Shadow Yoga is a modern term that encompasses the ancient practices originating with the Pashupata tantrika yogins. These practises preceded and gave rise to Hatha Yoga.
The Pashupata tantrika yogins are the oldest known ascetic yogins, even pre-dating Patanjali.
The name Shadow Yoga is derived from the sixth chapter (entitled ‘Yoga of the Shadow Man’) of the ancient tantrika treatise or writings titled ‘The Shiva-svarodaya’ (the birth of the breath of life revealed by the god Shiva).
The teaching of the Shadow School is based upon the ancient Hatha Yogic texts which state that ‘all fixed forms should be designed to develop the practice of freestyle’. Freestyle is a necessary step in the cultivation of longevity and enlightenment.
The required tools are the Shadow Yoga prelude forms, Nrtta (pure dance of Shiva), Asana (posture), Pranayama (inner breath control) and the mental practices through the concentrated power of will termed Samyama (even restraint).
The basis for all is Nrtta which in its light form is the legacy of the Pashupata tantrika yogins. Through this pure form, devoid of any gymnastic or theatrical embellishments, the sadhaka (aspirant) rediscovers the natural rhythmic currents hidden within the body.
Most of the asanas used in contemporary Hatha Yoga schools are adaptations of the standing and squatting karanas. The important difference is that in the original practice the placement of the legs was achieved through the energy of the legs whereas nowadays the legs are manipulated with the hands to achieve the same shapes.
Through Samyama the essence of these activities are drawn into a single point that acts as the gateway into the immensity better described as ‘the unknown’.
The Shadow Yoga teachings encompass different stages of learning. There are various paths from which to choose as one ascends to the heights of knowledge and experience. Each individual will choose the path that they feel most drawn towards.
1. Preparatory forms (Introduction to Shadow Yoga)
2. Nrtta Sadhana – pure dance of shiva
3. Shadanga Yoga – six limbs (asana, pranayama etc.)
4. Individual Yogasana – personalised one-to-one teaching based on the individual’s needs
Sundernath (Shandor Remete) was fortunate to be born into a household at the southeastern tip of the great Hungarian plain where the art of yoga was a daily presence. From this seed, his destiny on the path of yoga unfolded.
He is an initiate of the Kanpatha Hatha Yogins of Nepal, descendants of Sri Gorakhnath, and his Guru Sri Matsyendranath. These great Yogins were the forefathers of Tantrik Hatha Yoga, the heart of which is Hatha Yoga – the science bestowed upon humanity by Adinatha (Lord Shiva).
Emma Balnaves is an internationally respected teacher of the traditional forms and philosophies of Hatha Yoga. She has been teaching yoga since 1995.
Emma was introduced to yoga in her early teens when she became intrigued by the mystery of the practices and the feelings they evoked inside her. After studying visual communication, majoring in photography at university, and working in the creative arts in Sydney, New York, and London, Emma committed herself to a life of teaching yoga. Her early training began with a three-year apprenticeship at the Hatha Yoga Shala in Bondi Junction, Sydney, Australia.
After decades of in-depth study and research in yoga, Ayurveda, and other internal arts, Emma began incorporating the full spectrum of the yogic process in her teaching.
In 2019 she completed her first film Agniyogana, which she was inspired to create as a way to share the essence of these teachings and bring a better understanding of all aspects of the practice.
It is the ancient practices originating with the Pashupata tantrika yogins which preceded and gave rise to Hatha Yoga.
Lord Pashupathi transformed himself into Adinath, the first teacher, who through the labours of his human disciples Matsyendranath, Gorakhnath, Jalandharnath and others gave Tantrik Hatha Yoga for the welfare and spiritual development of mankind.
As mentioned on our About page, the 6th chapter of ‘The Shiva-Svarodaya’ is entitled ‘Yoga of the Shadow Man’ and deals with the intricate manifestations of the shadow and their significance both inside an
The Ashtanga Hrdaya of Vagbhata, a primary ayurvedic text, also contains a chapter on the shadow which deals with diagnostic principles. There is also a story about Allama Prabhudeva, (one of the famous forefathers of Hatha Yoga), in which he describes the human body as nothing but layers of frozen shadows. According to Hatha Yogic anatomy the body is composed of three discrete bodies and five sheaths (coverings or shadows). The practice of Hatha Yoga has evolved with the purpose of dissolving these shadows.
The texts also suggest that the set forms should contain within them the following bodily positions and movements for the proper development of the vital breath. Standing, Pumping, Sitting, Weighing, Lying (face-down, face-up, on the side), Forwards, Sideways (lateral), Backwards, Inversion, Spiral, Turning, Twisting. These twelve kinds of positions and movements have been adapted from the range of human activities including martial arts, dance and crafts of life, and from the plant and animal kingdoms. The appropriate combination of these activities with suitable rhythm and positioning brings about the unfolding of the inner powers hidden in the individual.
About Nrtta Sadhana – Pure dance of Shiva
It is important to understand the difference between Natya – Nrttya and Nrtta. The first two terms refer to theatrical performance while Nrtta is defined in the Abhinaya Darpana of Nandikesvara as ‘that dance devoid of any type of emotional mood’. This corresponds exactly to the explanation of Abhava yoga given by Mahesvara (Lord Siva) in the eleventh chapter of the Kurma Purana. This states that Abhava Yoga is that yoga in which one contemplates oneself as void and without any shadow (manifestation) of anything, which therefore enables one to visualize the Self. Here, Abhava refers to a state free from any emotional support, also exemplified in Nrtta as defined by Nandikesvara.
The eleventh chapter of the Kurma Purana includes a detailed explanation of Pashupata Yoga. Nrtta formed a large part of the corrective Sadhana of the Pashupata yogins. This is clearly indicated in the eighth sutra of the first chapter of the Pashupata Sutras. Out of the one hundred and eight karanas mentioned in the Natya Shastra, not more than thirty-six karanas are used for the purpose of self-cultivation.
The Nrtta is that Sadhana (the way of accomplishments) through which the sadhaka (aspirant) rediscovers the rhythmic life currents hidden in the body’s folds and limbs by means of unimposed natural positioning and that is termed as karana (cause).
The four forms of Nrtta are:
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