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A 10th century sculpture of a yogini from the Smithsonian Institution

Yogini (Sanskrit: योगिनी, yoginī, [ˈjoginiː]) is the feminine form corresponding to the masculine yogi. Yoginis are known to possess a steadfast mind, which they cultivate through the disciplined pursuit of transcendence, an idea that is central to the practice of yoga. Tantric scholars have described yoginis as independent, outspoken women with graceful spirits, without whom yoga would fail to achieve its full, fruitful purpose.[1]

Though the leaders of the modern Yoga-asana & meditation tradition have often been male, the vast majority of modern practitioners are female,[2] including many who have attained mastery through the primary Yoga of the embodied Shakti life mysteries of the life cycle and mothering. Only the female can awaken the muladhara chakra (the seat of the Kundalini-shakti) via fertility and sexuality; the male must use kriya Yoga.[3]

In the Hindu tradition, mother is first guru (teacher) and in the Yoga tradition, proper respect of Yoginis is a necessary part of the path to liberation. A Yogini is the sacred feminine force made incarnate: the goddesses of mythology (Lakshmi, Durga, Kali) as well as the ordinary human woman who is enlightened, both having exuberant passion, spiritual powers and deep insight, capable of giving birth to saints, peacemakers, and Yogis.[4]

In the Tibetan Buddhism and Bön tradition, a female practitioner is known as a ngagma (see ngagpa), and in the Drikung Kagyu school of Buddhism, togdenma (Tenzin Palmo). These married tantric practitioners are required to devote significant time to retreat and spiritual practice. Ngagma are particularly known for performing birth rituals, weddings, funerals, divinations, and pacification of spiritual disruptions. Some ngagma are comparable in practice to the Mahasidda yoginis of Indian Buddhism.


"I'm very sure that the future of Yoga will be safe and solid because of all the Yoginis.”- Sri TKV Desikachar, Yogi [5]

File:Yogini lakshmi.jpg

Yogini statue, north India

“Practicing Yoga during pregnancy is one way to heal the split between soul and spirit found in our culture. Prenatal Yoga sexualizes spirituality and spiritualizes fertility. It is the tantric practice of mothers. Once the babies come planetside, our yoga practice shifts into karma Yoga beyond belief. We become servants to our babies and our path is bhakti Yoga,the practice of devotion. Giving conscious birth is woman’s vision quest, par excellence. It is ultimate sadhana, spiritual practice, – which requires purity in strength, flexibility, health, concentration, surrender, and faith." - Yogini Jeannine Parvati Baker [6]

“As Yoginis we must conceive of a new liberation, one that does not seek a simplistic transcendence but rather a complex integration...By using yogic techniques that integrate the emotional and physical with the spiritual, women (and men who have the courage to resonate with their own feminine power) can strengthen themselves not only to resist the negativity of these tumultuous times but to positively influence the direction of life on earth.” - Yogini Roxanne Kamayani Gupta, Ph.D [7]

"Many swamis and Yogis in India told me that they hoped that in their next lives they would be reincarnated as women because women have true devotion, true humility, and this is the path to liberation." — Swami Sivananda Radha, an American woman who emigrated to India where she became a spiritual teacher[8]

Past and present contexts

American ashtanga Yogini Jeannine Parvati Baker(1949-2005), student of Baba Hari Dass, author of the first text on Prenatal Yoga in the West.

A woman dedicated to the pursuit of spiritual knowledge and mystical insight, or a Yogini, has many faces: from devotional to demure, and from fiery to fierce; all of these can be embraced under the rubric of a Yogini. Yogini is a term that finds reference in several texts related to Hinduism and Buddhism where its literal meaning is "shaman" or wisdom seer (rishi), a definition that could just as easily be interpreted as “alchemist.” Some of the greatest of the ancient rishis were in fact women.[9] A female rishi is known as a rishika.[10]

In a wider and general context, a Yogini is a human woman who, through the practice of Yoga, may possess supernatural powers, including the ability to transcend the normal aging process via internalization of the reproductive power known as urdhva-retas (upward refinement of the seed-force) and even death, attaining divya sharira (immortal divine body).

In some branches of tantra Yoga, ten wisdom goddesses (or dakinis) serve as models for a Yogini's disposition and behavior. In the mythological context, the word Yogini may indicate an advanced Yoga practitioner who is one or more of the following:

  • A female who is an associate or attendant of Durga.
  • In several Tantric cults, the term refers to an initiated female who may take part in maithuna tantric rituals.

During the Hindu goddess Durga's battles with the forces of inhumanity (asuras), eight yoginis are described emanating from the body of Durga, and they assisted her in the battle. In later texts, the number of Yoginis increased to sixty-four. All these Yoginis represented forces of vegetation and fertility, illness and death, Yoga and magic. All Yoginis are worshipped collectively and together, each one is enshrined in an individual position in a circular temple open to the sky (Sri Yantra).

