The origins of yoga

The origins of yoga

An exploration of Lord Shiva, Parvati, Matsyendra, and the early origins and spirituality of yoga. By Neelam Puri

Yoga is a combination of breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures. It is widely practiced for health and relaxation.

A stereotypical image of yoga is of someone who is svelte, stretching out into an accomplished, challenging, physical pose on a mandala-printed floor surrounded by nature.

The real practice, however, is much more than that! It is said that the practice of yoga can take you on a spiritual journey; it can unlock your spirituality and provide access to the higher realms.

Yoga practice is known worldwide; it is widely recognised as improving health. All can take part no matter what their physical ability. Its effects and benefits are as unique as the person practicing it.

Would you like to know why? Let’s go deeper…

Lord Shiva and the origins of yoga

The practice of yoga originates from India. Its art has been described within ancient religious Hindu scriptures called the Vedas.

The patron of Yoga was an Indian named Shiva who lived many, many centuries ago; known as Lord Shiva he is considered to be a deity and has many worshippers worldwide. Lord Shiva is also the patron of meditation and dance.

He was and is still considered as the first guru who ever lived – the Adiguru — which means the first spiritual master.


The legend of yoga

Have you ever heard the song, Lord of the Dance?

This is the chorus:

Dance, then, wherever you may be,

I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,

And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,

And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

Lord Shiva is considered as the Lord of Dance. His story has been handed down through families over generations so there are probably many versions. Legend says that he used to dance around madly, then spend days in meditation. Heaven was so mystified by his happiness and energy that even God wanted to know his secret. He refused to share his practice and told his wife, the Goddess Parvati, that he would never share his sacred practice.

However, Parvati’s love persuaded him to tell all. He decided to take her to the bottom of the sea so that only she was privy to his teachings. He built a dome underwater and shared with her the sacred knowledge of the universe through various movements – 84 to be precise, and these movements, which are called asanas, are part of the teachings of yoga as we know today.

But there is more!

Years earlier in the 10th century, a baby had been born during difficult times. The baby was considered to be unlucky and cast into the ocean. He was swallowed whole by a giant fish. Legend has it that he lived within the fish and grew up to be a man. This man was called Matsyendra.

Whilst he was inside the fish, he came across Shiva teaching Parvati in their bubble under the sea. He stayed nearby, listening. Parvati eventually became bored. As Parvati's eyes glazed over, Shiva said, ‘Fine! Is there no one listening to me?’

“I’m listening,” said Matsyendra, from his fish.

Parvati informed Shiva that she had known all about the asanas and their sacred knowledge but found it entertaining to be taught!

So, Lord Shiva decided to teach Matsyendra the secrets of Hatha Yoga, (this is the basics of yoga, and means ‘the state of yoga through force’). Matsyendra stayed in the fish for 12 years practicing yoga. Finally, his fish was caught and sliced open. He emerged, a fully awakened Yogin (practitioner of yoga).

Yoga today

It is thought that Lord Shiva is present when anyone, anywhere is dancing or practicing yoga. The sacred knowledge from Lord Shiva is imparted during those moments.

However, and this is the most amazing part…

The energy of Lord Shiva imparts sacred knowledge only to the spiritual level that is right for each individual. This means that you could be practicing yoga or dancing and suddenly an answer to a question that has been on your mind comes to you.

It also means that levels of sacred knowledge are only shared by the divine source when a person is ready to receive. Lord Shiva leads, ‘wherever you are’ and ‘wherever you may be’. And as the chorus goes,

And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,

And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

This song may resonate with you irrespective of your religion or spiritual beliefs.

It is said that all knowledge originates from one divine source and that it is imparted to everyone. Yoga appears to be one way that the divine source brings us all together (like a collective consciousness), through the love of movement, meditation, breathing and dance. After all, we are living and playing the dance of life. And some would go even further and say that the dance of life is more yogic than we will ever know.



Neelam Puri

Neelam is a unique spiritual mentor, astrologer, agony aunt and healer. She uses yogic breathing to link in with her clients and is an online spiritual counsellor. She has a Masters in Psychology.
Personal and confidential sessions can be conducted at a distance, on the phone, on- line, on zoom, skype or in person. To book a consultation contact her at