Discovering the goddesses of yoga has been one of the most profound discoveries in my 40 years of practicing yoga. In my latest blog I introduce who are the goddesses of yoga, and what are the benefits of practicing goddess yoga. I also share opportunities to learn about the goddesses with me. 

Many people have heard of the Greek and Roman gods and goddesses and their myths stories and archetypal wisdom. I find not so many people are familiar with the deities of India, in particular the tem Tantric Mahavidya wisdom goddesses of yoga. The beauty of these goddesses is that we can invoke and embody the energies of these archetypes in our yoga, goddess yoga bringing great wisdom and depth to our feminine yoga practice. 

Who are the wisdom goddesses of yoga?

The Mahavidyas are a special group of goddesses that arose in certain tantric circles in the Middle Ages in South Asia. These Deities represent divine consciousness at all levels of the universe, including our inner and outer worlds, as energies in culture, body and mind.

They include 10 goddesses, who each represent a particular approach to self-realisation.

The Mahavidya Wisdom Goddesses are known, respected and in some cases feared, for their wild, independent, liberated, sexually empowered and autonomous expressions of consciousness (Frawley, 1994)

Below is a list of their Tantric names and some key aspects of each goddess:

  • Kali: the Goddess of transformation and liberation.
  • Tara: the Goddess of compassion, sound and breath
  • Tripuri Sundari: the beauty of the ‘three worlds’, pure perception, and the Goddess of erotic spirituality
  • Bhuvaneshvari: the Goddess of infinite space; the queen of the universe
  • Bhairavi: the warrior Goddess of protection, courage and inner strength
  • Chinnamasta: the Goddess of radical self-transcendence, consciousness beyond the mind
  • Dhumavati: the crone Goddess of disappointment and letting go
  • Bagalamukhi: the power of hypnotic silence and stillness, self-observation
  • Matangi: the Goddess of creativity and the spoken word
  • Kamalatmika: the Goddess of abundance and good fortune, including material and spiritual wealth

Whilst the 10 Mahavidya’s are traditionally listed in the above order, Uma Dinsmore-Tuli (2014) presents these goddess energies are cyclical, and can shed light on and support the different life stages of a woman life. For example, Tripuri Sundari can represent Menarche, Bhuvaneshvari, womanhood and motherhood, pregnancy and birth; Bharavi the power of the menopause years; and Dhumavati welcoming the wisdom years.

Whilst all of the goddesses are always present as a part of our energy fields, some are more familiar to us, some less, and some we might not even be aware of, in our ‘shadow’. At different times of our lives different goddess energies can awaken and bring their gifts or boons us.

Shadow: embracing the dark and the light

The shadow, is the unknown ‘’dark side’ of our personality. Dark because it tends to consist of negative, primitive, socially or religiously depreciated emotions and impulses, including sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage. These aspects of ourselves are often obscured from consciousness.

Essentially everything about ourselves that we are not conscious of is shadow. Aspects which we don’t like about ourselves, pains and traumas that are buried. It can also be our light, and the hidden potentials that may have been or not nurtured, or even actively suppressed, in our childhood.

Jung saw that the failure to recognise, acknowledge and deal with our shadow is often the root of problems for individuals as well as within groups, organisations and society as a whole. Therefore any healing, growth and self-realisation work needs to include the incorporation of our shadow natures.

Becoming familiar with the shadow and integrating the dark’ ‘negative aspects’ of our selves and the ‘positive’ un-lived potential of our higher Self is an essential part of growth and individuation and of becoming more rounded, more whole.

The Goddesses archetypes can help us to explore the hidden aspects of our psyche. Through meeting ALL sides of these Goddess energies we can to embrace and integrate the dark and the light aspects of our Selves.

At a more superficial layer of Goddess practice, we can be tempted by the allure of the qualities of the different Goddesses such as bliss, wealth and power. Whilst Goddess practice can be approached to gain health, wealth, fame of other more ordinary goals in life, it is important that we are aware of any selfish or egotistical intentions.

Anyone working with these archetypal energies, need to remain cognisant of the shadow aspects of these Goddesses – each have within them deeper layers and energies that we need to be be willing to open to. It is the integration of the shadow and the light of these goddesses offer greater freedom and liberation.

Why include the Goddesses archetypes in a yoga practice?

Gods and Goddesses are ‘real’ in that they exist in eternal forms of energy in the subtlest realms of consciousness. Within the human psyche, these beings exist as psychological archetypes.

An archetype is a subtle blueprint that both transcends individual personality and lives in it, connecting our personal minds to the cosmic or collective mind. (Kempton, 2013)

The Goddesses can personify energies that we feel but may never have thought to name both in our selves and in our worlds. They offer a powerful means of understanding the capacities of our own psyche as well as the world around us. And by actively practicing with the goddesses, we are in effect, working to bring parts of our psyches/Selves into consciousness.

