Parvati is Yoga’s goddess of devotion. She teaches us how to live in the physical world while identifying the truth of who we are with the spiritual realm. Indeed, Parvati teaches us the true meaning of yogic living!
Perhaps Parvati is best known as Shiva’s second wife. Shiva is the god of universal destructive force. He is the reality that something must end in order for anything new to begin. Sati was Shiva’s first wife. Shiva was devasted after her death and went into a very long mourning period. He wouldn’t see anyone, go anywhere, or do anything. All he wanted to do was sit in his cave and meditate. After the tragic loss of his beloved Sati, Shiva was deeply, profoundly depressed.
Parvati was a princess who lived in the hills where Shiva liked to meditate. She noticed the sad deity go to Mount Kailash day in and day out and sit in silence for hours. He never ate and never said a word. In fact, Shiva never even looked her way. Surely, he must be hungry, Parvati thought. She began bringing small offerings of food to the god. He didn’t notice, but she brought the offerings anyways. Just in case.
One day, Parvati tried to engage Shiva in conversation. She talked about the weather, her family, what it was like growing up in the mountains… Everyday Shiva said nothing, but everyday Parvati went to the mountain. She didn’t know why he was so sad. All Parvati knew was that she would go to the ends of the earth to make him smile.
One day, Parvati went to visit Shiva, as she usually did. She attempted to engage him in conversation, as she usually did. And Shiva said nothing… as he usually did. Parvati shrugged. Well, she thought, since he isn’t going to say anything anyways, I might as well talk about something important.
Parvati began to tell Shiva about her dreams. She talked about how disconnected she’d felt since she was a little girl. She described the deep longing she felt for something that she didn’t understand and couldn’t define. “I suppose,” she joked. “If I could define It, It would not be what I’ve really been looking for.”
For the first time, Shiva opened his eyes. Parvati could have sworn she saw him smile. She continued. “I know this sound silly, but I have always wanted to study Yoga…”
At that, Shiva’s eyes grew large. He turned and looked directly at Parvati. “You want to study Yoga?”
Parvati was shocked at the change in Shiva’s demeanor. “Well, yes,” she stammered. “I know you probably think I’m foolish… a woman studying Yoga and all,” then her eyes flashed. “I think that it is terrible that I can’t study Yoga because I’m a woman! What has that got to do with anything?”
This time Shiva’s smile was unmistakable. Who was this woman who had been visiting him for these many months? He loved the fire in her eyes. He loved her passion. Indeed, he loved her devotion. As a matter of fact, Shiva, the Destroyer, realized, he loved this woman.
Shiva felt as awkward as a school boy. “You know,” he shyly began. “I could teach you Yoga.”
Parvati’s jaw dropped. “Really?” she said. “YOU teach Yoga? And you would teach me? A woman?”
“I know a thing or two about Yoga,” Shiva said with a nod and a wink. “And the first thing I have to teach you about Yoga is that it is available to you no matter your incarnation. You are Yoga.”
In that moment, Parvati realized to whom she had been conversing, and the truth of his words. Shiva realized who it was who had been caring for him through some of the darkest days he had known. In seeing each other clearly, Shiva and Parvati saw themselves clearly. As the cosmic companions unite in the truth of who they are, Yoga is realized.
Parvati teaches us that living the life of a yogi isn’t always easy. We will encounter obstacles on our spiritual journey. Overcoming these obstacles requires patience, practice, and persistence. Parvati wanted Yoga! She did not give up when the world told her she couldn’t practice yoga because she was a woman. She did not even give up when Shiva was distant and aloof! Instead, Parvati kept her heart open and pursued Yoga anyways. In the end, Shiva, the Great Yogi himself, became her teacher.
Practicing with Parvati
Hatha yoga is a balanced practice that allows us to harmonize the solar and lunar energies within us. Our solar side is active, energizing, and, like the sun, outwardly shines. Our lunar side is receptive, restful, and, like the moon, turns inward. Like Shiva and Parvati, when we integrate these two sides of ourselves, Yoga -union- is realized. Hatha yoga is an excellent way to cultivate our connection to Parvati!
Although hatha yoga is the most well-known Yoga practice in the West, there are many others! Parvati achieved Yoga because of her devotion to the practice. Bhakti yoga is the Yoga of devotion. Yoga is realized when we become completely absorbed in a devotional practice such as chanting mantra or creating sacred art.
After becoming his student, Parvati and Shiva loved nothing more than to discuss all things related to Yoga. Jnana yoga is Yoga realized through intellectual pursuits such as studying sacred texts. We practice Jnana yoga when we do things like read books about yoga, attend yoga-related workshops, and participate in a comprehensive yoga teacher training program (such as the one offered by Eternal Health Yoga).
Karma means “action”. Thus, karma yoga is the yoga of action. When we do karma yoga, our actions are in alignment with yogic principles such as unity and oneness. Seva, sacred service, is an act of karma yoga. We do not concern ourselves with being rewarded for our service. We serve simply because it is in our hearts to do so. When we serve others, the illusory boundary between one person and another soften. Yoga arises when we realize that we are unique incarnations of the same divine essence.
Image by Shellie Crow.