Invoking Saraswati, Goddess of Speech

Goddess Saraswati is typically depicted sitting on a swan by a stream; playing a sitar, holding a book in one hand and a necklace of pearls in the other. Her eyes are lustrous with a sweet glaze over them. She looks at you lovingly and radiates a deep sense of peace.

She is the goddess of speech, language and flow. Her name literally means, "the flowing one." Saraswati represents the importance of knowledge and how wisdom creates space for creative action. She is a muse for creative people: musicians, writers, artists, spiritual teachers. She inspires us to recognize our creative intuition and create a healthy relationship with communication, toward ourself and others.

In the beginning, surveying the formless chaos of inchoate matter and energy, Brahma felt confused and at sea. He had no idea how to fashion something out of that disorganized swirl. In desperation, he turned into himself and asked, ‘How can I create an ordered cosmos in the midst of this chaos?’

From within him, the Goddess (Saraswati) spoke. ‘Through knowledge,’ she said. ‘And from knowledge will come creative action.’
— Awakening Shakti, Sally Kempton

We can invoke Saraswati in our yoga practice and contemplate: how am I speaking to myself throughout my practice?

I invite you to bring this contemplation into not only your yoga practice, but your entire day. How are you communicating with yourself throughout your day? And how does that affect your interactions/speech with others?

On your yoga mat, how do you react when you fall out of a pose or can't quite get it that day? What is the first thing you say in your mind? Can you be mindful of that moment and change that thought to something positive? 

This kind of radical affirmation - saying yes! as much as we can (or saying no to something so we can say yes to something else) - is a worthy effort in our practice. It can change how quickly we progress. It can transform how we relate to a pose or feel while we are in it. 

Taking this quick moment to change a potentially harmful or negative thought about ourself, our body, or our practice into something more celebratory or appreciative, also has the power to loosen things up and teach us not to take life so seriously all the time.

When I think about this in my own practice, it brings me back to the magic of children. When they fall, they aren't embarrassed for having fallen. They get back up, like it never happened. We can learn from this. And we can start with our inner world. By invoking Saraswati and paying attention to how we communicate with ourselves first, we can then carry this into our world and benefit those around us.

We can celebrate others, encourage them, remind them that it's okay to not get it 'right' all the time. By healing how we relate to ourselves, we can heal how we relate to others. By adopting a lens of gratitude or playfulness rather than pressure or hardness, we can enhance our practice ten-fold.

And when we pay attention to our language and our speech, we inevitably learn more about our self and our relationship with self. When this happens, there is room for more creativity and for our creative potential to express itself. This can open windows and doors in our practice, revealing new places to move into and new ways to connect with our body.

At her subtlest, Saraswati lives in that pulsing space at the root of sound, where silence gives birth to creative possibility.
— Awakening Shakti

Homeplay

In your meditation:

In your meditation this week, try saying to yourself "I call on the Goddess of speech." On your inhale, you can silently say, "I call on" and on your exhale, "the Goddess of speech."

In your yoga practice:

Notice in your practice this week, if there is a moment (or moments) of negative speech toward yourself. This can be if you fall out of a pose, feel tight in your body, or can't quite get into that peak posture your teacher calls out. Maybe your mind is racing and you feel bad about it.

Pick one moment and use your awareness to, first, recognize this self-talk. Then see if you can turn it around. Can you turn this moment into one of radical affirmation? Be grateful that you are simply aware of this moment. Celebrate yourself for trying a pose. For even getting to your mat. Be thankful for those shaky muscles that mean you are getting stronger. Turn a possibly negative comment into a positive one and see how that changes your practice.

If you're finding it hard to do this for yourself, it can be helpful to first turn your attention to someone else. In that moment of negative self-talk or pressure or hardness, think about someone you love unconditionally. Someone who - no matter if they are right or wrong, good or bad - you still love wholeheartedly. In that moment, think about them and move for them. See how your practice feels when you move for another; when your physical expression is an extension of your love for that person.

Writing play:

Write three things (about yourself) that you are grateful for. These can be three qualities that you really love about yourself or things you find people often say about you. Keep that with you this week so you can call on it when there are moments of self-doubt or negative self-talk.