Connecting with Your Power Animal

A hummingbird zooms into your kitchen. You go kayaking and encounter a turtle. You dream about a mouse. What does it all mean? Are these simply random events, or do these run-ins with fauna possess a deeper significance?

Cristie Newhart is the Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga and a student of the Jaguar Path, a school founded by Kripalu Yoga teacher Ray Crist that combines yoga and Peruvian shamanism. In her R&R talk on power animals, Cristie discusses how paying attention to these fellow creatures can open our eyes to a hidden world in plain sight.

Shamanic practices such as power animal connection unveil the “unseen world”—not just the world of animals and nature, but also our inner world, rich with symbolism and dream imagery. Animal encounters can open us to the inquiry of our existence and inspire us to ponder the ways in which we interact with the world around us and the world within us.

From a shamanic perspective, power animals help us get in touch with our intuition, just as yoga and meditation practice opens us up to the deeper aspects of our body, mind, and spirit. Shamanic traditions around the world use the archetypes of power animals as allies, advisors, and protectors on our life’s journey.

The modern, industrialized world, Cristie says, has driven us farther away from nature, creating disconnect. Exploring power animals is a way to reconnect with nature, and to acknowledge our bond with all living beings. The shamans honor and celebrate these bonds between humans and animals, and they teach that animals are guides that can help us discover who we truly are.

As Cristie points out, we, as humans, seek meaning and value from our interactions, which is what makes connecting to power animals a fascinating and useful tool for self-exploration. If you’re drawn to a specific animal or have had a compelling encounter with a certain animal, learning more about them, from both a symbolic perspective (what they represent in indigenous folklore) and/or a biological/ecological angle (their habitat, habits, and characteristics) can be enriching.

For example, the hummingbird encounter mentioned above. Turns out that hummingbirds, although small and delicate, are incredibly fast and resilient, and have the endurance to travel great distances during their migrations. That could be a reminder of your own strength and hardiness in the face of life’s challenges. For the Peruvian shamans, hummingbirds symbolize sweetness and joy. Perhaps a hummingbird is delivering a symbolic message about the importance of expressing gratitude for the sweetness and joy that surround you.

The meaning you find in a power-animal experience is unique and personal, Cristie says. She offers the following questions to consider next time an animal friend crosses your path:

  • How do you feel when you encounter this animal?
  • What do you associate that animal with?
  • How can this animal’s archetypes inform your life?

The power of your power animal, she says, is not in the answers it might provide, but in the journey of discovery that it can instigate.

Find out about upcoming programs with Cristie Newhart at Kripalu.

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