By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
Yoga practitioners often wonder if it is necessary to receive spiritual initiation, or Shaktipat, before embarking on a serious study of Yogic methodology and philosophy. These days, tradition has often been tossed out the window, but let’s look at the traditional method of spiritual initiation, which still exists, and let’s address some concerns. Shaktipat is the descent of divine grace through an enlightened Guru to a student. The awakening of the Kundalini energy supports a student in his or her practice of asanas, pranayama exercises, meditation, scriptural study, and the practice of kirtan or devotional singing. All of these practices nurture the Kundalini Shakti, as it ascends from the Muladhara Chakra, at the base of the spine, up through the crown chakra.
Receiving spiritual initiation will enliven and strengthen your Yoga practices, but it is not necessary in order to benefit from practicing Yoga training on a regular basis. It is said that if you do receive the gift of Shaktipat from the Guru of a Yoga school, before commencing a dedicated practice, you will experience great benefits from your efforts. However, practicing asanas and pranayama techniques will give you many physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits, without receiving divine initiation.
In ancient India, the gift of Shaktipat was only bestowed on an ardent Yoga student, who had dedicated many years of service and study to the particular path of the guru with whom he or she was dedicated. In fact, practicing asanas, and breathing exercises, was considered to be a prerequisite to preparing the physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies to hold and nurture the great energy of the awakened Kundalini Shakti. The postures and breathing exercises were seen as a way to cleanse and strengthen the vehicle of the student’s body and mind, in order to be able to hold this great gift in a balanced and honorable manner.
Traditionally, the practice of asanas and pranayamas were likened to molding a golden bowl that was strong enough to hold the milk from a mother tiger without wasting a drop. A bowl of lower quality was seen as being unable to adequately hold this divine nourishment. The other Yogic practices of scriptural study, selfless service, pranayama, meditation, mantra repetition, and the singing of sacred bhajans also support a student in his or her quest for divine knowledge, physical health, and emotional well being. All of these Yogic practices deeply nourish a Yoga practitioner, in either preparing for spiritual initiation, or nourishing the divine Kundalini Shakti, once it has been awakened by a realized master. Either way, these Yogic practices are said to be tremendously beneficial on all mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual levels.
It is important to know that some students have complained about side effects from Shaktipat. There are complaints about insomnia, difficulty breathing, and a variety of pains and aches after Shaktipat initiation. With this warning in mind, it would be worth a practitioner’s time to research these issues before considering an initiation. At this time, there is no scientific method to predict who could have negative side effects and who would not. Some students do not participate in the deep aspects of Yoga because of risks. There is nothing wrong with patience, research, and finding teachers we trust. If you decide not to participate in any ritual, that is your decision. Never do anything because of peer pressure.
© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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Practicing asanas and pranayama techniques give us many physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits, without receiving divine initiation. Thank you Dr. Paul Jerard for writing this good article.