Hatha Yoga: Transcending Duality by Uniting the Opposites

The journey of Yoga starts with Hatha Yoga since it is easy to adopt and practice. Hatha Yoga is easy to adopt because it starts with something gross with which we can identify ourselves and that is our body. But it is a grave error if one thinks that Hatha Yoga is all about physical culture. Though Hatha yoga starts with body but it aims for achieving advanced and subtler practice of higher dimensions of our personality like prana & mind and beyond them as well, leading to the realization of the state of Yoga. Thus, Hatha Yoga carries a deep and comprehensive meaning for life, if understood well can be applied for a happy life. Let us decode Ha-Tha.


Hatha Yoga is an exact science and if we can apply its meaning we can change our destiny. Hatha Yoga is the union or balance of opposing forces. These opposing forces are contained in the word “Ha-Tha” that exists in us. There are many forces of Ha-Tha operating in us; for example: masculinity-femininity, extroversion-introversion, effort-surrender, dynamism-passivity, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activity etc. Hatha yoga is the path of acceptance by uniting the opposites. Yoga has become synonymous with asana but in reality Yoga is the acceptance of diversity, duality, the opposing ideas and forces into harmonious manifestation of a sense of completeness. Such a person is a yogi. In the yogic and spiritual lore there are some powerful figures who manifested these apparently incompatible opposites in equal way toward a fulfilling life.

One such notable being is Shiva. Shiva beautifully carries within himself the extremes of opposites in such an absolute balance that none is capable to disturb his inner peace and happiness. If we observe the personality of Shiva for top to bottom we see many peculiar things around him which leaves a person amazed as to what they mean. Let us see what those symbols of Shiva are and what they signify:

Shiva: transcending diversity by uniting the opposites

1. Water and fire:

In the above picture if we observe the hairs of Shiva, we see that from top of his hairs a stream of water is flowing down. Below his hairs in the centre of his forehead there is the third eye. We know that the third eye is the symbol of fire. So water and fire are together. But do we really see water and fire together? The answer is no. This is impossible as water and fire are incompatible and cannot exist together. But Shiva holds water and fire together.

2. Nectar and poison:

If we further closely analyze the personality of Shiva we see a crescent moon in his hairs. In mythology moon is the symbol of nectar. If we come down to his throat we know that there is poison. That is why his throat is always shown in blue color. So again the opposites of nectar and poison are together in Shiva.

3. Renouncer and householder:

Let us now observe Shiva’s family. Shiva has a partner called Parvati and their progeny named Ganesha and Kartika. With his partner and children Shiva is fully engaged in worldly life with full of desires and commitments as a householder. At the same time Shiva is found in deep meditation completely absorbed in silence without a slight trace of worldly desires just like a renouncer. A renouncer and a householder are completely opposite to each other. They cannot go together but in Shiva these opposites exist in complete harmony.

4. Snake and peacock:

Next in Shiva’s neck we see the wrapping of a snake. Observe in the picture that Shiva has a son called Kartika sitting in his lap. Below his lap on the floor is a peacock. Peacock is the chariot of Kartika. It is a well known fact that wherever there is a peacock, snakes are not found because snake is the prey of peacock. Shiva has another son called Ganesha with the elephant head. The chariot of Ganesha is mouse, which can be seen in the picture below Ganesha. Wherever there is a snake, mouse is not found because mouse is the prey of snake. With Shiva they go together.

5. Bull and Lion:

The chariot of Shiva is bull and the chariot of Parvati is lion. Again bull and lion never live together. Lion and bull are completely opposite to each other but here they are together. So all the chariots of lion, bull, peacock and mouse are enemies of each other. The entire family is diverse and opposite to each other, yet they are united. Shiva himself is full of opposites and conflicting features. There is diversity yet there is unity. This unity and equanimity in diversity qualifies Shiva as a great yogi. So Ha-Tha is the union of opposites.

It is important to understand that Shiva was not a human being who lived at certain point of time. Shiva is a concept without form, encompassing the entire creation. Shiva has been personified with some symbols to help us understand the meaning of spirituality. So unity in diversity is the message of Shiva and Hatha Yoga. Diversity, opposites and contradictions are bound to be there in nature. They cannot be removed but with the message of Hatha Yoga we can learn how to bring incompatible opposites into unity. One who knows not to be disturbed by duality and stay balanced can only attain peace.

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