What is Hatha Yoga

In spite of its popularity and overwhelming craze for yoga, one aspect of hatha yoga called asana has been regarded as the yoga. Indeed, hatha yoga is one the ways to reach to the state of yoga by various means and procedures. Even though all kinds of yoga requires certain process and practices, they are not similar. In Hatha Yoga, the substantial concern lies on the asana, shat karma, pranayama, mudra, bandha and meditation. If we see the process of Raja Yoga by Patanjali yoga sutra, asana, pranayama and meditation have been included in the eight limbs. In this manner, it can be said that hatha yoga is also the part of Raja Yoga. However, it doesn’t include the first few steps as mentioned in eight limbs of Patanjali. The priority for Hatha Yogi seems to be in physical level in the beginning rather than being more focused on behaviors and self-disciplines. It mainly undergoes with the cleansing of the body and its toxins while commencing the journey of yoga. The idea of hatha yoga is to balance the physical body first to indulge into pranic and mental body. When one is quite familiar and friendly to the movements and positions of the body with the asana and shat karmas in relation to the effect it gives, one also assimilates the practice of internal cleansing in pranic level through the practice of pranayama. In addition to asana, shat karma, pranayama, the practice of mudra and bandha are applied in the journey of hatha yoga. Being able to control the prana, the vital force, one then follows the path of meditation which empowers one to be able to control the mind. The practice of meditation indeed leads one very close to the state of Samadhi.

When the history of hatha yoga is brought into the discussion, the mention of hatha yoga as the part of Tantra Yoga in some of the ancient texts and scriptures is one of the striking point to be considered. The practice of Tantra yoga which mainly focuses in achieving the powers and psychic ability has been regarded as a barrier to reach to the state of liberation. One, therefore, is expected to follow the continuous path of yoga without getting entangled in the Siddhis (powers) we gain through the Sadhana (practice). The journey of hatha yoga is resembled with the activation of Kundalini Energy remained in the dormant form at the pelvic region. At the moment, the latent energy flows up to the Agna Chakra, one becomes able to achieve the goal of Hatha Yoga. The yoga which allows the ways to combine between the moon and the Sun, the ida and pingala, the Shiva and Shakti, the Ying and Yang has been conceived and followed as Hatha Yoga. The state when the energy follows further up to the Sahashra Chakra, the crown centre, then the state remains no more as hatha yoga rather it enters into the divine and blissful state of yoga. There remains no gap between the individual self and the Supreme Self. The egoless state and the state of union occurs which has been named as yoga. Thus, the practice of hatha yoga seems to be quintessential for a person who wants to grasp and experience the ultimate state which widens the boundary even for being close and in harmony to the physical body and mind. Above all, hatha yoga is the practice to reach and realize the higher stand of mind. It is a science which not only works on physical body but also in mental and pranic level. Incepting the practice in physical level, hatha yoga leads one into the sacred path to create the balance in overall aspects of human development and raise the level of the utmost consciousness.

Because of its inherent nature of accepting and approving the idea of physical awareness and cleansing, it should not create the confusion about Hatha yoga’s periphery of understanding. It means to say that hatha yoga doesn’t not only work on physical level. As a matter of fact, with the certain process, it keeps continuing its journey further in deeper level with the hope of getting enlightened. Indeed, there should be no dilemma that hatha yoga is the part of Raja Yoga, the yoga which ultimately seeks the state of Samadhi.

Hatha Yoga even though popularly known as the physical practice which only combines asanas, it also extends to the area of purification of the body through certain actions(shat karma), pranayama (breathing), diet, ethics and the idea of meditation to lead the yogic life.

The world differs the view on the origin of hatha yoga. Majority and common belief supports that the tradition of Hatha Yoga has been interrelated to the Nath tradition. On the other hand, few argue that the system of hatha yoga was initially commenced from Dashnami Sampradaya of Advaita Vedanta.

Before taking the meditation into the practice, it was felt necessary and elementary to purify

the body and mind. Therefore, Yogi Matsyendranath established the system of Nath which

mainly focused and prepared the system to go with the very procedural path of Yoga. The name given to

that system was Hatha Yoga.   With the very practical process in mind, Hatha Yoga Pradipka doesn’t deal with Yama and Niyama in the very beginning of the practice of Yoga as in Buddhism, Jainism also Sage Patanjali’s Raja Yoga. The priority in Hatha Yoga has been put for bodily purification before any self-control and self-discipline practice. More than anything, Shatkarma has been put in an initial stage of the practice which is mainly focused on physical cleansing.

Before jumping into the practice of controlling the mind, Hatha yoga prefers and suggests to focus on cleansing the body, being able to remain in certain posture with discipline and the ability to control the breath which can be taken as self-control. In Hatha Yoga, the practice of discipline and self-control can be started from asana and pranayama rather than leaping into the state of mind control.

The purification of the nadis and tattwas has to be conducted. The process of Hatha Yoga also emphasizes on harmony among prana, entire nervous system and secretions in the body. Then after one is advised to practice the mudra such as vajroli, sahajoli, khechari, shambhavi, vipareeta karani mudras.

