Hatha Yoga – Part 1: What is Hatha Yoga?

Sutra Neti in Hatha Yoga (Credit: Yoga Therapy)

Sutra Neti (Credit: Yoga Therapy)

Jala Neti (Credit: Indianet Zone)

Jala Neti (Credit: Indianet Zone)

Nauli Kriya (Credit: Indianet Zone)

Nauli Kriya (Credit: Yoga Therapy)

In the last series of articles we discussed Kundalini Yoga. Let us explore another interesting system of yoga in  this post.

Just take a look at the pictures. Aren’t they scary?It seems like they are demonstrating  some unnatural  and somewhat challenging practices.  Right?

Actually, these are techniques to purify our body and mind. They are part of  Hatha Yoga system. Aren’t you curious about this path? OK. Let us get to know this esoteric path of yoga, Hatha Yoga, in detail.

Meaning of Hatha Yoga

In Sanskrit, Hatha means violent or forceful.  Hatha Yoga involves using forceful means of training our body and mind to prepare us for meditation. So, it may be called forceful yoga. According to esoteric meaning, Ha means ida nadi  in the psychic body. It represents coolness, moon and mind. Tha means pingala nadi, which corresponds to hot nature and life force.   So, Hatha means union of mental and life forces to awaken higher knowledge.

Hatha Yoga focuses mainly on asanas(postures) , pranayama(control of breath), shat karmas(six actions) and mudra(body locks or gestures). It is to make our body and mind to get qualified for meditation to achieve the real goal of yoga.  These techniques purify the nadis to eliminate the diseases leading to a healthy and strong body.  They also help in training the mind for better focus.  Advanced stages of this yoga would help us to awaken Kundalini to achieve yoga.

Some History Lesson

One of the main treatises on system of yoga is Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It was written in Sanskrit by our great compassionate master Shri Swami Swatmarama.  According to him, Hatha Yoga system was originally taught by Adinatha who was the incarnation of Lord Shiva. It was then transmitted to other mahasiddhas(Great Perfect Masters) like Matsyendranatha, Shabara, Gorakshanatha and others.

Goal of Hatha Yoga

As mentioned, fundamental goal of Hatha Yoga is to prepare the body and mind of the yoga practitioner to achieve Raja Yoga.  In the words of Shri Swatmarama:

Kevalam rajayogaya hathayogopadishyathe | – Hatha Pradipika 1.2

Meaning: Hatha Yoga is taught only to achieve Raja Yoga.

Great master Shri Swami Swatmarama further emphasizes it, as:

Vibhrajate paronnata rajayogam arodhumichchoradhirohineeva | - Hatha Pradipika 1.1

Hatha Yoga is like a ladder for those who are interested to reach the highest stage of Raja Yoga, i.e. Samadhi state.

Thus, it helps to achieve the real purpose of yoga. What are the techniques in this path? Lets us discuss in the next post.

Next Post: Hatha Yoga – Part 2: Tools and Techniques. Stay tuned!

Om Namah Shivaya |

- Kalidas

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