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  • Writer's pictureSmita Sethi

What is Hatha Yoga

Hatha in Sanskrit literally means 'stubborn'. So Hatha Yoga practice means the stubborn practice of yoga, without the interference of the five senses and the mind. Generally, people think of Hatha Yoga only as asana practice. Hatha yoga is much more than physical practice of asana which we will try explaining in the following text.

It is interesting to know that some teachers explain Hatha as Ha (sun) + Tha (moon) yoga, because of the fact that Hatha Yoga helps to purify our solar (Pingla) and lunar (Ida) channels.

In yogic literature we have a number of reliable texts on Hatha yoga.

1. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Yogi Swatrmarama is a very well known one.

2. The Goraksha Samhita by Yogi Gorakhnath

3. Gheranda Samhita by the great sage Gheranda

4. Hatharatnavali by Srinivasabhatta Mahayogindra

This blog has its reference to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika texts.

Aim of hatha yoga

The main objective of hatha yoga is to create an absolute balance of the interacting activities and processes of the physical body, mind and energy. When this balance is created, the impulses generated give a call of awakening to the central force, sushumna nadi, which is responsible for the evolution of human consciousness. If hatha yoga is not used for this purpose, its true objective is lost.

It has been explained in hatha yoga that Ha represents prana, the vital force, and tha represents mind, the mental energy. Hatha yoga means the union of the pranic and mental forces. This union is the awakening of higher consciousness. All matter in this creation is alive. This is the first point. It is also conscious.This is the second point. Therefore, everything has potential consciousness and everything alive.

The depiction below explains how the Life and Consciousness have been named in different forms with different names even though the underlying meaning is similar:

Life/Alive Consciousness

Yoga Prakriti Purusha

Tantra Shakti Shiva

Hatha Yoga Ida Pingala

Taoism Yin Yang

Physics Matter Energy

In Hatha Yoga we begin saying that you should first purify the whole body - the stomach, intestines, nervous system and other systems. This cleaning is called Shatkarma. However Shatkarma alone does not constitute the whole of hatha yoga. After Shatkarna one should practice Asana and Pranayama. Self control and Self discipline should start with the body. Asana is self discipline, Pranayama is self discipline, retention of breath is self control. The focus of hatha yoga is to first discipline the body. With body we mean all subtle elements, tattwas, the energy channels, nadis, within the body should be purified. The behaviour of the vital force, Prana, the entire nervous system and the various secretions in the body should be properly maintained and harmonized. After this one should go on to practice mudras like Vajroli, Vipareeta Karani and others. In this way it will be possible to develop deep meditation.

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