Night of Shiva

Namaste all! A student asked whether I can post something on Shiva ratri, and hence, just pasting an article which I wrote for the ‘Star’ on this subject, around five years back. Tonight is Shiva ratri (March 2), a night dedicated to Shiva. In yoga, we see Shiva as the un-manifest, all pervasive intelligence of the universe, by which and in which everything manifest, exist and eventually unmanifest.

In his famous book, The Tao of Physics, physicist and researcher Fritjof Capra says: “The dance of Siva is the dancing universe; the ceaseless flow of energy going through an infinite variety of patterns that melt into one another. According to quantum field theory, all interactions between the constituents of matter take place through the emission and absorption of virtual particles. More than that, the dance of creation and destruction is the basis of the very existence of matter, since all material particles ‘self-interact’ by emitting and reabsorbing virtual particles. Modern physics has thus revealed that every subatomic particle not only performs an energy dance, but also is an energy dance — a pulsating process of creation and destruction. For the modern physicist, then, Siva’s dance is the dance of subatomic matter, a continual dance of creation and destruction involving the whole cosmos, the basis of existence and of all natural phenomena. The metaphor of the Cosmic Dance thus unifies ancient mythology, religious art and modern physisc”.

In Hatha yoga, we have Natarajasana or the King of Dance, Shiva, pose. In this asana, the extended front arm represents the outward creative, emmissive, revealing power of the universe. The back arm pulling the foot towards the head represents the withdrawal of creation, or the absorptive, veiling power of universe.

Serious yoga students try to feel the three fold qualities of universal energy in every yoga posture, and especially in Natarajasana. When getting into the pose, we are expressing, manifesting, creating; when balancing on the other leg, we sustain, maintain; when coming out of it, we dissolve what we created.

Today, those who are inclined, let us do one natarajasana as an active pose, and do some sitting practice. let us start with Natarajasana, as this posture can improve sense of balance, strengthen ankle joint and leg muscles, improve flexibility of hipflexors and spine

  • First stand tall and relaxed with your feet close together.
  • With your right leg strong, exhaling bend your left knee behind you. Take hold of the left ankle with your left hand, and then inhaling stretch your right arm up.
  • Stay here for a few breaths, feeling the front of the left thigh stretching from the left hip to the left knee. Keep the knees as close together as possible.
  • With a long exhalation slowly bend forward stretching the right arm forward. Take 3-5 slow breaths.
  • Then with every inhalation try to lift the heart and the back foot up and away from the pelvis.
  • After 5-8 breaths, release the foot, and then repeat the other side.
  • In the beginning it is common to loose your balance. Instead of getting frustrated, just take a few breaths, be non reactive and simply try again, and then, again.

Sitting Practice

Shiva is not only considered as the body of the dancing cosmos, but is also seen as the still consciousness in which this dance occurs. In one of the scriptures it is said, ‚ÄòIn the middle of the eye brows of everyone, I reside’. This point is an important concentration points in yoga. It is even said that it is for keeping some awareness of this energy spot that the custom of Indians putting color spots at the middle of the eyebrows came into being. Let us try to attune with this energy point.

  • Sit down in a comfortable position with your spine long, sides of ribs lifted, eyes closed, and body still.
  • After feeling settled shift your awareness to the insides of your nostrils where you can feel the breath coming in and going out, and for the next few minutes simply be aware of the sensation of your breath.
  • Now become aware of the space of the centre of the forehead. Become aware of the darkness there. Look at it as if you are looking at a black sky. This is the state of ratri, or night, symbolizing darkness.
  • After a while you might start to perceive some small streaks of light or color. Simply observe without getting distracted. If you wish you can visualize the presence of your spiritual inspiration here.
  • For the so inclined, it is also beneficial to do mantra (sound vibration) practice at this point. If you are a bit unsure of this, simply saying ‚Äòpeace’ or ‘energy’, or ‘consciousness’ would suffice. After a while you may become aware of a sense of brightness in this skull space.
  • In the Netra Tantra, it is said ‚ÄòMeditation on this brilliant light (between the eyebrows), manifesting in the form of Mrityunjaya mantra, cools down the scorching heat of material and spiritual poverty. It is pure, peaceful, and unfailing’.
  • Now feel the energy and light of the third eye point starting to fill the whole of you.
  • After a while feel the space and awareness spreading above you, below you, and everywhere.
  • Feel everything as nothing but expressions of infinite, undivided space and divine energy.
  • Feel your shell of ego dissolve into the infinite expanse of this energy consciousness.
  • Savor the sense of joy and peace inherent in this relaxing of ego.
  • Stay as long as comfortable. And then carry on with your daily life activities with a renewed sense of harmony and inner trust.