03 Aug Yogini – more than a girl making yoga shapes
I’ll be honest; I thought yogini was simply just the feminine form of yogi. A way of describing a girl who makes yoga shapes, or practices contemporary yoga, but it’s so much more. And I’m not sure I’ll think of myself in the same way again.
Below you will find a beautiful piece taken from Yoni Shakti by Uma Dinsmore-Tuli. I’m only part way through this book but already it has introduced me to some truly lovely practices that have taken me on a deeper yoga journey. Yes, just perfect for this time during my pregnancy but I’ve found myself wishing I’d found them many moons ago!
Through my ongoing studies into the history and philosophical development of yoga over time, I had begun to wonder if women existed in the world of yoga when it began over 2000 years ago. And then I opened Uma’s book and WOOSH… like a breath of fresh air. Women in yoga didn’t just exist; they were worshiped, honoured and revered.
So taken from her book, I’d like to share with all my fellow female practitioners, the true meaning behind Yogini.
The history fits so perfectly with how I feel about my yoga practice, it’s not all pretty, beautiful and easy. Just like life at times my practice is raw, with rough edges; it’s honest, harsh, guttural and at times ugly.
So read on and then wear and use your title with pride ladies; yoga is a powerful and transformational practice, if you allow yourself to explore the magic of the feminine within. Your fearsome powers are a part of a powerful history in yoga.
“In contemporary yoga studios across the world, the Sanskrit term yogini is most commonly used to mean women who are practicing yoga. This is, at one level, what the word literally means, since it is the feminine form of the term yogi: a man who practices yoga.
But although technically speaking yogini can literally refer to human females who do yoga, the word yogini carries quite a powerful charge of other meanings. In South Asian Hindu and Buddhist contexts, yoginis are also ferocious and terrifying goddesses with astonishing and alarming supernatural powers. In this sense, a yogini is a demonic entity who may steal babies, demand blood sacrifices, suck a man dry of his semen in the night, and then fly through the air to consort with her sisters and conduct magical rituals on dark nights in secret temples. A sub-set of yoginis is also associated with the spread of diseases such as smallpox and typhus, and held responsible for miscarriages and stillbirths. As a group, these yogini’s inspire a combination of awed devotion and terror: they may bestow great powers upon those who worship them, but such worship may be performed out of fear that the unappeased yoginis might use their powers to cause suffering or death.
In this context, human yoginis are not simply female yoga practitioners. They are seen to be women who, by virtue of their closeness to the yogini goddesses and demonesses, may command superhuman powers or siddhis. Because these powers are greatly feared, the human yoginis are both revered and reviled: they are women who may be in a position to use the supernatural powers gifted to them by the divine yoginis, to provide assistance or protection, but they are also likely to be the scapegoats for inexplicable sufferings and diseases. A yogini, human or divine, can be a powerful protectress, but it is also wise to protect oneself from her. “
So how do you feel about calling yourself a Yogini now?
You can purchase Uma’s book directly through her website Womb Yoga, if you have a keen interest in yoga, femininity and wish to deepen your knowledge and your practice then this is one that should definitely be in your collection.
If you enjoy reading books about yoga then you should check out my book reviews in the Yoga Book Shelf section of this blog!