योगिनी, yoginī

Female Ascetics (Yoginis).jpg

1. A woman who follows the path of yoga, who has realized the state of yoga and possesses spiritual power. In the Natha Tradition, this may be the name given to a woman sannyasi who received choti or chira-diksha. But we cannot say that it is common everywhere. Very often, women in the Tradition are called in the same way as men: Yogi, Nathji; because for the Nathas, who always abide in Atman, gender does not matter much. For the same reason, a woman, if she has sufficient realization and renunciation, has the opportunity to become Guru in Natha Sampradaya along with the men (which is usually not accepted in Indian society).

Texts and stories contain names of the great yoginis of Natha Tradition: Vimala Mai (the founder of Ai-panth), Queen Mainavati, Jwala Mai, Manibhadra, Mekhala, Kanakhala, Lakshmidhara and others. Some names can be found in the lists of 84 siddhas. Even now there are quite a few initiated women yoginis (especially in Gujarat), but considerably fewer than men.

2. Epithet of the Mother Goddess, as well as a whole class of female deities, usually of wrathful nature. Different teachings and traditions in India have different lists of Yoginis and treat them differently. In some cults, they are wrathful intimidating female entities like Pishachini or Yakshini, who can bestow various magical powers of mundane nature, but also cause problems. In other teachings, Yoginis are presented as the bearers of knowledge (“vidya”) and higher yogic experience, as manifestations of Kundalini-Shakti in the body, as Matrikas. Yoginis appear as terrible and frightening, they devour those who are weak in spirit, and to the strong and fearless they bestow knowledge, siddhis and the nectar of immortality (amrita). According to some legends, yoginis could also visit an adept to engage in sexual intercourse with him, and once they all were satisfied, they would transform from a fearful and treacherous illusory force into bestowers of amrita. This reflects the dual nature of Divine Shakti: she can be both Maha-maya and Mahavidya. In the context of yoga and tantra practice, contact with Yogini and her satisfaction is associated with the transformation of sexual energy, with the awareness of the union of one's consciousness (Shiva) and the multiple energies of this world (Shakti or Yogini). Sadhaka practicing such things is called urdhvareta: one who retains bindu in all activities, who has channeled his energy (bindu) upwards.


In the past, there was a whole tantric tradition called “Yogini Kaula” of which Mahayogi Matsyendranath is believed to be the founder of. In this tradition, the worship of 64 Yoginis (Chausath Yogini) was widespread, which very likely influenced other tantric cults as well. There are different lists of the 64 Yoginis, but in general, they often include Matrikas, a group of Yoginis who rule chakras and dhatu, and some Mahavidyas. Nowadays, only the most important of these Yoginis may be worshiped in various tantric schools, but at Kamakhya Pitha, for example, Chausath Yogini are worshiped as part of the daily puja.

Yogini in the chakras

A special group of 7 Yoginis are known as ḌākinīRākiṇīLākiṇīKākiṇīŚākiṇīHākiṇī, and Yākiṇī. Sometimes only 6 are mentioned (without Yakini). They are important elements of Tantric Yoga and represent aspects of Kundalini Shakti. Yoginis represent various psychophysical forces of the human body and are the controlling Shakti of the seven chakras. By meditating on the Yoginis in the chakras, a sadhaka awakens them (shatchakra-bheda). Yoginis can also bestow upon him a special kind of bliss and various siddhis, knowledge. In addition, on the physical level, Yoginis control body substances (dhatu), of which there are also seven: lymph, blood, muscle, fat, bone, marrow, and semen.

Various tantric schools and texts locate the Yoginis in the chakras in different ways. The well-known text Shat Chakra Nirupana, which is part of Purnananda's tantric treatise “Sri Tattva Chintamani”, speaks of only 6 Yoginis, associating them with the 6 chakras as follows:

Dakini – muladhara, Rakini – svadhishthana, Lakini – manipura, Kakini – anahata, Shakini – vishuddha, Hakini – ajna.

"Rudra Yamala Tantra" (ch.22), "Manthana Bhairava Tantra" (ch.35), "Pranatoshini Tantra" (Kamya-khanda, 4 patala) also follow this order.