Hatha Yoga has been considered as the science of purification. It helps to purify not only one aspects of the body but of six kinds. After the overall cleansing of the body, one tend to open the doorway for the energy channel and impurities inside the body are also released. Indeed, hatha yoga has also been regarded as the preparatory or elementary practice for Kundalini Yoga, Raja Yoga and Kriya Yoga. The aim of Hatha yoga is to create the harmony between and among the body, mind and energy. The state of balance among these elements helps to open the path of sushumna nadi which has been believed as the central force for developing the human consciousness. The word Hatha is the combination of two beej mantras ‘ha’ and ‘tha’. ‘Ha’ refers to pranic force and ‘tha’ refers to mental force. The union or combination of two becomes the Hatha Yoga. In other words, the yoking of pranic and mental force is called Hatha Yoga. As a matter of fact, each and everything existed in the universe has been endowed with these elements. They can be explained as matter and energy. Indeed, when the addition of two elements occur, the awakening of higher consciousness takes place.

Hatha Yoga mainly purposes to balance the two forces ida and pingala. The ida nadi represents the  mental energy. The pingala nadi represents the pranic energy. In Hatha Yoga, first of all the physical body is purified by the six actions. By the practice of six actions, one releases the toxins inside the body. The body secretes three types of the body: acidity, gas and mucus.  When the physical body is purified by the practice of six action and asana, the practice of pranayama helps to open the energy channel. The opening of the energy channel leads one to the meditation. In the spiritual world, many people skip the asana and other preparatory practices before jumping to the meditation. It’s because they think that being a spiritual person one can’t be more focused on physical body and it’s cleansing. The main and major concern should be in maintaining the balance of mind. Definitely, the logic of mind balance sound awesome. However, the procedure of jumping directly to meditation sounds hopeless for many people. Therefore, hatha yoga has tried to be a channel to combine the practice of physical body, mind and spirit as well.

Six kriyas also called as Shat Karmas of Hatha Yoga are as follows:

  1. Neti
  2. Dhauti
  3. Vasti
  4. Nauli
  5. Kapalbhati
  6. Tratak

It is also believed both in scientific world as well as in spiritual world that there is existence of matter

and energy. And the matter can be transformed into energy. The practice of hatha yoga also has mainly

concerned on dealing with both matter and energy the body. Only the difference would be the name. Some school of philosophy prefer to say Prakriti (Nature) and Purush(Consciousness), some would denote it as Shiv and Shakti as well as Yin and Yang.

Hatha Yoga is the practice of union between prana and mind with the self. In the pranic level, we have three energy channels which are namely known as ida, pingala and sushumna. The objectives of hatha has been placed in purifying these energy channels first before even stepping into the journey of working in the kundalini energy. The ida nadi represents the negative energy which focuses on consciousness, the pingala nadi represents positive energy which focuses on vital force and the sushumna nadi deals with neutrality which concerns on spiritual awakening. One of the major objective of Hatha Yoga is to awaken the kundalini Shakti remained dormant in the root centre at the pelvic region. Before practicing the Kundalini activation, the activation and balance of three nadis and its opening is vital to harmonize the situation of the energy and prana.

Even before balancing the three nadis, its always important to balance and open the blockage of the nadis inside the body. The practice of opening the nadis centre is also called the chakra cleansing. When one cleanses the chakra centre and allows to circulate the energy with ease and comfort then the flow of the energy through sushumna nadi becomes possible. The flow of kundalini energy through sushumna nadi to the Ajna chakra completes the goal of hatha yoga. The yoga only becomes possible or happens when the kundalini energy also the form of Shakti connects with the Consciousness situated at the crown centre.

The practice of hatha yoga in this regard has assimilated physical, mental and spiritual aspects. The practice of hatha yoga is not only focused on mind and body also intended to develop the human consciousness. The practice of Hatha yoga in this sense has not only remained and constrained in dealing with physical health. It also has been the factor of betterment in mental health, personality, nature and the overall development of a person a human being. In this sense, hatha yoga cannot to be confined as the idea of making the body and mind fit and fine. In addition to the bodily and mental balance stamina, the aim of hath yoga is to involve into the track of evolutionary human consciousness.

Hatha yoga emphasizes on the control of the prana first. The idea of controlling the mind seems possible only through the control of prana for Hatha Yoga. The inborn tendency of mind being monkey nature can only be controlled by restraining and regulating the pranic force with pranayama. In the context of modern life and society where people find very difficult to concentrate their mind and lead the good life without any disturbance and orientation. The lesson of enlightened people such as Buddha and Christ who suggest for good life with good mind. Even though the advice offered by such super human being cannot be wrong, the state of mind and level of understanding which is needed for living such god life with good mind seems very rare in this externally motivated world. Instead of such highlighted ways of the great souls, the idea of hatha yoga which seems very practical to the modern man as it focuses first on working on the breath which we’ve been doing till we die. The systematic control and harmony with the breath can rather make a person more aware and concentrated to the self being away from external triggering and tricks. The practice of asana, pranayama, mudras and bandhas leads one to the ability to control one’s mind as it works in gradual procedure not directly attacking the mind level rather working with physical body and pranic body. The tradition and spiritual practicing of focusing on the breath brought into the effect by Buddhism, Sufism also has been the part of yoga.

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