, She can no longer talk nor move and her functional memory was lost years ago. Whilst this may seem a very scary existence, on this visit I found peace in how free she was from attachments to the world.
This can be a refreshing viewpoint for us as we age, and find our sharp mind and or memory fading. In later life, when we review our many decades of accumulated experiences, we can choose to let go of or forget the aspects of our lives that bind us to a limited understanding of who we really are. We acquire the discriminative power to choose to forgive and forget those experiences and people who distract us from a purer state of being.
Summary of Dhumavati’s Boons
On the path of awakening, there will be many times when we are called to ‘die’, to let go of someone, or something. At these moments she is there, holding out her hand to guide us through disappointment, loss and grief and showing us that there can be peace and freedom on the other side.
Dhumavati takes us down into a cave of the soul, and when we follow her, she shows us the spring that bubbles up out of the empty places of the heart. Kempton, 2013, p 227
So I would like to finish with a reflection from one of my students in her recent discovery of the archetype of Dhumavati.
“From the moment I saw an image of her, I felt a strange connection to her. I liked that she was alone, and often seen riding on a crow. Perhaps it was because I often walk alone, only accompanied by crows.
Unlike the other goddesses, she was ordinary looking (with 2 arms!) – and not beautiful like Lakshmi, or fierce like Kali or talented like Saraswati. She is the goddess of misfits, freaks, losers and outsiders, which in a time when social conformity and conservatism seems rife, sits and suits me well.
She is sometimes seen holding a winnowing basket, to sort the grain from the chaff. I enjoy this no-nonsense approach – her age and wisdom giving her the ability to cut through the crap! At this stage in my life I have found myself without any elders, and this is an absence I am keenly aware of. Dhumavati, to some extent, fills this space.
I have been through many struggles and challenges in the past decade, which seem never ending. Dhumavati taught me, that instead of asking ‘Why Me?’ or ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ or ‘How can I change these things?’ that when everything else around me break downs or is taken away it may be better to surrender and yield and instead focus on caring for my inner equilibrium.” L.D.
5 Practices to invoke the wisdom of Dhumavati
The repetition of a mantra can be a way to invoke the energies of the goddesses. I know that some feel uncomfortable with repeating a Sanskrit mantra, so maybe you would prefer the English mantra:
Letting Go can be Dhumavati’s simplest and deepest medicine.
If you would like to use a Sanskrit mantra, here is an easy and accessible mantra:
Dhum dhum dhumavati svaha
Dhum as ‘smoke’, to obscure. This mantra can obscure or darken our perception and any false light. And then as we ‘see’ through the smoke we can gain access to a deeper inner truth. Smoke can also invoke a protective smoke that shields us from any negativity.
2 . Meditation: smoking ritual and/or sound meditation
Smoking ritual: Create some form of a ritual around fire and smoke. You could burn a fire, if you have a place to do so. Create smoke or smudging. Or you could simply light a candle and observe the smoke.
The practice could include gazing into the smoke and gently holding in your mind the sorrow or disappointment you feel.
3 Yoga asana practice
Yin Yoga is a wonderful practice for working with Dhumavati. You may like to include any of the lung and large interesting meridian postures with a focus on looking inward, surrendering and letting go. For example, open wing/scorpion pose, sphynx or seal pose, and full forward fold/caterpillar pose.
4. Exploring the imagery of Dhumavati
Find an image of Dhumavati. Maybe one of the images here in this post, or search and find an image that resonates with you.
Print this out and put it on your alter, or a place at home or work that you will see the image often. Be curious…
- what do you see?
- what is invoked when you see and feel into the image of Dhumavati?
5. Yoga nidra practice
We can awaken and embody Dhumavati when we practice yoga nidra, savasana and deep sleep, whereby we consciously practice letting go, surrendering and entering the void.
Yoga nidra is a particularly powerful Dhumavati practice. It is, in essence, an awake and conscious sleep where we are guided back through the layers of consciousness to the pre-creation experience of pure bliss, to a time before our consciousness became identified with names, forms, distractions and illusions. Yoga nidra can give us the capacity to detach from all that is extraneous and irrelevant and instead connect us with a deeper truth and reality.
Uma Dinsmore-Tuli suggests that including the Dhumavati energy in our yoga nidra practice can help us to face our own mortality, and in essence to prepare for our death.
Please note: if you don’t have a yoga nidra practice already, you may like to explore the many free practices on Insight App. I recently found this yoga nidra Healing Darkness for Sleep by Jennifer Piercy, that feels to me like a Dhumavati practice.
You can use the following instructions next time you settled down to a yoga nidra practice, savasana, or you can even practice this before going to sleep at night. I personally have found this profound practice to cultivate relaxation, and an embodied peace and acceptance.
Instructions: (adapted from Uma Dinsmore-Tuli)
- Imagine that you are laying down your bones for the last time.
- As you experience the heaviness, sense your dead heavy bones returning down to the earth.
- As you experience lightness, sense your lifeless body going up in smoke, wafting high into the sky.
- Now, spend some time alternating between these two experiences.
- Through this process you may like to reflect on the reality that no matter how strong and healthy your body is, at some point we have to leave aside this physical vehicle.
- It makes sense to bring this awareness of being in deaths anteroom to consciousness, and to get intimate with the inevitability of death and of our mortality.
Brown, J (2014) 10 ways to bypass the real. Elephant Journal 21 March, 2014
Frawley, D. (1994) Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses. Lotus Press.
Kempton, S. (2013) Awakening Shakti: the Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga. Sounds True.
Kempton, S (2013) Shakti Meditations: guided practices to invoke the goddesses of yoga. Sounds True.
Sams, J and Carson, D (1988) Medicine cards: the discovery of power through the ways of animals. Bear and Company.
Taylor, L (2014) Notes from Sacred Journey into Yoga Teacher Training. For More information go to Lorraine Taylor Yoga for her 200 hour Sacred Journey into Yoga for Women, a month long ashtanga vinyasa yoga teacher training journeying with the Ten Mahavidya Goddesses.
Uma Dinsmore-Tuli (2014) Yoni Shakti: A woman’s guide to power and freedom through yoga and tantra. Yoga Words.