Yogini as tantrika

Yogini statue, Tibet

According to the Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika text, a yogini is more specifically a woman initiate who can preserve her own genital ejaculate (rajas) and contain the male semen (bindu) by means of the practice of the vajroli-mudra, also practiced in reverse by advanced yogis.[11]

The Sixty-Four Yogini temples

There are four major extant sixty four yogini temples in India, two of them are in Orissa and the other two are in Madhya Pradesh. One of the most impressive yogini temples in Orissa is the 9th century CE hypaethral Chausathi yogini (sixty-four yogini) temple located at Hirapur in Khurda district, 15 km south of Bhubaneshwar. Another hypaethral sixty-four yogini temple in Orissa is the Chausathi yogini pitha in Ranipur-Jharial, near Titilagarh in Balangir district. Presently only 62 images are found in this temple.[12]

Two notable Yogini temples in Madhya Pradesh are the 9th century CE Chaunsath yogini temple to the southwest of the western group of temples in Khajuraho, near Chhatarpur in Chhatarpur District and the 10th century CE Chaunsath yogini mandir in Bhedaghat, near Jabalpur in Jabalpur district.[13]

The iconographies of the Yogini images in four Yogini temples are not uniform. In Hirapur yogini temple, all Yogini images are with their vahanas (vehicles) and in standing posture. In Ranipur-Jharial temple the yogini images are in dancing posture. In Bhedaghat temple Yogini images are seated in Lalitasana.[14]

Association with Matrikas

File:Yogini in devanagari script.png

The word 'Yogini' in Sanskrit

Often the Matrikas are confused with the Yoginis which may be sixty-four or eighty-one.[15] In Sanskrit literature the Yoginis have been represented as the attendants or various manifestations of Durga engaged in fighting with the demons Shumbha and Nishumbha, and the principal Yoginis are identified with the Matrikas.[16] Other Yoginis are described as born from one or more Matrikas. The derivation of 64 Yogini from 8 Matrikas became a tradition. By mid- 11th century, the connection between Yoginis and Matrikas had become common lore. The Mandala (circle) and chakra of Yoginis were used alternatively. The 81 Yoginis evolve from a group of nine Matrikas, instead of seven or eight. The Saptamatrika (Brahmi, Maheshvari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani (Aindri) and Chamundi) joined by Candika and Mahalakshmi form the nine Matrika cluster. Each Matrika is considered to be a Yogini and is associate with eight other Yoginis resulting in the troupe of 81 (nine times nine).[17]

See also


File:Devi yogini.jpg

Devi Yogini, North India

  1. Wangu, Madhu Bazaz. Images of Indian Goddesses, Published 2003, Abhinav Publications, p.114
  2. Gates, Janice. Yogini: The Power of Woman, 2006, Mandala Publishing, p. 3
  3. Dr Swami Shankardevananda Saraswati, "The Importance of Shakti," YOGA Magazine, May 1999 London, England
  4. "Yogini, the Enlightened Woman". 
  5. Krishnamacharya Yoga Festival, San Fracisco 2003
  6. Parvati Baker, Jeannine. Prenatal Yoga & Natural Childbirth, 2001, pg. Xii
  7. Gupta, Roxanne Kamayani, A Yoga of Indian Classical Dance – The Yogini’s Mirror, Inner Traditions Publishing, 2000, page 68.
  8. Radha, Sivananda, Mantras: Words of Power,Timeless Books, 2005, p.100. ISBN 9781932018103
  9. Swami Vivekananda public lecture, Vedanta Voice of Freedom, ISBN 0-91635663-9, p.43
  10. The Shambhala Encyclopedia of YOGA, p.244
  11. The Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga, Georg Feurstein Ph.D., Shambhala Publications, Boston 2000, p.350
  12. Patel, C.B. Monumental Efflorescence of Ranipur-Jharial in Orissa Review, August 2004, pp.41-44
  13. Jabalpur district official website – about us
  14. Chaudhury, Janmejay. Origin of Tantricism and Sixty-Four Yogini Cult in Orissa in Orissa Review, October, 2004
  15. Dehejia, Vidya, Yogini Cult and Temples
  16. Bhattacharyya, N. N., History of the Sakta Religion, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd. (New Delhi, 1974, 2d ed. 1996), p. 128.
  17. Wangu p.114


  • Chopra, Shambhavi. Yogini: The Enlightened Woman, Wisdom Tree Press, India, 2006
  • Dehejia, Vidya. Yogini Cult and Temples: A Tantric Tradition, National Museum, New Delhi, 1986.
  • Feuerstein, Georg. The Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga, Shambhala Publications, Boston, 2000
  • Gates, Janice. Yogini: The Power of Women in Yoga, Mandala Publishing, 2006
  • Gupta, Roxanne Kamayani. A Yoga of Indian Classical Dance: The Yogini's Mirror, Inner Traditions, U.S., 2000
  • Parvati Baker, Jeannine. Prenatal Yoga & Natural Childbirth, North Atlantic Books, 3rd edition, 2001
  • Muktananda, Swami. Nawa Yogini Tantra: Yoga for Women, Yoga Publications Trust, Bihar, 2004
  • Shaw, Miranda. Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism, Princeton University Press, 1994
  • Tiwari, Bri. Maya. The Path of Practice: A Woman's Book of Ayurvedic Healing, Motilal Banarsidass Press, 2002
  • Wangu, Madhu Bazaz. Images of Indian Goddesses, Abhinav Publications, New Delhi, 2003

External links

hi:योगिनी mr:योगिनी pt:yogini