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3 Shiva Yoga Classes to Build the Strength for Peak Poses

Shiva yoga invites you to confront your shadow.

Shiva is the Hindu God known as the Destroyer. The God of Transformation, Shiva is celebrated as the patron god of yoga, meditation, and arts.

He is part of the Hindu Trimurti, also known as the Supreme Trinity of the Universe.  The male and female gods of the universe are Brahma/Saraswati the creators, Vishnu/Lakshmi the sustainers, and Shiva/Durga the destroyers.

Shiva calls us to confront our shadow, wake up to what is, and refine our awareness of what is real versus unreal. 

This article contains the mythology, themes, and three Shiva yoga classes to explore advanced yoga poses that celebrate the God of Transformation. 

Shiva Mythology and Meaning

Shiva expresses himself as desire, awareness, and action. We must see ourselves as Shiva sees himself- our actions are manifest of intentions and awareness and forms of the divine expressing itself.
Excerpt from the Siva Sutras by Douglas Brooks. 
Shiva is the Mahadeva, the great god, or the auspicious one.

He’s seen dancing the Tandava, the great dance of destruction to ignite change, or seated in meditation where he transforms his internal landscape. 

The Tandava is the cosmic dance of death; Shiva is the Lord of the Dance and dances the Tandava to end an era. 

The Ananda Tandava is the other dance Shiva performs; it’s the Tandava danced with bliss or joy.

Themes for Shiva 

Colors: white, blue and black. 
Animals: the bull, Nandi. 
Objects: serpent, trident, club. 

Shiva is often depicted with the sacred bull, Nandi, which means ‘giving joy.’ 

Shiva carries a trident, a club, a deerskin, and a drum in his hands. A snake and sometimes a garland of skulls (akin to Kali) wrap around his neck. 

He wears a garland of skulls and a serpent around his neck and carries in his two (sometimes four) hands a deerskin, a trident, a small hand drum, or a club with a skull at the end.

The Shaivites celebrated Shiva as one of the supreme gods of the Hindu Pantheon. Shiva completes the cycle of existence after Vishnu, the Sustainer, and Brahma, the Creator. 

Also known as the Adiyogi, Shiva is the Patron Saint of Yoga, Meditation, and Art. He is the all-knowing- all-seeing- with the power of ultimate consciousness. 

Shiva’s Relationship with Shakti

According to Kashmir Shaivism, Shiva is the agent, the knower, and the will that sets the universe in motion. He represents Purusha or spirit, while Shakti represents Prakriti or matter.

Purusha is consciousness, the soul, eternal spirit, and the True Reality. 

Prakriti is the matter that creates the universe and the illusory nature of reality that is constantly changing.

Where the soul (Purusha) is real through its eternal, steady, and innate nature, the material world (Prakriti) is in flux. The secular world is temporal through the season and is therefore conditional and presents us with illusion, or what the yogis called Maya.  

Shiva is Purusha and his ultimate consort Shakti is  Prakriti. We need both for the universe to take form. Shiva would not be able to manifest the world in its true form without Shakti. 

Shiva is like Shakti in that all the Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu Pantheon spring out of their nature- they appear as incarnations of Shiva and Shakti. Shiva takes many forms and is the agent of freedom and plurality. 

Shiva’s Relationship with The Goddesses

We are the universe manifest – tantra- the universe knows, deeply wills itself into the expressions of being – foundational and experiential presence. All actions (yoga and meditation) are provisional behaviors to prepare one for the state of jnana yoga (knowledge).
Excerpt from the Siva Sutras by Douglas Brooks.  

Shiva’s counterpart is Durga, the Mother Goddess of Strength and Protection.

His consort is Shakti, the feminine energy expressed in all the Goddesses of the Hindu Pantheon. In Hindu Mythology, Shiva is partnered with Parvati and Kali. 

Parvati is known as the Daughter of the Mountain. Kali, the Goddess of the Revolution, is an incarnation of Parvati. Shiva is the husband of Parvati, father to Ganesha- the elephant-headed Lord- and the consort of Kali owing to his relationship with Parvati. 

3 Shiva Yoga Classes to Build to A Peak Pose

Take a class on the Practice with Clara Membership Site to embody the energy of Shiva.
Peak Pose Preparation for Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana) 
  • Style: Vinyasa 
  • Elements: Fire and Ether. 
  • Chakra: Sahasrara (crown, 7th)
  • Strengthens all muscles concerning the legs, core and upper back, and arms. 
  • Lengthens all muscles along the front and backline. 
  • Benefits: challenges perspective and patterns and confront fears by playing upside down.
  • Peak Pose: Handstand
How to do a handstand without the wall: 
  1. Come to a downward dog and bring your feet together so your big toes touch.
  2. Walk your feet towards your hands until your shoulders are stacked over your palms; you can bend your knees as much as your lower back is asking for.
  3. Come up to your tiptoes and look between your thumbs. Claw the mat with your finger pads.
  4. Extend one leg towards the sky, and hug your inner thighs towards each other. 
  5. Hug your belly button in and up to contract Mula bandha, your pelvic floor.. 
  6. Press the ground away from you with your hands and ball of the lowered foot.
  7. Option to take three hops by bending your bottom knee; keep your extended leg long, and your heels split wide from each other.

Modifications

If you’re not taking handstand hops, you can try:

  • Holding standing splits pose for 5 breaths.
  • Take donkey kicks with heels to your bum.
  • Shifting from down dog to plank pose.

