This month we celebrate Shivaratri. In the Hindu tradition this is the most auspicious day dedicated to Lord Shiva the Destroyer, who was the first yogi. Shiva’s wife, Parvati, was his first student to whom he taught the science of creation, and Ganesh, the elephant god whose beautiful statue sits at the front of our shala, is Shiva and Parvati’s son.
Once, when Lord Shiva was teaching yoga to Parvati near the bank of a river, Parvati noticed that a fish was listening. She was happy that the fish had a keen interest in yogic philosophy and prayed to Shiva to transform the fish into a human being. The fish was reborn as a man called Matsyendranath, after whom the pose Matsyendrasana was named.
The Shivaratri celebration, which takes place this year on 3 March, is dedicated to prayers and contemplation, traditionally involving fasting, pujas (rituals) and staying awake throughout the night. It is believed that the planetary positions align in such a way on Shivratri night that it naturally creates an upsurge of energy in the human system.
So as you enjoy your practice this month, spare a thought for Lord Shiva – without whom we would not be able to benefit from the wonderful teachings of yoga.