I’m constantly watching interesting videos on YouTube and came across a guy named Infinite Waters (you also connect with him on Instagram, YouTube, and his website). I watched a video where he talks about the Seven Hermetic Principles of ancient Egypt. I was fascinated about the principles, so I read a book by the Three Initiates called The Kylbalion. Also, the Paulo Coelho novel The Alchemist is a great fictional story that incorporates the Hermetic Principles.
After reading both of the books, I began to see how the principles related to my yoga practice and life in general. It’s always amazed me how ancient civilizations were able to figure out what modern science is starting to prove. Make you wonder who were the more advanced cultures.
The Hermetic Principles
The Hermetic Principle are an ancient Egyptian philosophy that was translated by Hermes Trismegistus. The principles that he passed along are the universal laws of nature and the universe. There are seven laws that the universe follows: Mentalism, Correspondence, Vibration, Polarity, Rhythm, Cause and Effect, and Gender. Yoga has much in common with the Hermetic Principles and this how I see the connection with my practice.
Principle of Mentalism
The first Hermetic principle is Mentalism. The principle states that The All (God, the Universe, or what you may refer to it as) is in the mind; the universe is mental. What that means is that we all create the universe, and what we see, in our minds. It’s from our own perspective that we see the world around us and each one of us will see the world a little differently.
One of the first things I remember from when I started practicing yoga is that when you can’t do an asana, it’s because of a mental blockage that you have created. This blockage may be something that is conscious or subconscious. Once you can recognize that it’s just a mental construct, you are able to move past it and into the posture. I also believe that, through the practice, you will be able to remove the fears and blockages that you may be unaware of.
Of course, when you are first starting out, it could very well be a physical limitation. I’m speaking from a perspective of having already established a regular yoga practice.
Principle of Correspondence
The next principle is of Correspondence and says “As above, so below; as below, so above”. Another way to say it would be “As within, so without; As without, so within”. Basically, what you put out into the universe is what you’ll get back from the universe. If you are putting negative energy out into the world, then negativity is what you get in return. So, if you want positive, or good, things to happen, then you need to put positivity into the universe.
In Yoga I have also been told that you get out of your practice what you put into your practice. If you are only going once a week, don’t expect to get a lot out of you practice. In the Mysore tradition of Ashtanga, you practice six days a week. You don’t start off practicing six days a week, of course, three days is what is recommended to begin with. You will benefit more from three days a week then if you’re just doing it once a week. Put into your practice what you wish to get out of it.
Principle of Vibration
The Principle of Vibration states that everything is in a constant state of vibration. As the Kybalion puts it, “Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.” Whats fascinating about this principle is that is has been around for thousands of years and it has been verified by modern science. Everything from matter and energy to mind and spirit vibrate at various frequencies and intensity rates. The higher the vibration, the higher it is on the scale.
While practicing Yoga, you are in a constant state of motion. Whether you’re moving from asana to asana, down to maintaining your ujjayi breathing. Your ujjayi breathe alone is in a constant state of vibration in your throat which leads to the audible sound. Within the posture, your muscles and tendons down to your cells are vibrating to help you maintain the posture.
Principle of Polarity
“Everything is dual; everything has poles; everything has its pair of opposites; like and unlike are the same; opposites are identical in nature, but different in degree; extremes meet; all truths are but half-truths; all paradoxes may be reconciled.” Essentially, the principle is talking about the concept of Yin and Yang. Light and dark are the same thing just on different sides of the spectrum, different sides of the same pole.
In the Ashtanga system, each asana has it’s opposite. For example, Pascimattanasana D is a forward fold and then you follow it with Purvattanasana, reverse plank, as it’s opposite. The seated posture of the primary series is a good example because you will do the right side and follow it up with the same posture on the left side. Just as when you do your back bending you follow it with Pascimattanasana to counter Urdhvadhanurasana (back bend). My yoga instructor explained it to me as each posture is followed by is opposite to counter the previous one.
Principle of Rhythm
This principle can be seen in everything, and everyone, in life. Everything moves to its own rhythm. The principle states, “Everything flows, out and in; everything has its tides; all things rise and fall; the pendulum-swing manifesting everything; the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates.” The changing of the seasons, or going from night to day are just a couple of examples. Each one happens at its own time and at is own interval, or rhythm, yet works within perfect harmony.
Rhythm and yoga are synonymous to each other. If you have ever taken a Mysore class you know what I mean. You follow the rhythm of you breathe to lead you through your practice at your own pace. How quickly I go through my practice may be at a different pace, or rhythm, then your practice dictates. Even in a led class, each teacher will have their own rhythm for a class. A five count for teacher may not be the same for another.
Principle of Cause and Effect
Cause and effect is something everyone has heard about. Whether be from the law of karma to the science class back in high school or earlier. The Hermetic Principle goes, “Every cause has it’s effect; every effect has it’s cause; everything happens according to Law; chance is but a name for Law not recognized; there are many planes of causation, but nothing escape the Law.” What you do, or even think, will have an effect.
This principle permeates through Yoga. The physical aspect of the practice alone can show that as long as you continue practicing, you become stronger, more flexible and will lose weight. Spiritually you’ll notice that you mind becomes more focus, your mood begins to be more positive, you start to feel more confident. All an effect of you having a regular practice. The cause for each of us that have started a Yoga practice may be different, but we all have a reason why we started.
Principle of Gender
The Principle of Gender says, “Gender is in everything; everything has its Masculine and Feminine Principle; Gender manifests on all planes.” In a purely physical sense, the genders are manifest as sex. Mentally and spiritually they manifest inside of each and everyone of us. It’s been said for centuries that there is a male side in every female and a female side in every male. Also that there is Yin and Yang energy in each of us.
The genders are present in Yoga as well. The male energy being Yang and the female Energy being Yin. There are different type of Yoga like Yin, Ashtanga, Hatha, and Iyengar, with various degrees of both energies within each type of Yoga. In Ashtanga, you have a more Yang, or male, energy for the majority of your practice and move into the Yin, or female, energy as you come to the end. Through the majority you are holding posture for five breathes and adding in vinyasa between sides once into the seated postures. As you are coming to the end of your practice, the closing posture have you breathing ten or more times in each posture while extending the breathe to start relaxing you. The Yin energy is present in the closing postures to bring your practice to a end.
Take A Rest
The Hermetic Principle of ancient Egypt permeate all throughout Yoga, just as both permeate throughout life. The different Principles work together to create this thing we call life. So as the tides of life ebb and flow, so will your Yoga practice. I’ve had my good days on the mat and I’ve my bad ones as well. Through all the curve balls that life has thrown at me since I started practicing, I’ve dealt with them all in an equanimous manner. If you’re having a bad day, just remember that the pendulum swings back the other way.
I’d love to hear what you have to say. Leave a comment below.