Shri Krishna sharanam mamah
Lord Krishna, be my refuge
Who was Lord Krishna and what’s he got to do with Yoga practice? Do you have to be Hindu to call on Krishna through a mantra like this?
Krishna is the Hindu god associated with love and compassion and Yoga. But rather than getting caught up in ideas about gods and religion, perhaps we might think of Krishna as an archetype, a personification almost, of the qualities of love and compassion. By chanting this mantra to Krishna we are calling to mind these qualities and encouraging ourselves to keep them at the forefront of our physical practice.
How do we practise with love and compassion? When things get tough, when our breathing becomes uneven, when we start to push ourselves further into poses or berate ourselves for not being ‘better’ in some way, can we use this mantra to remind ourselves to soften and let go of the criticisms and comparisons?
Sometimes it can be difficult to find these feelings within ourselves. We can be our own worst enemy! Finding a point of focus through mantra (meaning “beyond thought”) can take us out of our habitual patterns of thinking. Concentrating on someone we admire, or someone who seems to exemplify qualities we would like to cultivate, can be a powerful inspiration. Perhaps chanting to Krishna can help with this.
Asking Krishna to provide ‘refuge’ doesn’t mean that we should retreat or withdraw from the realities of life. Rather, if we can cultivate self-love and compassion through our asana, maybe we can awaken Krishna’s luminosity inside of us; Krishna is the archetype, there to remind us of qualities we have forgotten or buried. Perhaps when we walk out of the Yoga room we can more easily carry such feelings into the world and extend them to the people in our lives, or those we encounter fleetingly on the street or on the bus. The refuge Krishna offers is to find the faith to step out into the world with love even when it seems hard. It takes a lot of confidence. In times of difficulty or stress it is easy to draw into ourselves, turn away from the open-heartedness of love. We could say that Krishna offers protection when we need to feel some support as we dare to extend our love to others, or perhaps he offers solace or forgiveness when it’s hard to truly love ourselves and let go of our deep-held fears or emotional triggers.