Siva vs. Shakti, Feminine vs. Masculine: The Opposites Within Us

Because I’ve been teaching prenatal yoga for two decades, people assume that I must love all things baby-related.

And I do – nature really knew what she was doing when she created little humans. Who could not love those little toes and the way they come in to the world as fully-formed but mini people with all of their quirks?

But cute little humans are not the only reason I love teaching yoga to moms and moms-to-be.

For me, while I have been blessed to have caring, inspring yoga teachers from the beginning of my journey, once I started teaching prenatal yoga, birth became my guru.

Studying the journey to motherhood taught me – and continues to teach me – about co-creation.

Co-creation means creating with an awareness that we are collaborating with bigger forces than our own limited mind or body can offer.

In some ways, all the things we think of as creative can actually be seen as co-creating.

But we forget sometimes that we are not working alone.

We’re starting out as a yoga teacher – we think it all has to be planned out.

We begin a new career path – we feel bad if things to move forward in a straight line.

Even after two decades, it’s something I get amnesia about every day, and still need to be reminded.

Remembering the process of co-creation makes my life infinitely easier, and helps me to bring in to the world whatever is wanting to be born through me (like this writing) with less struggle and more meaning and joy.

Siva and Shakti

According to yoga, the universe is made up of two complimentary opposite elements, represented by a god and goddess, ever-dancing and connected to each other: Siva (pronounced “Shiva”) and Shakti.

Like the Chinese yin and yang, Siva and Shakti represent the masculine and the feminine in nature, and within all of us.

Siva, our masculine side, is all that is steady and unchanging. Siva is the timeless essence of who we are, the part that never changes or dies.

For instance, if you look at a picture of yourself as a toddler, every physical feature has changed over the years. And yet you recognize yourself. The part that is still exactly the same, that you can’t quite name but you know is there – that’s a great metaphor for Siva.

Siva is Consciousness itself, it’s the intelligence of nature. Siva is the pulsatingmasculine and feminine: siva
formless potentiality before the Big Bang. Then, and in each moment thereafter, Siva expresses itself in the multitudinous forms of the universe as Shakti.

Shakti, the feminine, is all that moves and and flows and cycles around. Everything we can see, feel, touch, and know is Shakti – because as embodied beings, we can only experience that which is changing. The formless will have to wait until WE are formless, according to yoga.

Shakti is ever-changing. If you think about the flow of thoughts and insights and desires and feelings within you that cause you to be different in this moment than the last, that’s Shakti. YOU are Shakti: Consciousness in a unique, ever-changing form.

In our embodied form, we can’t really experience Siva fully. We might get glimpses, little hits of our limitless Self, momentary connections to the expansiveness within – but we always come back to our limited bodies and minds (until we don’t).

In an embodied state, we see all people in their ever-morphing form. Yet we can also be aware that within us all is the same good stuff, expressing itself uniquely.

The Masculine and the Feminine*

Siva and Shakti can be translated into day-to-day experiences. Again, these are the more limited versions of them, because as embodied beings, we are only experiencing the universe within limitation.

*Just to clarify, this has nothing to do with men vs. women, gender, sexuality, or archetypes – according to yoga we are all made up of both, as is all of nature. Siva and Shakti are in eternal dance with each other. Like yin and yang, like the inhale and exhale, like contraction and expansion, one can’t exist without the other, and each exists within the other.

Masculine and feminine pairs of opposities offer a useful tool to be able to come to know the opposing parts of ourselves, so we can become skillful at choosing one over the other in different situations.

Understanding them can help us connect to the most useful, effective, optimal qualities to help us transform our desires from deep within into reality.

The Siva or “masculine” side of us is the logical, linear, “I got this” part of us that gets stuff done. We check off our task list, steadily move forward step-by-step, self-reliant and confident in what we’re doing.

These qualities help us be steady, on track, determined.

In our masculine side were more achievement-oriented, independent, and going for it.

This part of us is both natural and necessary to get through life. For example, as a mom, we make sure each room we’re in is baby safe, we get the right food for dinner and we make sure the kid’s at the right after school activities. We go through our to-do lists. We try to be consistent in showing up when we’re needed.

The feminine side of us is the more intuitive, sensing, feeling-our-way forward side. It’s the part of us that knows it’s ok to need each other. We feel our way forward as if someone turned out the lights, moving toward a destination that has not even been created yet, staying connected to those we love and trusting that we will have guidance along th eway.

In our feminine side we’re more process-oriented, interdependent, and we move in spirals.

This part also is also important when we’re a mom. When we let go of our assumptions and expectations about who our child is, we can take them in fully. We listen and sense what our children need, and we allow them to change and grow in ways we never expected. We recognize they are constantly changing, as are we, and that we are not in control of the process – but it’s a beautiful thing to witness Consciousness expressing itself uniquely as they become more of who they are.

Two Different Ways of Creating

Our masculine qualities help us create linear projects, like building a house. We lay out the plans, place the foundation, and move forward deliberately with each step, leaving nothing to chance. We can call this creating.

Our feminine qualities help us with more artistic or undefined projects. We “co-create” by working with bigger forces and incorporating them. We listen for guidance and look for signposts. We might not know what it will look like at the end, but we follow our “Inner GPS”.

For instance, if we’re writing a poem, we don’t select our topic and metaphor, create an outline, and follow the plan.

Instead, we open up and become receptive. We ask: what’s alive for me right now? We notice what comes up, we allow it to flow, we move forward as if someone has turned the lights out and we’re using all of our senses except the usual eyesight.

