Women’s Natural Gift: The Heart of Yoga
by Nischala Joy Devi.
March 14, 2013.
Our story as women is filled with seers, healers, and visionaries who formed an integral part of society. But most of them were not scholars or intellectuals; they were mostly unassuming people, living ordinary lives while exhibiting extraordinary powers. Their wisdom was derived from their very humility and open mindedness. Very often, these women were tapping into their intuitive powers to heal or make awe-inspiring prophecies. Simple women reached into other dimensions as easily as stirring the soup or rocking the cradle; and, in doing so, they helped heal the sick and avert calamities.
Having this gift, this access to a higher order was considered special but not unusual. These powers were once touted as “natural,” something that all women could tap into. When viewed with an elevated consciousness, intuition was honored, not feared.
Tragically, this great and benevolent gift came to inspire fear. Women’s intuition came to be regarded as “irrational,” and women became second-class citizens. And, in the darkest times, many of the women exhibiting their intuitive powers suffered greatly at the hands of the ignorant.
Thankfully, most women in modern society are not treated as harshly as we once were, but prejudice still remains. We are tempted to hide our gifts for fear of physical, mental, or spiritual persecution. But the great stories of women tell us that concealing our power is detrimental to future generations. Truly and joyfully embracing our power honors the blessed gift it was meant to be.
In my life and my teaching, I’ve sought to help other women and, openhearted men, rediscover that beautiful and powerful heart perspective and bring it forth to shine in their lives.
Finding the Heart in the Yoga Sutras
For many years I’ve been a student of the Yoga Sutras. At first, I sought to understand them from a “rational” view. This striving relaxed as the natural feminine “heart perspective” invited itself into my study. Embracing the spirit of the sutras, rather than their literal meaning, allowed me to integrate the sacred teachings at a much deeper level.
In my book The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras the negative words that are found in the English language in abundance have been excluded where possible in order to bring a more positive vision to this sacred text.
This was a difficult task considering that the English language has the habit of taking a negative word and adding “not” or “on” to it, expecting the opposite meaning to emerge. Actually, the mind continues to relate to the root word, and we miss the important concept.
For instance, the great virtue of Asteya in the Yoga Sutras is typically translated as “non-stealing.” Upon hearing this, the mind cannot help but focus on “stealing”—exactly what we’ve been told not to do!
For an opposite effect to take place, the word or words must be reinterpreted from what not to do into what to do. Asteya then could easily be understood in positive terms such as honesty, generosity, or integrity. So, rather than implying that people steal and proposing they refrain from this action, my text proposes that they be generous and honest and live in integrity.
Similarly, the Sutra on Aparigraha, is generally translated as non-greed or greedlessness. Telling someone not to be greedy is like telling her not to think of chocolate. Once the notion of chocolate is planted in the mind, it’s very hard to dislodge. A more positive approach goes to the heart of Aparigraha and unveils the positive perspective as “awareness of abundance,” so that sharing what you have and taking only what you need follow naturally.
Using heart-centered language rather than language that admonishes us (even when we don’t deserve it!) brings out our real joy and the strength to leap tall obstacles in a single bound!
Remembering the Joy: A Women’s Retreat with Nischala Devi May, 2013