of yoga and druidry

When connecting Druidry with yoga, you run across what I’ll call the external correlations. For example, there’s the same notion of priestly caste among the ancient Celts and Indians: Celtic Druid, Roman flamen and Indian brahmin are linked in texts that explore Dumezil’s system of the three societal functions (priest, warrior, producer). There is the image of crosslegged Cernunnos on the Gundestrup cauldron, similar to images of Rudra/Shiva.

But those are the externals. Whether or not there’s a link between Celtic polytheism and Indian religion — both, as it happens, Indo-European in language and culture — yoga does have a value to the modern Druidic practitioner.

Asanas, the postures of hatha yoga, may seem strange. Some bear the names of plants and animals: tree, eagle, cat/cow, lotus. During asana, the focus is on the process itself, not on the internal run of thoughts. Asanas can provide a brief, physical exploration of shapeshifting in some instances. While in tree, be the tree. While in cobra, feel your body rise sinuously from the earth as a serpent.

Breathwork — called pranayama — is also essential to yoga. It can energize, as in breath of fire, or balance out one’s body, as in alternate nostril breathing. As such, it can be a Druidic tool for exploring one’s energetic body or clearing the mind before ritual. Before I engage in ritual practice, I like to practice alternate nostril breathing or the three-part breath, which clears the mind of the usual rambling soliloquies and gets me in the mood for the sacred.

So too with meditation. Eastern meditation isn’t journeywork. If involves clearing the mind of all thought, usually by focusing on the breath, a candle flame, a mandala, an internal mantra. Quite frankly, this is a useful religious skill; it’s difficult to focus on feeling your place in the cosmos or connecting with the Kindreds if you’re going over an internal grocery list, fretting about the check engine light in your car, or wondering what you’ll make for dinner.

Clearing the mind is a precursor to devotional work, magical work, journeying and divination. In order to allow the divine to fill you, you must prepare a clean, empty vessel. You can’t pour tea into an already full cup without making a big ol’ mess.

The focii used in meditation practice can easily translate to Druidry. When I flame-gaze, I use the candles on my altar. Or, I focus on an internal image — usually the Awen, fire-in-water (which I consider a symbol of Brighid), the triskele, Brighid’s cross, an image of Brighid herself. An internal mantra (“holy well and sacred flame,” for example) can serve much the same purpose.

After a lengthy asana practice, I will often rest in corpse pose focusing on an internal image from my spiritual path. While focusing on the Awen may seem fundamentally different from Om, the practice works beautifully.

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About whitecatgrove

The musings of a Druid priestess, singer, poet and musician in Upstate New York.
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