Since February is the month of LOVE, lets explore the divine union between Shiva and Shakti, the un-manifest and the manifest, energy and matter. The form is considered female in the philosophy of Tantric yoga and is personified as the mother goddess Shakti, the formless is male and personified as Shiva. The love affair between Shiva and Shakti is symbolic of the unification of the earthly realm with the heavenly realm in the heart of every person. The earths’ bio-spheric energy rises into the body to create vitality and with gravity pulls down through the body the invisible energy of the universe that creates heaven on earth.
The metaphor of the love between Shiva and Shakti is an ancient representation of the love of the formless, the universe or God, for all that is in the form of matter in the earthly realm. This philosophy pre-dates todays religions and yet can support every faith or give meaning to those without a religious practice. Every religion has the element of an invisible God energy and the nurturing mother that births life to form. The beauty of Yoga is that it can enrich any spiritual or agnostic view of life and even the atheist can embrace the idea of above and below, the earth and sky and the merging of these two through a folkloric relationship between two characters, Shiva and Shakti. The ancient Tantric story, that even pre-dates Hinduism of Shiva coming down to meet Shakti and Shakti rising up to meet Shiva is over 5000 years old.
As you teach yoga, you can bring awareness to the the union of heaven and earth in the heart. You can cue, to connect into the earth, to ground, to root down, to give into gravity and at the same time to lift up, the lengthen upwards and to reach the heavens. As you ground into the earth you can feel the energy of the great mother earth or Shakti rising up to the centre of your heart and as you lift upwards you can feel the energy of the great father of the heavens or Shiva descending into the centre of your heart where these two energies marry or unify.
The balance of female and male, gentle and strong, grounding and uplifting merge in one’s heart. This is why on the path of yoga we surrender the mind to the heart, to live from a place of love. We also find the male and female union in the breath, the inhale contracting and nourishing (the feminine aspect of the breath) and the exhale expanding and strengthening (the male aspect of the breath). The lower body is female, grounding into the earth, the upper body masculine, uplifting to the heavens. The back of the body male, with muscles that extend the body and the front of the body female, with muscles that contract or fold the body.
These two dualistic qualities that come together in oneness, exist in the asanas or yoga postures as well, with forward folds and twists offering a calming and cooling feminine quality and backbends and inversions offering a heating and energizing male quality to ones practice. The female asanas (forward fold and twists) are engaged with a masculine breath or on the exhale and the male asanas (backbends – keep in mind standing postures that are done in an upright position involve the use of the muscles that extend the spine and are considered to be like backbends – and inversions) are engaged and deepened with a feminine breath or on the inhale. In this way, there is always the feminine in the masculine and the masculine in the feminine. Even the energy of earth is solar, outside and inside at her core with a burning yellow fire, which is masculine and the energy of the universe is diamond white and feminine. One cannot exist without the other, there is a sacred union between these two dualistic qualities and each are equal in value. Shiva without Shakti is impotent, Shakti without Shiva is meaningless.