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How to Use the Durga Mantra and Yoga to Build Strength

Durga mantra is used to call upon your strength to transform.

“[Durga is] the patron goddess of the modern woman who juggles a job, children, and a yoga practice, and lives in a perpetual state of emergency while maintaining the calm of a Mona Lisa.” — Sally Kempton. 

Durga is the Warrior Goddess of Strength and Protection. It is Durga who battles ignorance, evil and darkness.

She reveals what we could not previously see and uses her sword to cut through the superficialities that coat the world with misunderstanding and mischief. 

Known as the Maha Shakta, aka the ‘great energy,’ Durga is the Great Shakti. She is Shiva’s consort and uses her strength to transform and destroy to make space for what is to come next.

Durga’s energy is all-encompassing; to acknowledge Durga is to acknowledge the deception, avoidance, or assumption that keeps you bound to old patterns and habits. 

One of the three Goddesses of the Tridevi—the Supreme Trinity of the Universe—Durga ends the rhythm so that the next phase can begin. The cycles are Creation, Preservation, and Destruction. Each cycle is associated with a Goddess and God of the Hindu Pantheon. 

Keep reading to learn the Durga mantra, origin story, themes, and ways you can embody the energy of the deities.

About Durga Maa and the Maha Maya

Durga translates from Sanskrit as a ‘fortress’ and represents the power behind all breakthroughs. She is the goddess who forces you to overcome fears and face challenges. She is the goddess who reminds us of our inner truth. 

Maha Maya – the great illusion 

She is the external energy of the supreme spirit that puts the veil (Maya) in front of our eyes to make us think that we belong in the physical world. She keeps us in the physical realm, and as we do our spiritual work (seeking, asking questions, inquiry), she shifts and becomes the Maha Yoga. – remover of the veil, so we remember our supremeness. She invites the transformation, and as we transform, so does she. 

Durga is seen as the Great Shakti, the feminine force that gives birth to the universe through Shiva, who represents ultimate consciousness. Durga reincarnates as Kali, Uma, Parvati, Bhavani, Lalita, and many other female goddesses. 

Why Call Upon Durga? 

“Durga is the power behind dramatic breakthroughs; she’s the strength you can draw on when you face challenging situations or deep backbends.” — Sally Kempton. 

We call on Durga when we need strength and a single-pointed focus to move forward. She is the Goddess for Transformation and reveals what is truly important. 

Invoke Durga For:
  • Physical, mental and emotional strength.
  • Personal empowerment.
  • Starting or completing a project.
  • Help in a challenging situation.
  • Facing the negative side of your ego.
  • Protecting other people or yourself.

Themes and Mythology of Durga

“Lakshmi’s Shakti is life-sustaining both in the physical and subtle realms. She is, subtly speaking, the water of life and the subtle nectar that moistens the heart.”
— Sally Kempton. 
Colors: yellow, gold, orange, red. 
Animals: lion and tiger. 
Objects: sword.

Durga was created out of a call for help by the Gods of the Trimurti. 

The demon, Mahishasura, was undefeatable. She is an amalgamation of various energies to combat the destructive forces of evil that present themselves. The Gods of the Supreme Trinity, Brahma (creator), Vishnu (sustainer), and Shiva (destroyer), were called upon to conquer Mahishasura and were unable to.

All the gods gathered, including the Trimurti, to create Durga- a supreme feminine force- and the only one who could defeat the evil demon Mahishasura. In slaying the demon, Durga presents us with the force to overcome evil. 

Durga is a symbol of hope for all who devote themselves to her as she appears to those who are pure to abolish vices such as hatred, greed, lecherousness, lust, and anger. She is a sign of liberation through suffering and shows that to transform, we must move past the limitations of the physical world and the ego while remaining present in what is. 

Durga is depicted riding a lion or a tiger to symbolize her strength and the deep solitude associated with going inward and moving through phases of transformation.

Lions lead and protect their pack with an undying fierceness. In the pride, the lioness is the huntress and the one who makes the kill to feed the young. 

One of her greatest attributes is her courageous and compassionate heart. 

The Relationship of Durga and Kali 

As the Great Shakti Maa, Durga has many incarnations through the female goddesses. Kali Maa, the Goddess of the Revolution, is one popular incarnation who appears when Durga is in combat with evil demons. 

Kali is the Goddess of the Revolution. She is also known as the Dark Mother and the Goddess of Time. Kali’s birth occurs when Durga is in combat with Shimbhu and Nishumbhu. In the fight, Durga calls Kali to her aid as there is so much blood around her. Kali springs out of Durga’s third eye and begins to lick up all of the blood. 

Listen to Durga Mantra and Mythology Lecture on the Practice with Clara Membership Site.

