A History of Yoga
Who is Śiva (Shiva - meaning The Auspicious One)?
In the realm of yogic culture, Śiva is revered as Adiyogi, the primal yogi who originated the practice of yoga. He planted the seed of yoga in the human consciousness, igniting its transformative potential. According to ancient yogic legends, over fifteen thousand years ago, Śiva achieved full enlightenment and surrendered himself to an ecstatic dance amidst the majestic Himalayas. In the throes of his blissful trance, he moved with unbridled passion, and when his ecstasy transcended all movement, he embraced perfect stillness. Witnessing this extraordinary spectacle, people were drawn to the enigma unfolding before them, yearning to comprehend the ineffable experience unfolding within Śiva. They came, they waited, and eventually departed, for the yogi remained oblivious to their presence. Whether engaged in fervent dance or immersed in profound tranquillity, he remained untouched by the happenings around him, consumed by his divine connection.
Seated atop the mystical mountains of Kailash, the divine union of Śiva and his consort, the goddess Parvati, transcended into an elevated realm of consciousness. For a span of 25 years, they revelled in the boundless joy of their togetherness, uninterrupted and untainted by any worldly disturbances. Their divine union radiated an enchanting energy that captivated the entire cosmos, casting a spell of awe and wonder.
Just as ropes bind an elephant, he seemed to be bound by her face's loveliness and charming ways (Vanamali).
After an extended duration, the goddess Parvati gracefully released herself from the embrace of her beloved Śiva, her curiosity burning within her. "How can one attain this sublime state of being?" she inquired earnestly.
Śiva, the epitome of wisdom and compassion, responded to his beautiful companion, "Yoga, my dear, holds the key. Through Yoga, one can elevate their consciousness and liberate themselves from the shackles of suffering".
Fueled by an insatiable quest for knowledge, Parvati continued to delve deeper. "I yearn to unravel the principle that grants all beings the freedom from misery and allows them to bask in eternal bliss."
Śiva, the embodiment of enlightenment, replied, "Yoga is the salvation of humanity" (The Śiva Sutras).
Sat lovingly on Śiva's lap and looking adoringly into his eyes, Devi says;
"O Shiva, what is your reality?
What is this wonder-filled universe?
What constitutes seed?
Who centers the universal wheel?
What is this life beyond form pervading forms?
How may we enter it fully,
above space and time,
names and descriptions?
Let my doubts be cleared!?"
Śiva replies that doing is knowing. There is no other way. If one wishes to transcend the limitations of being human, one must surrender to Tantra (techniques). Śiva proceeds to pass on the earliest teachings of Tantra/Yoga. He says, "Radiant One, this experience may dawn between two breaths. After breath comes in (down) and just before turning up (out) – the beneficence".
The technique is for attaining a higher state of consciousness through breath awareness. The technique involves observing the breath as it enters and goes out and becomes fully present with each inhalation and exhalation. By maintaining this awareness, one may eventually become aware of the gap between two breaths, a moment of stillness where the breath momentarily stops. At this point, we are no longer of this world.
This technique, known as Anapanasati Yoga in the Buddhist tradition, was also practised by Buddha and is considered a foundational method for attaining enlightenment. Although associated with Buddhism, the technique predates Buddha and is not limited to religion. Its simplicity and effectiveness have led countless individuals in Asia to achieve profound spiritual experiences.
These profound exchanges between Śiva and Parvati form the essence of the deep wisdom encapsulated in subcontinent philosophy. It was through their divine dialogue that the invaluable gift of Yoga was bestowed upon humankind.
This brief blog forms part of our "History of Yoga" Teacher Training manual. For more information click on the link. A transformative experience awaits you :)