What does the Dancing Shiva have to do with Freedom?

It's been a long time since I've practiced yoga like I want to practice yoga. It's been one of my great longings living in NYC, because this place is chalk full of incredible studios. Really,  you may think of Southern California when you think of green-smoothie-drinking-hippy-yogis, but New York is pretty much just like Bali, but made of bricks and cement and maybe it gets a little colder in the winter.

Dancing Shiva Hindu god - image credit
The problem is the super skinny debt reduction diet doesn't allow for full membership dues at these places. So, for the last year I've had to be content with the one-and-only quality class at our local NYSC. The instructor is really great and I'll leave it at that, though I'm tempted to go into all the reasons I don't like the other yoga classes they offer (ahem, it has to do with the instructors and maybe you'll say that what I get out of my practice has only to do with what I myself put in...blah blah blah).Yes, I've been meaning to do something about it, cancel my gym membership since I'm basically paying $20 for a Saturday yoga class and then maybe 30 mins on an eliptical traniner a couple times a week, and putting that money towards a more desirable option. But until I can muster up the strength for the fight of getting out of my contract, I have opted for the "daily deal website" avenue. Who knows, considering the myriad yoga studios in the City, I may be able to just live (er..work out) on a "30-day unlimited pass" at a time basis.

That was a long preface to the real meat of this post. My current 30-day unlimited pass is to Sonic Yoga in Hell's Kitchen (yes, that's the name of a neighborhood, not just a reality show). I can't even tell you how much I have loved my experience so far. I've been to three classes this week and had two different instructors and as luck would have it, the instructor from this morning also subbed the class last night and she pretty much led us through the same series of postures and vinyasas. She started the class by telling us a story. On the 4th, she found herself trying to explain to her 4-year-old the meaning of freedom. "It means having no rules...but there are rules" and such. She realized she wasn't even sure she knew the meaning of freedom. So she did what any normal person would do, right? She turned to Merriam Webster.

1: the quality or state of being free: as a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action b : liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another : INDEPENDENCE

 Then she looked up independence. It was Independence Day, afterall.

1 : not dependent: as a (1) : not subject to control by others : self-governing

She then related these concepts to yoga. Yoga is self-governing. There is no one to answer to in your yoga practice other than yourself. Sure, if you're practicing in a class or with others, there is often someone leading you through a sequence, but how deeply you go into the pose or how long you hold it and always your intention is 100% up to you. This is one of the reasons I love yoga. At least, what I would call "good" yoga. The freedom to let my body move the way it wants to move, utlizing the earth's gravity and my own consciousness. I love how a "good" yoga instructor understands these concepts (one of these days I'll do a teacher training course and then maybe I can be a "good" yoga instructor, too).

dancing shiva yoga pose - image credit
The Dancing Shiva, or Nataraj, as this instructor explained, is the Hindu god with four arms dancing in the ring of fire in celebration of the triumph of good over evil. It is a symbol of creation and destruction, birth and death, growth and decay.

So, what does the Dancing Shiva have to do with Freedom? I love this symbolism of the Dancing Shiva. His right foot is crushing the demon of ignorance and sin. One hand is held in a mudra (gesture) that communicates to "be without fear". His four arms point in the four cardinal directions. There is freedom in his movement, but each movement is intentional and purposeful. All encircled by the ring of fire, or samsara. Samsara in Hinduism refers to the phenomenal world or the cyclical world of rebirth.

I believe there are elements of truth in everything and I love looking for it. So, here's my interpretation and explanation of what it all has to do with freedom (I hope this does not offend or seem sacriligious).

I do not believe in reincarnation, but I do believe in rebirth. I believe I am reborn everytime I renew my covenant with God to follow Him and keep His commandements and I believe that we will all be "reborn" sometime after we die, but it will be a traditional birth, but a resurrection. I believe, with our Founding Fathers, that liberty is a God-given right. And because it is given by God, for freedom to truly be freedom it must be used within the bounds God has set. So yes, there are rules, but because we have freedom and independence, we are given the ability to be self-governing.

Some people may think that God's boundaries (ie, commandments) are restricting and that true freedom is the ability to make whatever choice you want, good or bad. I disagree. A choice is good when it opens up more opportunites to make choices--thus affording you true freedom. A choice is bad when it closes doors on opportunities that may have been available to you if you hadn't made that choice.

Like a kite dancing through the sky. It can fly only when it is tethered to the earth.

1 comment:

The White Silk Purse (Dana) said...

:) well said!

Attending Yoga has been a wonderful life-change for me. There is a lovely woman in my neighborhood who has begun teaching again after several years away from the "art." -- It is truly wonderful.