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Yoga Begins with Shiva Teaching Parvati


Shiva is the Lord of Yoga. The Shastras say that the first yoga lesson ever was given by Lord Shiva to his wife Parvati, a form of Shakti. And it is through her that the great cornucopia of teachings comes to us. Shiva taught Parvati 84 asanas . . . or was that 84 crore asanas? The myths remain ambiguous, suggesting infinite variety . . . the infinite forms asana—as all life, all paths to the divine—can take. But Shiva taught much more than asana. He illuminates perception, revealing the deepest mysteries of yoga that lead to Kaivalya, the Ultimate Enlightenment.

For Shiva is the ground of all being—the eternal, transcendent, primal consciousness. Shiva is the essence of all that is . .  . And all that is not. Beyond time and space, he’s Oneness Absolute. The manifestation unfolds according to the beat of his drum, symbol of duality. And according to the rhythm of his cosmic dance in his guise as Shiva Nataraj. Infinite forms multiply from his body—the One becoming two, becoming many—each in its particularity being Shiva also. Shiva becomes Shiva-Shakti—appearing as the deity Ardhanrishvara, half-male and half-female. Divine Union begetting the spark of every atom, Shiva manifest flashing across the screen of consciousness then subsiding into the infinite Void. 

A beautiful poem from the Mahanirvana Tantra describes that first yoga lesson—Shiva descending from the sublime transcendence of his mountain top to teach Parvati, who opens the door of possibility for us. I love it so much that it gives me goosebumps every time I read it. I’m sharing it here to inspire your practice. It’s a reminder of the sacred tradition we represent. 

May we—dear friends in yoga—be worthy ambassadors of this treasure, transmitting the understanding we’ve been given with authenticity and love. 


Shiva teaches Parvati
The Transmission of Yoga begins
From  Mahanirvana Tantra 1. 1-2, 5-10)

At the beautiful summit of the foremost mountain, resplendent with various gems, covered with various trees and creepers, resounding with the songs of various birds,

Redolent with the fragrance of flowers from all the seasons, most delightful, fanned by plentiful cool, aromatic, slow breezes,  . . . 

Peopled by hosts of adepts, bards, celestial nymphs, and followers of Ganapati, there was the Silent God, world teacher of moving and immobile things, 

Who is ever benevolent, ever blissful, an ocean of ambrosial compassion, white like camphor or jasmine, consisting of pure sattva, all-pervasive, 

Space-clothed (i.e. naked),  lord of the destitute, master of yogins, beloved of yogins, upon whose topknot the Ganges splashes, who is adorned with locks of hair, 

Besmeared with ashes, peaceful, wearing a garland of snakes and skulls, with three eyes, who is Lord of the Three Realms, holding a trident, 

Who is easily appeased, full of wisdom, bestower of the fruit of liberation (Kaivalya), formless, fearless, undifferentiated, untainted, the  hale doer of good to all, God of gods. 

Seeing Shiva with his serene face, Goddess Parvati bowed respectfully and for the benefit of the entire world asked him to teach her. 


Om Namah Shivaya

Shiva-Parvati photo credit: saiko3p/