Shiva is a Hindu god commonly worshiped in yoga who represents destruction and creation. Shakti is the female counterpart who represents everything in this world that is alive. Understanding the Shiva Shakti archetypes can not only create more harmony within yourself, but it can create harmony, understanding, support and joy within your relationships as well.
Shiva (masculine) energy is pure consciousness which grounds and tames Shakti (feminine) energy. Shakti is creative, changing, wild and free. When something in this world is destroyed it returns to pure energy, a memory. Once the old is released, a new idea can be formed. That idea then combines with Shakti and becomes something tangible and alive and of this world.
Through the consistent practice of yoga poses, meditation & pranayama we unblock our energy to get it flowing.
Without Shiva, Shakti can be chaotic and lack direction; similar to a leaf in the wind. Without Shakti, Shiva’s energy remains a dormant & unrealised idea. Shakti awakens Shiva and Shiva anchors Shakti.
Spirituality & Sexuality
Although spirituality can be a way for us to understand our sexuality, the two are not to be misinterpreted as the same. Gender aside, pure masculine / feminine energy is a way for us to understand our human-ness from a universal perspective without our personality getting in the way. Our sexuality and what motivates us however, can be greater understood using this principle.
The largest channel of energy in the human body runs up the spine and it is called the Shushumna. On the left side of the Shushumna is the Ida. This is associated with feminine energy, the cycles of the moon, and it translates as ‘Comfort’. On the right side is the Pingala, and it is associated with the sun, fire & masculine energy. When we are balanced and our energy is unblocked, Shiva & Shakti flow along the Ida & Pingala from the base of the spine to the crown. They weave around the Shushumna like a strand of DNA.
Sexual attraction is borne of us having a dominance of either Shiva or Shakti energy. This causes us to seek balance with a partner who posses’ its’ opposite. If we are fully self sufficient in both masculine & feminine roles we may lack sexual desire or lack attraction to the opposite sex. The Shiva / Shakti dance can occur in homosexual relationships as well. When one partner has more Shiva and the other more Shakti, even same sex relationships can seek balance from one another.
Modern society and some misguided forms of feminism have begun to level out these energies. This levelling out occurs when women compete with men by over-developing their Shiva and try to ‘do it all’. Similarly, a man may undervalue a woman’s Shakti if he has great expectations of her to perform masculine roles. This does not mean that women cannot perform masculine roles, or men shouldn’t be emotional, creative and expressive. It simply means that if you don’t feel drawn to certain things it’s okay. We should try not to undervalue the woman who embodies the nurturer or supporter archetype no less than we should undervalue the man who is not interested in fully realising these traits. Our power comes in embracing who we are deeply drawn to be and confidently owning it.
Channelling our Power
We can also understand Shiva / Shakti from the perspective of taking our ideas and desires into reality. Shiva energy is what we experience when we are in meditation or when we introspect. As we enter meditation, we notice thought in many forms which criss-crosses along the neural pathways in our brain. With discipline, we can sit for longer which allows thought to organise itself into something clear and concise. Emotion motivates us to take a clear thought into action. We then take our meditations and musings and act upon them.
The Shiva energy is: thought, brain, intellect, & consciousness. This is brought to life with the Shakti energy which is: emotion, heart, intuition, activity.
What fun is it if we cannot take our ideas into reality? Where is the depth and satisfaction in drifting through life without direction?
I have always allowed my heart to guide me and for me, that has always been accurate. Even though I consider myself intelligent, pure intellect does not excite me & thought centred activity does not inspire me. Instead, I take experiences from my life into meditation for processing. Once my thoughts are distilled into something that I can understand, and these align well with the dominant emotions that I am feeling at any point in time, I allow that to play out naturally and intuitively in my life.
Shiva / Shakti and Yoga
How does this relate to our yoga practice? As mentioned above, a well balanced yoga practice will involve Meditation (Shiva), Movement (Shakti) & Pranayama (the balancing of the two).
With a devoted and well rounded practice we can balance both Shiva and Shakti within ourselves. In my own yoga practice, as I developed both my masculine and feminine sides, I began to feel not only balanced within myself, but capable and self sufficient.
I realised that I feel more powerful when I am in Shakti – basically when I feel like a woman – and I realised it is okay to not feel uplifted by performing the more masculine tasks. Although I have a good head on my shoulders, I still prefer to let my heart guide me. I may have the ability to learn on an intellectual level, however I prefer to put information into practice and feel for myself whether it is true to me. I live a conscious life, but there is less gap now between a conscious thought and it being put into action.
How to Balance your Shiva / Shakti
- Meditate daily.
- Each day take time to reflect on your thoughts and what you have become conscious of during the day. The longer you sit the more opportunity you give thoughts and awareness to distil into something meaningful.
- Notice which thoughts spark emotion within you. This is the good stuff. Play it out if it is healthy and good, take it to your yoga mat if it is uncomfortable.
- Practice pranayama & breathwork
- There are many different techniques to balance your energies through breath. Alternate Nostril Breathing will focus on clearing and balancing the Ida and Pingala which run either side of the Shushumna down the spine.
- I personally practiced breathwork to reset and balance my entire body. In doing so I naturally balanced all of my energies including Shiva and Shakti.
- Get to a yoga class.
- Particularly if you find sitting in meditation difficult, yoga will help you to settle the mind. At the same time it will strengthen and stretch your body to create more overall health. The more that I have practiced yoga, and been enamoured by the beautiful shapes I can place my body in, the less space there has been in my life for bad behaviour (of which I have had a lot!). Allow yourself to feel when the movement is right for you to enhance Shakti and listen to the teachings of the instructor if you need a little Shiva.
- Observe your preferences. You do not have to completely match your partner in ability – nor do they need to match you. Relationships should be complimentary, not competitive. Some men are very in touch with their feminine side, and some women are the thinkers and the planners. It’s okay!