In yogic tradition, Shiva is known as Adiyogi or the first yogi – the originator of yoga. More than fifteen thousand years ago, Shiva is said to have attained his full enlightenment. He left his body and merged with the universe.

People around saw that Shiva was experiencing something that no one had ever known before. Word spread and people came to visit him out of curiosity. They came, waited, and finally left because Shiva did not perceive the presence of strangers. In his enlightenment he was completely indifferent to what was happening around him. Soon all but seven men left.

These seven men urged Siva to impart his knowledge to them. But Shiva ignored them. When they would not be dissuaded, he told them, “It takes a tremendous amount of preparation to know oneself.” But the seven men could not be discouraged. They trained their bodies and their minds vigorously.

After decades of practice, Shiva finally agreed to become their teacher. This occurred on the full moon day of the month of Ashadha in the Hindu calendar (June-July in the Gregorian calendar). This day is still celebrated as the festival of Guru Purnima, when yogis express their gratitude to their teachers.

Adiyogi gradually imparted the knowledge of yoga to the seven men. He explained to them 112 ways in which people can overcome their limitations and reach their highest potential. Adiyogi emphasized that yoga is a tool for individual transformation because individual transformation is the only way to transform this world. The only path to liberation is the path “inward”.

After Shiva passed on his knowledge to them, the seven men became seven sages (Saptarishi) who continued to spread the teachings of yoga.

What can we take from this story? First and foremost, that yoga is an individual practice and each of us will benefit from yoga in proportion to the energy we dedicate to the practice.