Another variant of the Yoginis’ order can be found in the texts of Shri Vidya tradition. Yogini is the name of Goddess Tripurasundari, whose subtle body consists of 6 or 7 Yoginis who reside in the chakras. The correspondence between Yoginis and chakras is as follows: 

Dakini – vishuddha, Rakini – anahata, Lakini – manipura, Kakini – svadhishthana, Shakini/Sakini – muladhara, Hakini – ajna, Yakini – sahasrara.

The text “Varivasya-Rahasya” speaks of the 6 Yoginis (Akinis) that constitute the body of the Goddess:

rakaḍabavahapūrvairakṣarairveṣṭitābhiḥ |
ḍaralakasahavarṇādyākinībhistu ṣaḍbhi-
rghaṭitatanuritīyaṃ kathyate yoginīti || 86 ||

She is called Yogini because Her body consists of six Akinis whose initial letters are ḍa, ra, la, ka, sa and ha, and which are surrounded by [group of] letters beginning respectively with a, ka, ḍa, ba, va, ha. The numbers [of the letters in these groups] are narapati (i.e. sixteen aspects of the moon), ravi (i.e. twelve aspects of the sun), katha (i.e. ten directions), six, samudra (i.e. four oceans) and two. (86)

The “Yogini-Hridaya” also mentions 6 Yoginis (controlling the dhatu of the body), which correlate with the Matrikas (Yoginis who control rows of phonemes). All together, these energies symbolize the unity of the micro- and macrocosm: 

yoginītvam athocyate | 
tvagādidhātunāthābhir ḍākinyādibhir apy asau ||60||  
vargāṣṭakaniviṣṭābhir yoginībhiś ca saṃyutā | 
yoginīrūpam āsthāya rājate viśvavigrahā ||61|| 

[Her] nature of Yogini is now set forth. Because of Dakini, etc., rulers of the elements of the body, skin, etc., She is associated with the eight Yoginis ruling the eight phoneme groups. Taking the state of Yogini, She shines in the form of the universe. (II. 60-61)

viśuddhau hṛdaye nābhau svādhiṣṭhāne ca mūlake | 
ājñāyāṃ dhātunāthāsśca nyastavyā ḍādidevatāḥ ||30||   

It is necessary to place the deities Dakini, etc., lords of the constituent elements of the body, on vishuddha, heart, navel, svadhishthana, muladhara and ajna. (III. 30)

"Jnanarnava Tantra", "Matsyendra Samhita", "Saubhagya Ratnakara" and other texts cite 7 Yoginis, placing Yakini (Yakshini) in sahasrara-chakra/brahmarandhra.

These Yoginis are mentioned not only for the sake of describing the nature of the Goddess, they are also actively integrated into tantric sadhana. The worshiping of Yoginis in the chakras is performed as part of Shodha Nyasa. Dhyana and corresponding mantras are given for each Yogini. Moreover, these Yoginis are worshiped in yantra pujas of the 15 Nitya devis (The description of such pujas for each Nitya devi can be found, for example, in "Tantraraja tantra"). 

Since the Yoginis constitute the nature of Lalita Tripurasundari, they are mentioned along with their qualities, weapons, escorts and locations in the Lalita-sahasranam as names of the Goddess.

In the Kubjika tradition, according to the text "Kubjikamata Tantra", all 6 Yoginis are located in the Yogini chakra (also called Ghatasthana). This chakra is located in the throat area and has 6 petals respectively. The central deity of this chakra is Kuleshvara (or Ishvara). He has a six-part body and manifests himself in six chakras. This is how the six Yoginis located in the petals of this Yogini chakra appear. The texts also mention that since the consort of Kuleshvara is Kubjika, the Yoginis appear from her womb. The names of the Yoginis are the same as in other traditions, but there are variations regarding the 6th Yogini: sometimes the 6th is Yakini (Yakshini), and sometimes Hakini. Some texts add a 7th Yogini, in which case she is located in the center of the chakra. Her name can be Yakini, Hakini, Brahmani, Kusumini.

It is mentioned that the 6 Yoginis are associated with the 6 paths of manifestation (shadadhvan): bhuvana, pada, varna, mantra, kala, and tattva respectively. As well as with the categories of the universe: manas, buddhi, ahamkara, guna, Prakriti, and Purusha. Yoginis are both terrifying and merciful in nature, and this represents their relationship to both destruction (samhara/nigraha) and creation (srishti/anugraha).

