Far from being seen as idols relevant to another time or religion, the Hindu deities have a lot to tell us about here and now! It’s no wonder the modern yoga world has embraced them and made them fashionable – they seem mysterious and representative of a mythology we know little about.
Hinduism (as a religion) evolved quite separately from Yoga – and at no point does Yoga philosophy tell us we need to be religious – yet we often still see the two tied together via these images.
As a teenager I was drawn to the gaudy colourful posters of the Hindu Trinity (Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma) despite not knowing anything about them. I loved burning sickly incense sticks in my bedroom – the mystery of it all being the appeal!
The fascination with yoga started a little later…
One of the reasons Hindu deities were created was to explain the results of our actions. Cause and effect is a big part of their stories. And in this context they may be helpful on our life and yoga journey.
Shiva, for example, is an image associated with destruction – a word that provokes fear for most of us. Yet Shiva’s destruction is not negative. It is a positive, nourishing and constructive destruction that builds and transforms life and energy. When Shiva dances (so the story goes) he dispels ignorance and fear and instead brings faith, hope and wisdom to those who follow.
Old things ending and new ideas manifesting – the stuff we are regularly faced with but sometimes want to run a mile from…
In this context Shiva becomes (for me) a symbol of my yoga practice.
The ebb and flow of the practice as an ever changing cycle….
As my body changes on the mat each day I get to become familiar with endings and beginnings…
As my mind throws up resistance to getting on the mat some days I get to become familiar with asking for faith…
As change becomes familiar in my internal life I become less threatened by the chaos the external world may occasionally throw at me.
Just a little…gradually.
What is no longer required being relinquished and something new being revealed along each step of the path.
The symbolism of Shiva in action!
Change can’t be denied and we often get ourselves into trouble by believing it can. So although I still love burning incense I have evolved a long way beyond the body and mind of my teenage self.
And just as Shiva represents spiritual progress, allowing us to see past ignorance… I’m giving my yoga practice a little pat on the back for allowing me the same clarity – when I am open to receiving it.
So next time destruction appears in any of its forms, view it as a creative and necessary force, opening up to new possibilities… and being ok with taking that little step forward into the unknown bit by bit.
Whatever form your choose to help you get there.
And find joy in your yoga along the way!
Namaste – Jill