April 09, 2019
There can be no doubt about the fact that yoga is rooted in meditation, the chakras of life, and other concepts in Hinduism. However, the kind of modern yoga that is most popular in the west has been stripped of this for the simple reason that it scares off potential practitioners. With that said, it is important to remember that learning from the stories of Hindu deities isn't the same as becoming an adherent of Hinduism, meaning that interested individuals shouldn't hesitate to learn more about these famous symbols of Indian culture.
Each member of the Hindu pantheon can be seen as a representation of something fundamental to either the human experience or the rest of the cosmos. For instance, even people who aren't particularly familiar with Hinduism might have some awareness of the Trimurti, which refers to the three gods - Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva - who serve as embodiments of the three fundamental processes of the universe - creation, preservation, and destruction. However, other Hindu deities represent other critical concepts as well.
Shiva is the lord of asana practice with 84 lakhs of asanas said to have derived from his movements. This shows Shiva’s connections with the numerous Yoga asanas known and unknown. As Nataraj, the lord of the dance, his dance and gestures also reflect yoga postures, starting with the 108 main traditional poses of Indian dance.
There are many mantras reciting Shiva, one of which is Om Namah Shivaya. Also pranic mantras like Hamsa and So’ham relate to Shiva.
The Trimurti are matched by the feminine Tridevi, who would be Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Parvati. However, each of those goddesses possess their own meanings as well, with examples ranging from how Saraswati represents both cultural fulfillment and cosmic consciousness to how Lakshmi represents both material wealth and more abstract forms of success. In particular, it is interesting to note that Parvati has more than one form with more than one meaning, as shown by how her demon-fighting aspect Kali can be seen as a powerful symbol of transformation.
Of course, there are also other Hindu deities with other meanings, with examples including Hanuman as a symbol of devotion and Ganesha as a symbol of the intellect.
Whilst many of the yoga postures we see today are influenced by nature, inspired by trees (Vrksasana), the moon (Ardha Chandrasana), or even birds (Bakasana), there are also postures which depict the deities revered in Yogic and Hindu culture. As a way of connecting to, revering and paying respect to deities, many yoga postures represent not just what the deity looks like, but also everything they stand for.
is related to the monkey god Hanuman.
The most important of the deity poses is king dancer, also known as lord of the dance or dancing Shiva pose. The pose is dedicated to Shiva, one of the oldest deities in the Hindu pantheon.
Despite of having a lot of connections to Hindu deities modern yoga isn't religious. Yoga is a spiritual body language, it is a path towards enlightenment that focuses on building physical and mental strength.
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