It goes without saying that all yoga teachings involve a spiritual component and are based on a philosophy of self-discovery and enlightenment. While they retain those aspects, yoga classes are now adapted to our Western lifestyle.
This means most yoga styles focus on physical movement, breathing exercises, and light meditation. But what about spirituality and personal growth?
If you’re interested in a more spiritual approach, you should learn more about Siddha Yoga.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to Siddha Yoga and its teachings, cover its benefits, and explain what makes it different from other types of yoga.
What Is Siddha Yoga About?
Simply put, Siddha Yoga describes the process of the soul’s spiritual transformation. The inner transformation happens through self-discipline, regular exercise, meditation, studying the philosophy behind Siddha Yoga, and engaging in selfless acts of giving back to the community.
As a result, the soul reaches a higher level of being or vibration. Siddha Yoga means “perfect,” “perfection,” or “perfected yoga.”
Mastering this spiritual transformation starts with initiation. The first step, which is called shaktipat-diksha, means “initiation by the descent of divine power.” The guru who initiates the student awakens their Kundalini (divine energy at the spine’s base) by guiding them through meditation, pranayama breathing, asanas, and chanting mantras.
The awakening can be symbolically represented with a mantra, touch, or a word that is believed to be sacred. This way, the guru symbolically enters the spirit of the student. The guru then guides them through the teachings and scriptures of Siddha Yoga.
The main principles of Siddha Yoga are:
- Service to the community
- Preaching and spreading awareness
- Dakshina or expressing gratitude to the guru or a saint for teaching you the principles and values of the Siddha
- Studying the philosophy behind Siddha Yoga
- Hatha Yoga
Traditionally, Shaktipat Diksha had only been possible for students who have wholly dedicated themselves on a path to the initiation, largely in the founder’s closer circles. Today, however, new students can also go through this kind of awakening.
Who Founded Siddha Yoga?
In 1975, Swami Muktananda founded Siddha Yoga in Oakland. A year later, he established the Shree Nityananda Ashram in New York. Another Siddha Yoga Ashram is located in India. Muktananda based this spiritual path on Eastern philosophies and teachings like the Bhagavad Gita, Kashmir Shaivism, Vedanta Hindu, and other scriptures.
Despite some negative accusations of this movement resembling a cult and leaders being involved in illicit actions, the movement has primarily been described positively.
How Is Siddha Yoga Different From the Average Yoga Class?
The main difference between an average yoga class and Siddha Yoga is that the latter involves a lifestyle change and a higher level of commitment.
The leading practices of Siddha Yoga are chanting, meditating, Hatha, studying, volunteerism, and tithing (Dakshina).
Meditation is the most important part, followed by chanting and mantras. The main Siddha Yoga mantra is the Om Namah Shivaya.
The main chants are namasankirtana (chanting the names of God in Sanskrit) and swadhyaya (long Sanskript scriptural texts).
An average yoga class is more about physical exercise and can (but doesn’t have to) involve meditation and breathing exercises. It’s also up to the teacher whether and to which extent they will share some philosophical knowledge.
In Siddha Yoga, students gather in satsang – group meetings in the dedicated meditation centers or ashrams, and the students are expected to also engage in volunteerism, seva (grateful voluntary donations to saints, also known as Dakshina), and studying philosophy.
This permeates the student’s whole life, while the average yoga class is over when you leave the studio.
An average yoga class has many forms, like mellow restorative yoga or dynamic Ashtanga. Siddha is an eclectic practice that can involve exercising Hatha Yoga (stretching and meditating) and other spiritual practices.
The Benefits of Siddha Yoga
Those reporting positively about Siddha Yoga have experienced numerous positive outcomes. Many are already known as the benefits of meditation, but some are specific to Siddha Yoga.
Some of these benefits are:
- Increased levels of happiness and satisfaction in life
- A more positive outlook on life
- Increased sense of inner peace
- Reduced feelings of anxiety, distress, and depression
- Improved focus and concentration
- Reduced experience of pain in case of chronic illness
- Increased self-awareness and self-acceptance
Who Can Do Siddha Yoga?
As we said, in the past, Siddha Yoga was not as accessible as it is today. Students had to be chosen and initiated by the guru. Nowadays, anyone can participate in Siddha Yoga.
For instance, you can enroll in Siddha Hatha Yoga classes. Alternatively, you can participate in dedicated retreats. For longer retreats, you may need to take days off from work. Dedicated Siddha practitioners usually volunteer at the ashram or meditation centers.
You don’t need to be physically active or prepared to practice Siddha Yoga. Even if you are a complete beginner, you will start your Hatha Yoga practice and gradually progress with your physical flexibility and strength.
Before engaging in Siddha Yoga, though, the students should be aware that this is a primarily spiritual practice, and they need to be sure that they agree with the culture, philosophy, and values of the Siddha Yoga path.
Siddha Yoga is a rather modern and relatively new spiritual practice (compared to other ancient yoga practices). It encompasses meditation, volunteering, learning, reading, chanting, and following a particular philosophy of life, whereas traditional yoga focuses more on physical exercise.
Since it’s available today to anyone interested, Siddha yoga is an excellent opportunity for anyone looking for a spiritual journey and a way to increase self-awareness.