The bloodlust Kali experiences as she and Durga defeat the demons causes her to lose all control and she begins to destroy all that touches her path. Shiva appears and throws himself at Kali’s feet to stop her. In the image, Shiva is smiling and Kali dances above him, wearing a garland of skulls around her neck and a bloody and severed head in one of her four palms. 

Kali is depicted with a ferocious gaze and bloody hands. She is the ultimate destroyer and dissolver of ego, having defeated the demons representing greed and evil. She is also known as the Mother of Time as she carries the force of creation and destruction.

Durga Mantra and Meditation

Durga Mantra and Meditation 

​​Bija Mantra = Om Dum Durgayei Namaha

Meaning = Salutation to the force that brings us liberation through challenges.

“Dum” is the seed mantra for Shakti as pure strength. 

Chant this mantra when you need to connect to your pure strength and compassion. 

Durga Mudra and Meditation 

Mudras are symbolic hand gestures that evoke specific energy and affect the body and mind.

Durga’s mudra is known as Abhaya Hridaya, courageous heart.’

It captures the compassion and fierce energy of Durga Maa.

It is a gesture that empowers the individual to take action and draws upon the resilience and determination of Durga.

It may be used to connect you to your heart’s truth, eliminate fear, and incite courage.

How to perform Abhaya Hridaya:
  1. Cross your wrists so the back of your hands touch.
  2. Link your pinky fingers together and keep your ring fingers outstretched. 
  3. Link your middle and index fingers.
  4. Bring your ring fingers to the tip of each thumb.
  5. Bend your elbows to either side and bring the gesture to the heart space. 
  6. Bow your chin to your chest. 

Why We Use Mudras

A mudra can be used as a ceremonial symbol and clear energy pathways.

When the pathways are clear, we have more energy and clarity. In yoga, we call the energetic channels Nadis. The Nadis of the body carry the Prana (life force, vitality). 

Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism feature the use of mudras through symbolic iconography.

Yoga and meditation include mudras to move the Prana and generate a specific sensation or outcome. Anjali mudra is one of the more common gestures practiced in yoga and meditation. It involves bringing the palms to prayer at the center of the heart space.

Anjali means ‘to offer’ and symbolizes the merger of the right and left hemispheres.

It is the convergence of the poles and is performed to honor where we are, in the present moment, as a salute. With palms pressed together, and fingertips pointing upwards, Anjali mudra is often performed at the beginning or end of a yoga class. 

Chakras to Activate Durga’s Energy

Durga represents our will to power. She is the one who brings action from intention and a voice to our visions. For these reasons, Durga is expressed through Manipura, the third chakra.

Manipura, our power center, is located at the solar plexus. It represents our will, our purpose in life, and our ability to execute our passion. The element is fire, capturing the essence of this chakra with its heat, intensity, and ability to transform.

When Manipura is balanced, we can assert ourselves without becoming too aggressive or overbearing. There is a sense of fluidity and ease within our power, as we can ride the wave of momentum and opportunities that arise with a sense of pragmatism in executing our will.

Imbalances in Manipura chakra result in digestive issues, discomfort, and a feeling of powerlessness and lack of control. Misalignment in this chakra could appear as being overly rigid, demanding, egotistical, dogmatic, challenging, or on the other end, needy, clingy, and an utter lack of confidence and self-esteem.

Chakra translates from Sanskrit as ‘disk’ and refers to the energy points that link the physical and energetic bodies. 

See the Chakras Collection on the Practice with Clara Site.

The chakras are segmented into three different groups: the lower chakras (1-3), heart chakra (4), and upper chakras (5-7). The second chakra and sixth chakra express a polarity. Regarding placement, the second and sixth chakra directly oppose each other. Each work together within the context of their integration and affect.

The saying, ‘as above, so below is used to describe chakra polarity.

Hermes Trismegisto was the first to use the phrase. An Egyptian Sage noted to have created alchemy, Hermes Trismegisto is mentioned in occult literature and combined the knowledge of the material and subtle realms. His words are recorded in the Emerald Tablet and express that that which is below directly corresponds to that which is above and that the two accomplish the miracles of the One Thing.

4 Yoga Classes to Embody Durga’s Strength 

Durga Flow Vinyasa – Leg Balancing 

In this yoga class, you’ll move through wave theory sequencing and explore core-centric postures with leg balancing and twists to connect you to your inner strength and stability. Variations of plank pose, warriors, and lunges are featured and test balance and build heat. 

  • Style: Vinyasa
  • Element: Fire and Earth.
  • Strengthens quads, hamstrings, abdominals, obliques, and erectors. 
  • Lengthens inner thigh, outer hip, side waist, frontline. 
  • Benefits: Inner leg-line and core strengthening support the lower back and spine. 

Waterfall Lila Flow – Backbends

In this yoga class, you’ll move through a moving meditation and flow featuring twists and backbends. This class features Durga’s Sword mudra from a lunge and strengthens the core and back muscles to prepare you for bow pose. 

