Everybody LOVES Ganesha. Of course, it's more true in India than some other places, but generally speaking, even westerners find great affection for this round-bellied and elephant-faced member of the Hindu pantheon. Ganesh, Ganesha, and Ganapati are all names for the same divinity and representation of life-force... It is said that this Ganesh guy is a remover of obstacles. So, it only makes sense that before embarking on any new venture, one would have a word or two with Ganesha. We might pull him aside and say "Hey Ganesha, I have this really good idea, and it's going to make me a few bucks but mostly, you know, I'm doing it for the good of humanity so for goodness sake please please please please make sure things go well for me, ok? OM Gam Ganapataye Namaha!" And then we might draw colorful pictures and posters; and make notecards, key chains and bumper stickers to remind us of Ganesha...to remind us to keep calling even though sometimes his land line seems awfully busy. So, that's one level.
On another level, Ganapati represents a foundational stability of consciousness. He is an elephant after all, and when we take an elephant in to our mind there isn't room for much else. Ganesha represents the earth element and the muladhara chakra, the sacrum, our connection to and seat on the earth. It is said that the energy of Ganesha resides in this base chakra.
It is from this grounding of our awareness in the body that we begin any yoga practice. We don't have to use his formal name to understand the consciousness he represents. Calling on Ganesha means grounding out, slowing down, finding our breath, feeling our feet, remembering to root ourselves to earth and to take all action from this point of stability. When we move in this way we are protected from all of those obstacles both mental and physical, that keep us from going more deeply into our practice. With luck, we move beyond the obstacles that keep us from getting to yoga class in the first place.