Shiva The Lord of Hatha Yoga
By Shailaja Menon
Lord Shiva is always closely associated with yoga and is known as AdiYogi or the first yogi. He is also known as AdiGuru or the first guru. Scriptures reveal that Lord Shiva taught the eternal knowledge first to Mother Parvati (Shiva’s consort) and then to the seven sages called Sapta Rishis. These seven sages moved to different regions of the earth to disseminate the divine knowledge to the whole of mankind. Being the first Teacher in the universe or creation, Shiva is called as the AdiGuru.
He revealed how human beings need not be limited to a definition of the species. How we can be contained in physicality but not belong to it, inhabit the body but not be confined to it. How we can achieve the highest mental states by going beyond its everyday stresses. That we all have the ability to evolve beyond our present limitations, if we do the necessary work upon ourselves.
The ancient text Hatha Yoga Pradipika, in its opening verse salutes its source teacher, Adinath (Sri Adinathaya Namostu Tasmai). The term Adinath is synonymous with Shiva. One way to see this term Adi is as, “the beginning”. So in this way we can see Adinath as a primordial personality, who practiced, organized and set off a sect called the nath sampradaya (lineage).
Legend also has it that Shiva was resting with his consort Parvathi in a cave deep within the ocean. Seeing the suffering of humanity, Parvathi was compelled to ask Shiva, how human beings could sense him, with their limited mind, body and intellect and their deep identification with the shape of the body. To this Shiva answered that, this very shape of the body can be the instrument to first connect to Shakti as energy and then through her to Shiva himself.
Shiva then expounded hatha yoga for the first time to Ma Parvathi. At the end of it, Parvathi then asked Shiva how this information could reach humans. The Shiva took Parvathi outside the cave and there was to her surprise, a fish keenly listening to the entire conversation. Shiva blessed this fish and it took a human form. Shiva named the fish Matsyendranath and he was the first Hatha yoga teacher in this cycle of time. And through these teachings, human beings can connect to their highest state. So Matsyendranath received it, passed it on to his student Gorakhnath and so on. Yogi Svatmarama then put the teachings into a treatise called Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
According to my teacher Manoj Kaimal, Guru Manasa Yoga, the definition of Shiva in the great Shaivist texts say that Shiva is non-dual, pure bliss, infinite mass of consciousness (advaya anandamaya chit ghana). The practice of yoga is to recognize that the spiritual heart of the individual is the heart of the universe itself (pratyabhijna hrdayam). So the Lord of Yoga exists in the heart of our being. His face is considered as energy (shaiva mukham) and by deeply looking into the energy of movements, we can recognize His presence. And our sense of individuality can then melt into the universal essence like a piece of salt merges and experiences its oneness with the infinite ocean (salile saindavam).
Shailaja Menon is the author of “Yoga Shakti”, Awaken Your Own Power. She is a Yoga teacher based in Malaysia and has been teaching yoga for over 18 years now. She is also prolific speaker and writer.