  • Style: Lila Flow
  • Element: Fire and Water.
  • Strengthens core and erectors, quads and hamstrings.  
  • Lengthens frontline, side waist, and scalenes – muscles at the side of the neck. 
  • Benefits: supports deep core stabilizers to prevent low back pain and injury.

What I Learn Lila Flow – Arm Balancing

In this yoga class, you’ll move through arm balancing and leg balancing poses to build heat and strength in the body. This class works with Durga’s Tiger and Shiva Nataraj to express the hips as you dance forward and back on your mat. Bow pose completes your practice.

  • Style: Lila Flow
  • Element: Fire and Water.
  • Strengthens core muscles and biceps/triceps to prepare for crow pose. 
  • Lengthens inner and outer hips, front of the pelvis, and front body. 
  • Benefits: stimulates release by activating the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system through vigorous movement and meditation to close. 

The Fire of Kali Vinyasa – Twists 

In this yoga class, you’ll move through a mantra, meditation, and mythology of Kali Maa- an incarnation of Durga- before Khapalbhati pranayama to stimulate heat from the inside. Leg balancing poses and twists prepare you for the peak pose, revolved hand to big toe pose. 

  • Style: Vinyasa
  • Element: Fire.
  • Strengthens the core muscles, inner leg (adductors), and outer hips (abductors). 
  • Lengthens hamstring and frontline with abdominal, chest and shoulder muscles. 
  • Benefits: aids digestion and removes stagnant energy/waste with poses and pranayamas. 

Questions to Consider for Durga:

  • What quality within yourself do you want to change? 
  • Where do you show up with a couragous heart? What do you do? 
  • What occurs when you connect to your compassionate heart? 
  • Who shows up for you with Durga energy when you seek support? 
  • How do you show up for others as Durga- what do you do? 
  • Where do you see a lack of Durga energy in your environment? 
  • Who are some of the role models in the media who appear as Durga?
  • What activities empower you with Durga’s force? When do you do them? 
  • Do you feel a balance of Durga’s strength and compassion- or does one speak more to you than the other? Why do you think this is? 
  • How do you listen to your heart- what allows you to hear its language? 
  • What reminds you of the bigger truth and removes the illusion – the Maya? Why do you think this is? 
  • Which of the goddesses do you feel most aligned with? Why do you think this is? 
  • Which of the goddesses do you feel the least attuned to? Why do you think this is?

Embracing the Shadow of Durga 

The shadow symbolizes the unmet needs and unrequited desires of the subconscious. It represents our most basic, instinctual needs that are repressed. It’s part of the unconscious mind that develops in response to what is not culturally or socially accepted. 

To understand the shadow, look at this blog post.

When in balance, Durga is capable of expressing compassion amidst the chaos.

One who embodies Durga’s force can be bold, brave, brash, and deliver harsh truths. Despite the aggressive output, those who receive Durga’s abrupt delivery of news or acerbic methods can feel her honorable motives underlying the course of actions. 

Without pure intentions and empathy, Durga comes off as brash, bullying, brutal, and self-righteous.

Her actions may appear dismissive, demeaning, derogatory, and demanding. 

Micro-managing and a need to control are two aspects of shadow Durga and are exposed when the Goddess is overwhelmed and not connected to her heart’s truth.

We see the outcome of Durga’s shadow in leadership that manipulates and suppresses others, extreme forms of criticism and judgment, and unnecessary conflict and violence. 

Shadow Durga may also appear dogmatic, overly rigid, and egotistical, resulting in a lack of self-esteem and confidence. 

Connecting to empathy and moving from a place of love will remind the shadow of Durga to come back. Another way to bring Durga into harmony is to do activities that make you feel empowered in your decisions and worthy of all you do.

You want to bolster your sense of self (not the ego self, the bigger Spiritual self) to realign with the wonders of Durga’s strength and presence. 

The Powerful Presence of the Archetypes  

“As with any powerful symbolic form, the Hindu deities represent, and in my experience actually can uncover, helpful psychological forces. They personify energies that we feel but may never have thought to name or invoke.” — Sally Kempton. 

Archetypes allow us to develop a strong point of focus through the embodiment of qualities, emotions, and behaviors that empower. Each archetype’s unique and precise characteristics create a foundation to explore qualities that foster growth, receptivity, and acceptance. 

Working with an archetype may assist with the release of stagnant/blocked memories, ideas, thoughts, and emotions. It may also support revealing the individual’s innermost desires, goals, needs, and expressions. 

Saraswati is a potent figure to work with to harness creative energy, refine attention to language in verbal and written forms, and enhance all aspects of learning, communication, and discernment. 

Advantages to Archetype Work: 
  • Influence behavior 
  • Universal role models
  • Invoke potent personality traits
  • Provide strength, focus, support
  • Lean on individual development

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