Modern Yoginis: Union with God & the Goddess
Maa Parvathi Nath Saraswati
For those who know me, they know that I am a practioner of Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti is a form of yoga which is focused on love and devotion. I am involved with combining music and katha (stories and teaching) as part of Bhakti Yoga. I am also a practioner of Karma Yoga, which is action yoga or service in the world. These are the forms of yoga I am most familiar with in my own life, but there are many forms of yoga. The word yoga means union with God or the Goddess. There are numerous practioners of yoga in the world who are called yoginis. A yogini is a female practioner of yoga, while a male practioner of yoga is a yogi.
It is believed that yoga was brought into being by women. One of the yoginis who writes about and teaches yoga, Vicki Nobel, believes it came into being around the 7th millenium B.C.E. In the archaeological record we have discovered sculptures, murals, frescoes and rock art which show female yoga poses which go back to this date. She writes about a form of yoga called Lunar Yoga, which is centered on the phases of the moon. Women are very attuned to the phases of the moon because of their menstrual cycles. Even those who are experiencing menopause know that the moon phases affect them greatly. Women are very attuned to that kind of energy and focus. She writes also about the Kundalini, which focuses on the snake energy.
We do know that some of the yoginis were seers called female rishis, or rishikas. Today there are many different types of yoginis. I want to feature a modern day yogini who many people admire. Although many leaders in the Yoga Movement are male, there are certainly a number of women in those types of roles. The majority of practioners of yoga are women. The woman I will feature is an example of the modern day younger woman who has this kind of role. Her name is Maa Parvathi Nath Saraswati. She views herself as a woman who teaches and has knowledge of a various spiritual practices and yogas, but she does not called herself a guru. She calls herself a yogini. Parvathi was born in India. Her family was very much interested in yoga and the Vedanta. So she grew up with this hertiage. After that she had formal teaching in various schools of yoga. She was initiated into the Pratyabhijana Marga School of Kashmir Shaivism by a yogini adept. She also combined this training with yoga, Vedanta and Samaya Tantras. Shree Amritananda Saraswati of Devipuram transmitted knowledge of the Shree Vidya tradition to her. She is the disciple of Shree Lalleshwari of Odjagiri, a teacher in the tantric tradition of Kashmirian Shaivism. It is believed this tradition goes back to Matsyendranath who received the teachings directly from Goddess Kali herself. She has knowledge of various mantras and sadhanas (spiritual practices) of the Kaula lineage. She was asked to teach by her teachers after her training in each lineage. She then went to the United States and later founded the Saraswati River Yoga School and co-founded Yogasphere. She trains teachers in the intergrated knowledge of all these practices. She is a mother, a householder and practices yoga daily. According to her website, "The Feminine Principle or Shakti is the power of wisdom and compassion in action." This is an active form of yoga and definitely for people living in the world, not for renunciates of the world. This tradition definitely emphasizes being in harmony with Nature. According to her website, "Wisdom emerges in our lives as the power of compassion and justice; this is the yogic lifestyle...The yoginis understood that nothing exists outside of relationship." Some very powerful statements about how to be in the world. Some methods she uses in her teaching are the use of mantra, Spanda, meditation, Hatha Yoga, Tandava, Pranayama, Yoga Psychology and Tantra Vidya.
I must say that I admire people who can make their bodies achieve various poses. Because I have acid reflux, it is very difficult to do these poses without compromising my health. My abilities in yoga are definitely in Bhakti and Karma Yoga. Instead I use a method of meditation, breath, healing and energy work called qigong, which I learned from a Taoist Chinese International Qigong Master named Chunyi Lin. This shows you that the Chinese have a form of yoga, too. In fact Buddhists from India knew yoga and taught it to the Chinese when they travelled to China. Yoga practices combined with qigong practices from this exchange.
It is wonderful that so many women are involved with the practice of yoga, and there are women who are becoming leaders in the movement. I say the more the merrier! Choose the practices which are best for you!
JAI SHRI YOGINIS!
JAI SHRI PARVATHI!