According to another Kubjik text, Shri Matottara Tantra, there are 8 goddesses (Dakini, Rakini, Lakini, Kakini, Shakini, Hakini, Yakini and Kusuma) in the Yogini chakra, and each of them includes 8 aspects. Thus there are a total of 64 Yoginis in this chakra. The partners of the main eight Yoginis are the eight Bhairavas (Ashta-Bhairavas).

Shri Yantra Yoginis

In the Shri Vidya tradition, there is another extensive group of Yoginis that relates to Shri Yantra (Shri Chakra). Shri Yantra consists of nine avaranas (chakras), and each of the avaranas is ruled by a particular group of Yoginis.

Their names are Prakaṭayoginī, Guptayoginī, Guptatarayoginī, Saṁpradāyayoginī, Kulotīrṇayoginī, Nigarbhayoginī, Rahasyayoginī, Atirahasyayoginī, Parāparāti-rahasya-yoginī. They correspond to the avaranas, beginning with the Trailokya Mohana-chakra (bhupur) and ending with the Sarvanandamaya-chakra (bindu). 

Since the word "Yogini" is derived from the root "yuj" (to connect, to unite), these Yoginis are believed to help the sadhaka achieve the union of Jivatman and Paramatman, and they also represent the union of the masculine and feminine triangles in Shri Chakra. 

The 237th name of the Goddess in the “Lalita Sahasranama” is mahā-catuḥ-ṣaṣti-koṭi-yoginī-gana-sevitā, which means that 640 million Yoginis serve Lalita. This figure is formed as follows: each of the Ashtamatrikas (which are placed in the first avarana of the yantra) has 8 Yoginis as companions, thus there are 64 Yoginis and each of these 64 Yoginis also has 10 million companions (secondary energies).

Yoginis in Kali Vidya


The goddess Kali is always surrounded by wrathful Yoginis. According to a legend, they manifested out of her during a battle with the demon Ghora. Ghora, according to "Yogini Tantra" was in reality not a demon, but an angry aspect of Shiva. Mahadev created him from the ashes of his body to teach his consort a lesson. On the battlefield a Yogini, as powerful as the Goddess herself, was born from every drop of sweat (or glow, according to another version) of the Goddess. There are thousands of them, each with a certain natural power, in fact they are the acting forces of the entire Universe. In this story Kali eventually recognizes in Ghora her beloved Shiva, and Ghora acquires knowledge of Brahman through Kali, after which Kali absorbs him.

There are various lists of the 64 Yoginis that relate specifically to the worship of Kali. Eight major Yoginis are also mentioned:

Surasundarī yoginī, Manoharā yoginī, Kanakavatī yoginī, Kāmeśvarī yoginī, Rati sundarī yoginī, Padminī yoginī, Natinī yoginī, Madhumatī yoginī.

Each of these yoginis can be worshiped separately.

Yoginis in Natha Sampradaya

Worship of Yoginis also exists in Natha Tradition. Considering the fact that Mahayogi Matsyendranath with his cult of Yogini worship is a key figure in the Natha Sampradaya, it is very likely that the practice of Yoginis’ worship was formed under the influence of his Tantric ideas. Of the multitude of Yoginis, Nathas left only those who were the most relevant for them. They are the Natha-siddha Yoginis, which in addition to the famous Shakti also include Yoginis who were real women who attained realization in Natha Tradition. In addition, Ganapati in the form of Gajakantharnatha is always worshiped along with them as their patron.

Shri Nath Siddha Yoginis:

Mahālakṣmī devī      Mahākālī devī
     Gaṇgā gaurajā devī           Annapūrṇā devī
     Sāvitrī devī      Tulajā devī
     Kāmākṣā devī      Bimlā devī
     Homīyo devī      Hiṇgalāja devī
     Mahālīlā nāg padmaṇī devī          Tārā trikuṭā devī
     Mahāmaṇgalā padminī devī      Jvālā devī
     Mayanāvantī devī      Mahāmanasā devī
     Udayanāth pārvatī devī  

In addition, Nathas also have special Yoginis associated with perfect abilities, called “Siddhadātrī devī śakti”. Siddhadatri means "bestower of siddhis”. Their number is 24, in addition to the main 8 yogic siddhis (ashta-siddhis), the list includes additional ones such as jalavasī (being under water indefinitely), agnivasī (being in fire), duri śravaṇa (clairaudience), duri darśana (clairvoyance) and others.

Author:Yogi Lakshminath Maharaj