For those with injury/wrist sensitivity- this can all be done from the forearms. 

Counterposes for handstand:

Heart-opening helps to relieve the strain on the chest, abdominal muscles, hips flexors, and quadriceps, which work hard in handstands. Wrist stretches release the joint and forearms.

Peak Pose Preparation for Flying Splits (Koundinyasana B) 
  • Style: Vinyasa
  • Elements: Fire/Agni. 
  • Chakra: Manipura (solar plexus, 3rd) 
  • Strengthens all muscles concerning the legs, core and upper back, and arms. 
  • Lengthens all muscles along the side waist, and inner leg lines. 
  • Benefits: burns away impurities and creates heat and strength through tapas (discipline). 
  • Peak Pose: Flying Splits
How to get into flying splits from a low lunge: 
  1. Come into a low lunge with both legs at 90-degree angles.
  2. Twist your opposite elbow to the front leg outer thigh.
  3. Spread your arms wide and take both palms down outside your front leg. 
  4. Walk your palms forward, so they are off your mat; this gives you room to lower your torso while keeping your elbows stacked over your wrists. 
  5. Lift your back knee off the ground as you bend your elbows and lower your torso.
  6. Take your outer front hip to your upper arm and hug the belly button in and up to engage Mula Bandha. 
  7. Reach your chest forward and lift your toes from the ground before you split your legs and extend from the heel.

Modifications

  • Crow or side crow pose is a wonderful option to explore the twist and arm balance.

Counterposes for flying splits:

Heart opening lengthens the muscles along the side body and core, which work hard during arm balancing and twists as it activates the core muscles.

Peak Pose Preparation for Dancing Shiva (Natarajasana) 
  • Style: Vinyasa
  • Elements: Fire and Earth. 
  • Chakra: Anahata (heart, 4th) 
  • Strengthens all muscles of the core and back body, legs, and ankles. 
  • Lengthens all front body muscles, including hip flexors, quadriceps, chest, and shoulders. 
  • Benefits: improves flexion of the spine. 
  • Peak Pose: Dancing Shiva
How to do dancing Shiva with a strap: 
  1. Make a loop with your strap- you can also use a belt or a scarf.
  2. Come to stand and hook the loop over one ankle; bend that knee so your heel is moving towards or touching your bum. 
  3. Take your strap over the shoulder of the same leg your hooked your strap.
  4. Hug your inner thighs and knees together. 
  5. Bring the strap to both palms and extend your hands to the sky.
  6. Bend your elbows and hug your elbows tight to the side of your face and towards the back of your head. 
  7. Walk your hands down the strap and hug your belly button in and up.
  8. Lift your sternum and curl your upper spine. 
  9. Kick your foot into your strap as you pull the strap taught with your palms.
  10. Lift the heart and begin to extend the leg up and back behind you and maybe walk your palms further down the length of your strap.

Modifications

You can do this pose from a low lunge to express the same strengthening in the front and back body and get the quad stretch.

You can do this pose without the strap by taking one or both hands to your heel. Kick your foot into your palms and lift the chest. 

Counterposes to standing backbend:

Twists are a great way to counter back bending. Other ways to bring the spine into neutral alignment would be mountain pose or happy baby pose by pressing the spinal column into the ground from the tailbone to the shoulders.  

Mantra and Meditation for Shiva

Shiva Mantra & Meditation

Aum Namah Shivaya 
Aum – the primordial sound that connects us all.
Namah – to bow.
Shivaya – Shiva’s formal name also means the inner Self or eternal consciousness. 

Shiva Shambo Mantra

Shiva Shiva Shiva Shambo, Shiva Shiva Shiva Shambo
Mahadeva Shambo, Mahadeva Shambo.

Shiva – Lord of Transformation, Lord of the cosmic dance of Destruction.
Shambho – Another name for Shiva is the simple or aesthetic one. 
Mahadeva – Great Lord, Great One, another name for Shiva. 
 
This mantra invokes Shiva as the great one, the auspicious one.

About Shiva’s Mantras

Aum Namah Shivaya is one of the most potent mantras traced back thousands of years; it appeared in Shaivism literature in the Shiva Puranam, composed somewhere between the 1st and 3rd Century CE. 

Shaivism is one of the oldest sects—over 2500 years—and has significant influence throughout India. Shaivism believes that Shiva is the single most important God. In the Shaivism tradition, Shiva is seen as the Atman (soul) of all beings.

Aum Namah Shivaya translates from Sanskrit as ‘praise to the auspicious one,’ as Shiva represents eternal consciousness; he lives in the collective consciousness of all beings and each person. Therefore, this mantra means ‘I bow to mySelf, to my inner divinity.” 

The Chakra to Activate the Energy of Shiva 

Shiva is depicted in many illustrations with a third eye between the brows as a symbol of awareness and the power of Ajna chakra.  

The third-eye center, or Ajna chakra, is where we connect our wisdom and intuition. 

The sixth of the seven chakras, Ajna, translates from Sanskrit as ‘command’ or ‘perceive.’

Learn more about Ajna chakra and its relationship to intuition in this blog post

Questions for Shiva to Consider:

  • What rituals do you use to let go or complete a cycle? 
  • When have you experienced a transformation? What happened?
  • What is your relationship to meditation? How do you express/explore consciousness? 
  • What is your connection to the darker aspects of yourself? How do you work with your shadow? 
  • How do you experience Maya, the illusory nature of the world? 
  • When is a time you saw someone or an event differently from what you previously took it for? What happened?

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