Yoga practice with the Goddess is a form of Self-inquiry, a means of acquiring knowledge. Practicing yoga with these Goddesses help us embody the subtlest power of the universe which can affect us psychologically, spiritually and physically, and collectively.

Deity meditation has powerful psychological benefits. When a practitioner invokes these Goddess energy through asana, meditation, visualisation, mantra we can uncover psychological forces that can transform and awaken. It can help unlock psychological blocks, including issues with power or love. Invoking the appropriate Shakti, as represented by the ten Goddesses, can open up, heal or transform stuck energies.

As a spiritual practice, it opens up transpersonal forces within your mind and heart. Practicing with these Goddesses gives us direct connection to an inner life force that can powerfully transform consciousness itself.

The transformative power of the Goddess energies can untangle psychic knots, calling forth specific transformative forces within the mind and heart. It can cleanse our mental and emotional bodies, put us in touch with the protective powers within us, and deeply change the way we see the world. It can shift the way we see ourselves, giving us the power to see the Divine qualities we already hold (Kempton, 2013)

Including the Goddesses in asana practice has the added benefit of embodying these energies. Women’s health and vitality is very much governed by our cycles, our monthly menstrual cycles, the moon as well as our life cycles, of Maiden, Mother, Maga and Crone.  Yoga when practiced with these archetypal energies honours the changes in our cycles, calling us to be more present in our womanly bodies, and can bring a whole new dimension to our yoga.

Collectively, we live in a time where there is a great need for the re-emergence of the Divine feminine. Goddesses come alive when they are invoked and worshiped. Human consciousness and imagination are so powerfully creative, our attention to these forms can have a powerful effect on our own life experience, and can also affect collective consciousness.

Awakening and Empowering the Divine Feminine

These Goddesses offer us great wisdom for our current times. Many of us can feel disempowered by the current structures, governments and systems.

Many contemporary writers have pointed out that our survival as a species may depend on our ability to re-engage with the feminine (Sally Kempton, 2013). And that despite women (particularly in the modern world) enjoying more freedoms and opportunities than in the past, very few of us actually live from our intrinsic feminine strength and intelligence.

Goddess practice is a form of sacred feminism. In contrast to political feminism, sacred feminism it is a feminism for the soul. In the west we are used to seeing the feminine as essentially receptive… even passive. The wisdom Goddesses offer us a much wider and more diverse (and even radical) spectrum of feminine possibility. Sacred feminism looks at true feminine power. It embraces everything that is beautiful in the feminine, as well as everything that is terrifying.

Tantric sages have always seen, respected and revered, the power of the feminine. In Tantra, the feminine is the life force, the Shakti, behind all evolution and change.

I have personally found that practicing yoga with these Divine feminine energies has been deeply healing and empowering, awakening my innate and fuller range of feminine qualities.

Goddess practices are not merely an adulation of feminine forms or qualities. It may start with the image of the Goddess, but reaches far beyond the limits of name, form, and personality to the impersonal, the Absolute (Frawley, 1994)

Learn Goddess Yoga with Jane

I invite you to join me for one of my Goddess Yoga Workshops here at Tara Springs Retreat Centre, in Central Victoria.  I offer four workshops a year, aligned to the cyclical seasons of the region.  See my website of listing of all upcoming workshops.  These workshops are truely beautiful, and transformative. 

“I absolutely love Jane’s half day goddess immersions. As a long term yogi, having a well experienced teacher guide me through practices and teachings is a blessing. Jane is authentic, kind and knowledgeable, so a treat to be around. I wish for all women to experience dwelling in the women’s sacred circle with goddesses. Tammy Ben-Shaul

Bibliography

Sally Kempton (2013) Awakening Shakti: the Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga. Sounds True.

David Frawley (1994) Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses. Lotus Press.

David Frawley (2016)  http://www.dailyo.in/arts/hindu-mythology-goddess-kali-shiva-hinduism-yoga-spirituality/story/1/9920.html

Shambhavi Chopra (2007) Yogic Secrets of the Dark Goddess: Lightning Dance of the Supreme Shakti, Wisdom Tree Books.

Uma Dinsmore-Tuli (2014) Yoni Shakti: A woman’s guide to power and freedom through yoga and tantra. Yoga Words.

Lorraine Taylor (2014) Notes from Sacred Journey into Yoga Teacher Training.  For More information go to Lorraine Taylor Yoga for her 200 hour Sacred Journey into Yoga for Women, a month long ashtanga vinyasa yoga teacher training journeying with the Ten Mahavidya Goddesses.

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