yoga philosophyBy Faye Martins

The Shiva Samhita or the compendium of Shiva, is an ancient anonymous Sanskrit text on the practice and art of Yoga. It is one of three surviving classical Yogic scriptures. The other two yogic texts are the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Gheranda Samhita. The Shiva Samhita is considered by many scholars to be the most complete Yogic compendium to date. The Shiva Samhita is a dialogue between Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvati. This discourse includes detailed instructions on how to perform various Yoga asanas, mudras, pranayams, meditation, tantric practices and even the finer points of abstract Yogic philosophy

The text is beautifully written as if the reader is listening to a conversation between Shiva and Parvati. Shiva is the symbolic representation of the creative and destructive power of the divine masculine. His consort, Parvati, represents the gentle feminine creative power of the universe. The Shiva Samhita discusses many of the esoteric details of the practice of Yoga. In fact, the text discusses eighty-four different asanas, four of which are described in detail, along with the benefits of mantra repetition, Yogic philosophy, five different types of prana, tantric practices, and the art of meditation.

The chapters of the Shiva Samhita cover various aspects of the practice of Yoga. The word “Yoga” means the union of a human soul with the divine. Some of the aspects that are covered in the chapters of the Shiva Samhita are several methods of liberation, the structure of our 72,000 nadis, and the awakening of the Kundalini Shakti energy. Additionally, the Shiva Samhita outlines the importance of having a true Guru who can awaken the Kundalini energy safely, as well as describing the subtle body and the movement of prana.

There is an explanation in the Shiva Samhita of hand mudras or sacred gestures, eleven of which may substantially support a Yoga student in reaching liberation. In the text, Shiva also clarifies obstacles that a seeker may encounter on the spiritual path and outlines techniques for working with both those obstacles and our shadow aspects. In addition, the Yoga of sacred sound or Nada Yoga is discussed along with the practice of mantra repetition.

Many scholars believe that the Shiva Samhita was written between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, in or around Varanasi, India. It is a beautiful text that enumerates and explains how to practice and succeed on a classical Yogic path.

Even though the text discusses many esoteric aspects of practicing Yoga, Shiva himself emphasizes that even an ordinary individual, or family, living in the middle of the maelstrom of the world can benefit from a regular practice of Yoga.

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