Gravity-defying yoga selfies can inspire amazement, awe, and, let’s admit it, a little envy.
But behind every selfie that makes even the most difficult poses look simple are countless attempts and failures (usually not documented and shared). For most of us mere yoga mortals, our poses are the result of hours and hours of practice doing something we love.
This combination of discipline and devotion in our yoga practice (and in our life) are the hallmarks of the goddess Parvati.
For her whole life, Parvati knew that she belonged with Lord Shiva; he was the one. Unfortunately, Shiva was not in the mood for love. We can’t know for certain, but it might have gone something like this:
PARVATI: (bats long eyelashes, red dress blows in the wind) Shiva, you are my true love, will you accept this rose?
SHIVA: (scratches hipster beard) It’s not you, it’s me. I’m just not ready to be tied down. Can you imagine how hard it would be to meditate on enlightenment with a wife and little baby gods and goddesses needing my attention all day?
Try as she might, the beautiful Parvati could not win Shiva’s heart with love and beauty alone. So against her parents’ wishes, she retreated deep into the mountains to practice yoga and meditation with unwavering devotion to prove herself to Shiva.
Shiva became so impressed with Parvati’s discipline, despite all temptation, that he took her as his wife. It wasn’t long before they welcomed baby Ganesh, everyone’s favorite elephant-headed god, into the universe.
Parvati was no trophy wife. In addition to being gorgeous, she was also a partner that inspired Shiva and kept him grounded. As a couple, Parvati and Shiva were emotionally close and intimate, spent a great deal of time in lengthy philosophical conversations and debates, and had some pretty epic arguments.
In our modern era, representations of Parvati are seen in strong and loving women with their own achievements (professional and/or familial) who also inspire greatness in their partners. Examples include Michelle Obama, Melinda Gates, Picasso’s muses, and even the "Downton Abbey" character Lady Edith (who finally found true love only when she had her family and professional desires fulfilled). And of course, Beyoncé. I defy you to find a better example of beauty and power than the Queen.
As yogis, we feel Parvati’s energy every time we come to our mat. We are disciplined and strong. We dedicate time to our practice and make it a priority. But we are also loving and compassionate to ourselves. In a balanced practice, we recognize our efforts and achievements, even when we struggle in a pose, or fall out entirely.
Parvati is her father’s daughter. She was born to the mountain king, and like a mountain, she is both breathtakingly beautiful and immensely strong.
Stand still in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). Root your feet solidly into the ground, like Parvati roots the esoteric Shiva to the earth. Engage your kneecaps and lift them upward while building strength in your legs. Lift your rib cage away from your hips and your armpits up away from your ribs. Draw the tops of your arm bones back and spread your collarbones wide as your palms turn forward. Lift the crown of your head up to the sky.
Photo: Ivy Park