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Hatha Yoga


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Sirshasana

It is generally believed that Hatha Yoga has its roots in the Tantric teachings of Goraksha Natha and his teacher, the legendary Matsyendra Natha. It is said in Hatha Pradipika:

"Matsyendra, Goraksha, and others knew the lore of Hatha and by their grace Svatmarama Yogi came to know it." (1:3)

"Hatha is a monastery for those who are afflicted by unlimited suffering; and for those who are engaged in the practice of all kinds of Yoga, Hatha Yoga is the supporting tortoise." (1:10)

Though Svatmarama (formerly known as Cintamani), the compiler of Hatha Pradipika and a real authority, a Yogi of the highest achievements, elaborates on some exercises in particular, he does not consider Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga to be two different disciplines independent of each other. For him they are two aspects of one and the same discipline - Yoga. In 2:76 he makes it clear without a shadow of doubt:

"Neither can Hatha Yoga be perfected without Raja Yoga,
nor Raja Yoga without Hatha Yoga."

In this way considered, we can speak of a whole yogic continuum which begins with yogic practices in which the part played by the body predominates and ends with the yogic states in which spiritual experiences preponderate. According to Svatmarama, performances which do not look forward to the mental training and spiritual experiences have nothing to do with any Yoga whatsoever and are fruitless. No man has as yet reached any stage of enlightenment through physical exercises.
Svatmarama is also very loud in his praise of
Kundalini.

We are told our body is the temple of the Spirit. That implies our body is no impediment in reaching self-realisation. But it has to be refined by means of Kaya Sadhana. So we practise physical exercises, also called Gathashtha Yoga.

Though Svatmarama follows a tradition on a somewhat different footing from that of Patanjali and others, one cannot ignore the steps or Yogangas to be followed. He does not include Yama and Niyama, but he accepts their prerequisite value in the path of Yogic practice. Hatha Yoga includes the following steps: Kanphatha Yogi

  • Shat-Kriya
  • Pratyahara
  • Asana
  • Dhyana
  • Pranayama
  • Samadhi
  • Mudra & Bandha
  • Yogangas

Other books on Hatha Yoga, based on the teachings of Goraksha Natha, are Shiva Samhita and Gherandha Samhita.

The practice of Hatha Yoga requires severe discipline and a true Hatha Yoga Guru. What is being practised in many so-called Yogaschools all over the world is not Hatha Yoga, but Gathastha Yoga, mere physical exercises. If you don't believe me, just check whether all Hatha Yogangas cited above are being practised in your school. This, however, is no reason to drop it then. Nowadays, Gathastha Yoga may even be an extremely fine "taster"! And therefore, I sincerely suggest you should put your whole being in its practice, for every journey begins with the first step. Remember, it's not the exercise that is of paramount importance, it is your inner being's attitude that is...

 
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Last modified: April 06, 2011