Why do I love Shiva? Why have I chosen Shiva to represent my yoga business and philosophy? And why is Shiva one of the most recognized symbols for yoga, together with, the symbol “Aum”?
In the pantheon of Hindu deities lies Shiva- the Destroyer along with Brahma the Creator and Vishnu the Sustainer. They represent the 3 primordial creative energies of the Universe. We cannot have one without the other. Shiva destroys what no longer serves us so we may bring in what does. In this context, destruction is a positive and nourishing force that maintains order in the Universe.
With his 5 heads, as depicted in certain renditions, Shiva reminds us that we are multifaceted beings. As we shed the layers and step out of our need to be compartmentalized and to compartmentalize others we move to a place of ego awareness where we realize we are so much more than what we do, what we say, what we think or how we live.
Shiva, with his many arms, teaches us to grab hold of opportunities, to follow our many passions and, holding his trident, he teaches us to use weapons when needed and, clasping flowers, he reminds us of the potential for enlightenment always within our grasp.
As a dancer – the Nataraj, Shiva shows us how to dance through the fire of death, birth and rebirth. We learn to fight for what we believe in, set and enforce our boundaries, show our claws when required and to chose our battles well. There is very little place for complacency or apathy. Rather anger, rage and strength is often needed to bring in the new and then comes the dance of love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and gratitude that follows in its wake.
As a karma yogi, Shiva teaches us the path of serving others, where we see ourselves as part of the human family, which goes beyond our tight circle of family and close friends. We become more sensitive to the suffering of Man, of our brothers and sisters. We cannot help but want to serve. We celebrate our service to others, as well as how others chose to serve, without worrying about “ulterior motives”, suspiciously wondering what’s in it for us or others.
As a husband and family man, he represents the bond of family headed by 2 equal partners: the stability of being supported, the need to procreate and continue without ever giving up. While Shiva was doing what he needed to do, his wife Parvati was lovingly tending to the home fires. In this, we learn that no matter what happens we can always come home to love and compassion.
Through sexual union, Shiva plants the seeds for Tantra- divine true love – and we learn to honour and bring balance to both the masculine and feminine forces within each of us. The creative force of the Universe is a sexual force and through Shiva we embrace our physical, mental, and spiritual union with a beloved where body, mind and spirit merge with the divine avatar with whom we each conspire. The Shiva Linga and the serpent are its symbols.
Shiva, the celibate ascetic, also choses a life of meditation and hardship and demonstrates that we can be many things and play many roles at once as we frolic gingerly on the poles of opposites to find the sweetness in the middle, without being trapped into a specific one.
Yoga, the union of Body, Mind and Spirit, helps us understand that we are all One, on the same pole and part of the same whole. We each carry all the potentials within us and can switch on one and all at will.
This is the path of the yogi that walks through the flames of transformation, over the hot coals of desire and loss, to burn through old patterns, beliefs and ways of relating so he may remember what he has always been and will always be. Yoga helps us remember…
Author of Stepping into Consciousness- A Guide to Living a Life of Joy, Meaning, and Abundance
Nicole Rolland- Yoga and Meditation now at the University Club, Montreal