We follow the thread of what feels exciting and meaningful in the moment.

The feminine part of ourselves is useful when we’re aware of incorporating what we’re not in control of – like creating an empowering pregnancy journey, starting a new habit, or setting out on a new career path.

It’s helpful to know, so we can use the right qualities for the right job.

feminine masculine round house
If we try and build our house from the feminine, we might have a sense halfway through that the 3rd floor should round instead, and the whole thing might just collapse.

Of course, starting from the feminine by taking some time to open up to new possibilities and sense what might be wonderful will mean that the result can be quite unique.

If we try and start a new relationship from the masculine part of ourselves, we might check off boxes and compare the person to an idea in our head and not allow the relationship to unfold in its own natural way.

Similarly, if we try to create an empowering pregnancy purely from a masculine place, trying to control the process and focus on how we want things to be, we might be sorely disappointed.

We might feel we have to do it alone, and figure things out by ourselves – and we might feel isolated or lost.

And we might read a ton of books and get a lot of knowledge, but we might not end up making choices that are right for us.

The ability to allow things to unfold and trust in the process is one of the greatest gifts pregnancy brings.

This is called finding the feminine.

So Which One is Better – The Masculine or the Feminine?

Of course, neither is better. We need both to do any task, any project; we’ll just emphasize different qualities at different times.

We want the vision first, the inspiration, before we build that house. Then we can start with the lists.

Once we’re allowing our pregnancy to unfold, we can learn logical ways to respond to all the ups and downs. The book lists, the registry lists, the birth plan – all so useful..

We need both – as Ma Yoga Teacher Melanie Wachsman likes to say, “educate and meditate.”

Here’s a list of masculine and feminine qualities for you to contemplate:

Remember – these aren’t written in stone. When we’re connected to our feminine side, things can have multiple meanings and be different depending how we look at them.

You might even see how some of these could be seen as the reverse.

Which side do you feel drawn to in different areas of your life?

The question is for each of us, in each moment – which one will serve my highest purpose in this moment?

Find the Feminine First

With any co-creative act, we find the feminine first: we remember that we’re not in charge.

We recognize that we don’t get to decide how things go, and we can choose how to respond to whatever happens.

We remember it’s good to connect with others who are walking this path with us – and those who have come before us – so we can give and receive guidance, and enjoy the journey we’re on.

And we open up to receive knowledge, especially when it helps us connect with our inner wisdom.

For any co-creative act, starting with finding the feminine can help us step in to a flow that’s bigger than our will or our plans.

We naturally do this at the start of any yoga class – we soften, and let go of the day and open up.

We do this when we’re gettting ready to teach – we become receptive and ask, “what do they need?”

We can choose to access our feminine side when we approach a challenging conversation, or take on a new project.

We take time to notice before we start acting.

If we never choose to co-create, we never open up to a bigger awareness than our logical minds, then no matter how much we try and be creative along the way, we’ve started out by limiting the potential outcome.

For our poem example – once we’ve connected with our thread, like an image of a purple flower, and we start tofeminine masculine purple flower describe it, and then we see its surroundings – we are in a flow.

Then, it’s time to access our masculine side to set some boundaries around the creative flow.

In the middle of writing, we might have a thought about lunch, and we say “that is not my poem”; we find the steadiness and determination to stick with our goal of finishing our poem. We say “no” to distraction and become unwavering.

Then, we spiral around to the feminine again. We pause. We turn in and listen. Am I still on my authentic path? Does this feel right? What happens with my flower next?

The feminine always moves in spirals: a rising spiral, each time it returns we’re different, in a new place, open for more guidance.

In each moment, we can ask ourselves: what part of me will support me most in this moment?

What Birth Can Remind Us

Most of us spend most of our time in our masculine side.


Society doesn’t often celebrate us for slowing down, taking some time just to be, allowing ourselves to not know for a while.

How often do we hear “Yay! You left your job and you’re going to… just garden for a while? Congratulations!”

Mostly, we receive positive feedback from society when we achieve things, push ourselves and show complete confidence in our expertise.

We often forget, any great achievement started from a feminine place of letting go, of not knowing how to proceed, of being open to guidance.

And of course pregnancy is one of those times when it usually becomes clear we’re not in charge.

As my birth teacher used to say, “if pregnancy doesn’t teach you you’re in charge, then labor will. And if labor doesn’t, then your child will.”

If we want a creative life… if we want to feel our gifts are having an affect on the world… if we don’t just want to follow the usual path to success…

We need to find the feminine daily. To let go of having to know. To connect to our innate ability to sense our next steps. To slow down and listen and follow the thread what we hear from the deeper intelligence within us – and all around us.

That is why I keep showing up for the moms-to-be.

Of course, all the excitement and cute baby stuff is a wonderful bonus!

Teaching prenatal yoga reminds me over and over again that I’m not in charge, and that there is more to any project or relationship or plan than my limited eye can know.

I remember that it makes things easier and more joyful to need each other.

And that I have everything within me, the deepest intelligence we know of – Siva, Consciousness itself – to enable me to fulfill my greatest potential on this earth, if I keep listening and following that thread.

I hope the moms-to-be I teach become more aware of their own ever-dancing Siva and Shakti as well so they can become skillful and choosing when to create, and when to co-create.

And that they too learn that when we find the feminine first, we can don’t have to go it alone.

Thank you for spreading the Ma love!

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