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Shiva-Shakti, the body as a sacred space where feminine and masculine meet
(by Danielle Arin)
The meeting of female and male within the body seems at first sight simple and obvious, but the more we ponder over this phenomenon, the more we realise its complexity. It soon becomes evident that one has to know oneself intimately as a person in order to be able to experience and understand this subtle meeting of "opposites": a female has to be aware of the male within herself; a male has to be aware of the female within himself.
How to become aware of these two opposite and complementary energies within oneself and how to deal with them?
It is primarily a matter of attitude towards one's practice.
Since the balance of male and female energies is in principle very fragile, one has to learn to detach from oneself, from the greed of end-gaining in practice, in order to be able to integrate the male and the female to the whole self, body, mind and spirit.
In the context of yoga, the answer will come through a balanced practice of the postures whereby the out-flowing male energy balances the in-flowing female energy.
The Hindus say that without Shakti, the personified feminine life force, Shiva, who encompasses the ability to act, becomes a corpse. It is necessary here to define the role of the female, and the role of the male: the female feeds, instigates, initiates; the male executes, acts, manifests (makes visible).
Shakti is the life energy who animates the male principle of Shiva, and the male principle in turns animates action in the world. By remaining attentive and centred during practice, the polarity between the male expression and the female introspection will manifest. The male determination will encourage the body in its endeavour to find precision and achieve a certain goal, whereas the female sensitivity will guide the body to explore its gifts and respect its limitation. Strength could be a wrong representation of the male energy. Therefore, instead of using ones body to tame and master a posture in order to bring the body into submission, one should allow the space between the limbs and the muscles to create a natural movement so that an organic action (female/male interaction) and not a rigid representation of a certain shape can be achieved. Such a space concept does not mean emptiness, but a living element where Shakti and Shiva can meet and from which the innermost structure of the Self can be realised.
What part does yoga play in the process of balancing male/female energies?
Yoga builds strength in a non-aggressive and non-end-gaining manner (male/female complementarity).
Yoga releases energy through a tension-less process, so that there is no wastage and mis-use of precious inner power (male/female energy saving).
Yoga refuses to use an extroverted will but seeks an inner force to inspire the body to perform a pose (male/female harmonisation).
Therefore, one needs to maintain a constant balance between stretching and relaxing, between strengthening and yielding, and between the quietness of the inner self and the performance of the outer body (male/female Cupertino).
What bonds these energies; what is the hidden language of the body? It seems that without awareness and love in yoga practice, the male and female energies move in separate directions making the person fragmented and vulnerable. But with a proper understanding of the self through the practice of the postures and the observance of the breath, self-respect and self-love will manifest and the two otherwise opposite energies will find equilibrium in a sacred bonding. It is within the boundaries of the physical body that the tension between the two poles takes place and longs for equilibrium, but it is within the space of the sacred body that the two opposite energies still themselves into a perfectly balanced force. And it is in this space that bipolarity is transformed into the coincidence of opposites.
The body has thus become the chalice of the Presence, a marriage of “opposites" and an icon of reciprocity. The body has become a link between the intangible world and the physical manifestation of life. Finally, the body has become the avatar of the soul; and it is within the soul only that male and female, man and woman, will know the bliss of perfect union.
The body has thus revealed to us the truth that in life we are not so much men versus women, as Masculine and Feminine in their fullness and total reciprocity.
Danielle Arin, yoga writer and teacher, is known world-wide for her enthusiasm, dedication and spiritual involvement in her teaching.