Ever wondered why there's a dancing Shiva (Nataraja) in our yoga studios? Shiva, the deity of yogis, dances with wild abandon, with his braids swaying across the universe, upon the demon of ignorance. His dance is the very nature of life.
Shiva's upper right hand holds a drum creating the rhythm of life, while his upper left hand holds the flame of destruction of all creation. Together, they are in harmony and bring balance to the universe.
His lower right hand is in Abhaya Mudra, a gesture depicting the energy of patience, perseverance and compassion. These qualities free us from fear, allowing us to follow our Dharma (life's purpose or path). His lower left hand points to his lifted foot to symbolise the overcoming of obstacles. He has a gentle smile showing he is serene and untouched in the midst of the "flames of life".
The statue depicts the purpose of yoga – life has creation but also an inevitable end. The acceptance of Dukkha or "unease" is the beginning of the journey. This "unease" can range from a slight annoyance to anger, hatred and depression, and can cause a range of issues from a restless mind to stress, angst, rumination and depression.
Shiva's gentle bemused smile tells us life is not a search for happiness, but a journey of understanding – finding acceptance by discovering contentment. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't be proactive (Shiva's dance of creation), but that we should understand the influence the world has on our life. The natural order of the universe is change – this is evolution. There is creation, growth and death, and these are the life circle of flames that Shiva dances in. This does not mean that we don't feel pain, but we accept it as part of living and growing.
This is the dance of yoga and the message of the Bhagavad Gita and yoga Sutras, two ancient texts we will be reviewing in the upcoming Teacher Training program. If you want to read more about the 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training with Don in Feb 2017, visit elixr.com.au/schoolofyoga