It is becoming more well known in the yoga world – that throughout it’s 5000 year history, women were less written about in the practice of yoga. This is due to the habits of the cultures of previous history. The true spiritual path transcends all distinctions which have been made by individuals who have excluded women. Today the majority of yoga practitioners in the Western world are women.
Yoga is acknowledged to be derived from the Hatha tradition. But yoga can be documented to reach further back to the ancient practices of Tantra Yoga. It was a yoga practice by women that preceded the Hindi yogis by thousands of years. It was Shiva’s Shakti in the form of Paravati who suggested that He deliver the yoga teaching to the sages.
The magical potency of Tantra was transmitted by a female line (power-holders). They were a mysterious sect of women called the Vratyas and they were not an isolated case. Taoist yoginis from China and dakinis from Tibet were also powerful spiritual teachers who gave empowerments and initiations.
The concept of raising the Kundalini energy, which is fundamental to yoga philosophy and practice, originated with these yogic priestesses. They were the first to pull the serpentine energy up the spine to achieve wings of illuminated consciousness.
The rising of the Shakti Kundalini energy occurs more easily in women than in men. This is due to the fact that Kundalini originated in the Shakti (female) Siddhis (yogic powers) of menstruation, female sexuality, natural birth, and menopause. These ancient yogic rites encouraged the free, spontaneous flow of Shakti Kundalini energy through the female group, and by extension, throughout the entire community.
With the advance of patriarchy, the ecstatic techniques of women were gradually swallowed up by the more ascetic practices of men who considered themselves to be above women. In seated meditation, the transcendent experience was sought through the practices of only the mind focused, without the including the intuitive or spiritual, emotional, and physical bodies.
Women and their biological functions came to be negatively equated with the life of the body and soon female rites were outlawed altogether. Yogini’s, dakini’s and shaman priestesses became witches, demonesses, or temple harlots.
The ancient Tantra Yoga was a different kind of yoga. One in which the inherent energies of the female body were celebrated and guarded for illumination, freedom and compassion.
Images of female Buddha’s and high shaman priestesses are pervasive in the artifacts and figurines of Old Europe (6000 BCE). The varied poses shown in these early sculptures, as well as frescoes, murals, and rock art through the ages, are expressions of an ancient shamanistic yoga eventually codified into the formal schools we know today.
The Vedic Teachings
About 5,000 years ago the Vedas were written down. The Vedas (Sanskrit: वेद) are the main scriptural texts of the Sanatana Dharma, and are a large corpus of texts originating in ancient India. The Vedas, regarded as śruti (“that which is heard”), form part of an oral tradition in the form of an ancient teacher-disciple tradition. As per Hindu tradition the Vedas were ‘revealed’ to the Rishis referred to in the texts, not composed or written by them. Even though many historians have tried to affix dates to the Vedas there is as yet no common consensus as there is for the scriptures of other religions. The Vedas are arguably the oldest surviving texts in the world.
The Vedanta and Mimamsa schools of Hindu philosophy assert that the Vedas are apaurusheya (“unauthored”), that is, they have neither human nor divine origin, and are eternal in nature. As per Hindu tradition, the sage Vedavyasa divided the Vedas into Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvavedaat; the beginning of the Kali Yuga.
In the Vedic teachings from the One came the Trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and their counterparts Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Paravati. Yoga teachings originated with Lord Shiva and Goddess Paravati. It was Paravati’s persuavion which led Shiva to come to Earth to give the yogic teachings, which then branched out through the world. Shiva as Divine Lord is called Maheshwara.
Shiva represents the three concentrated energies: Understanding and Wisdom (Gyana), the Will and Power (Ichha), and Action and Love (Kriya). This forms the highest manifestion of the One. The Mantra of Lord Shiva is “Om Namah Shivaaya” and is a “Five Syllable Mantra” also called “Panchakshara Mantra”.
Lord Vishnu incarnated as Lord Krishna, and later He came as Mahavatar Babaji who initiated Lahiri Mahasaya, Lahiri Mahasaya then initiated Swami Sri Yukteswar, Swami Sri Yukteswar then initiated Paramahansa Yogananda, and Gurudevi, Shri Mahashaktiananda was initiated by Paramahansa Yogananda of the Himalayan Masters.