YS#1 (Yoga Serie): Hatha Yoga

What is Hatha Yoga?

Hatha yoga is a branch of yoga. The word haṭha literally means “force” and thus alludes to a system of physical techniques.

In India hatha yoga is associated in popular tradition with the ‘jogis’ of the Natha Sampradaya through its mythical founder Matsyendranath. Matsyendranath, also known as Minanath or Minapa in Tibet, is celebrated as a saint in both Buddhist and Hindu tantric and hatha yoga schools. However, James Mallinson associates hatha yoga with the Dashanami Sampradaya and the mystical figure of Dattatreya. According to the Dattatreya Yoga Śastra, there are two forms of hatha yoga: one practiced by Yajñavalkya consisting of the eight limbs of ashtanga yoga and another practiced by Kapila consisting of eight mudras. Currently, the oldest dated text to describe hatha yoga, the Amṛtasiddhi, comes from a tantric Buddhist milieu. The oldest texts to use the actual verbiage of hatha are also Vajrayana Buddhist. In the 20th century, hatha yoga, particularly asanas (the physical postures), became popular throughout the world as a form of physical exercise, and is now colloquially termed simply as “yoga. » According to Mallinson, some Hatha Yoga techniques can be traced back to the epics and the Pali canon. The Pali canon contains three passages in which the Buddha describes pressing the tongue against the palate for the purposes of controlling hunger or the mind, depending on the passage. However, there is no mention of the tongue being inserted into the nasopharynx as in true khecarī mudrā. The Buddha used a posture where pressure is put on the perineum with the heel, similar to even modern postures used to stimulate Kundalini.

The earliest mentions of haṭhayoga specifically are also from Buddhist texts, mainly Tantric works from the 8th century onwards, such as Puṇḍarīka’s Vimalaprabhā commentary on the KālacakratantraIn this text, haṭhayoga is defined within the context of tantric sexual ritual: “when the undying moment does not arise because the breath is unrestrained [even] when the image is seen by means of withdrawal (pratyahara) and the other (auxiliaries of yoga, i.e. dhyana, pranayama, dharana, anusmrti and samadhi), then, having forcefully (hathena) made the breath flow in the central channel through the practice of nada, which is about to be explained, [the yogi] should attain the undying moment by restraining the bindu of the bodhicitta [i.e. semen] in the vajra [i.e. penis] when it is in the lotus of wisdom [i.e. vagina]”.

Hathapradipika is the best known and most widely used Hatha yoga text. It consists of 389 shlokas (verses) in four chapters:

  • Chapter 1 with 67 verses deals with setting the proper environment for yoga, ethical duties of a yogi, and asanas (postures)
  • Chapter 2 with 78 verses deals with the pranayama (breathing exercises, control of vital energy within) and the satkarmani (body cleansing)
  • Chapter 3 with 130 verses discusses the mudras and their benefits.
  • Chapter 4 with 114 verses deals with meditation and samadhi as a journey of personal spiritual growth.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Gheranda samhita are derived from older Sanskrit texts. In Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Swatmarama introduces his system as a preparatory stage for physical purification that the body practices for higher meditation or Yoga. It is based on asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing techniques).

The Practice

Another better-known school of Hatha yoga in the 20th-century has been the Divine Life Society founded by Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh (1887–1963) and his many disciples including, among others, Swami Vishnu-devananda – founder of International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres; Swami Satyananda – of the Bihar School of Yoga; and Swami Satchidananda of Integral Yoga. After about 1975, yoga techniques have become increasingly popular globally, in both developed and developing countries.

The Bihar School of Yoga has been one of the largest Hatha yoga teacher training centers in India but is little known in Europe and the Americas. In the West, Krishnamarcharya-linked schools have been historically more well known. Examples of other branded forms of yoga, with some controversies, that contain Hatha yoga methodologies include Anusara Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Integral Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Jivanmukti Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Kripalu Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Siddha Yoga, Viniyoga, Vinyasa Yoga and White Lotus Yoga. Hatha yoga practice has many elements, both behavioral and of practice. The Hatha yoga texts state that a successful yogi has certain characteristics. Section 1.16 of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, for example, states these characteristics to be utsaha (enthusiasm, fortitude), sahasa (courage), dhairya (patience), jnana tattva (essence for knowledge), nishcaya (resolve, determination) and tyaga (solitude, renunciation).

In the Western culture, Hatha yoga is typically understood as asanas and it can be practiced as such. In the Indian and Tibetan traditions, Hatha yoga is much more. It extends well beyond being a sophisticated physical exercise system and integrates ideas of ethics, diet, cleansing, pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation and a system for spiritual development of the yogi.

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Based in the teachings of Swami Sivananda, Swami Vishnudevananda summarized the yoga philosophy in 5 principles or the Five Points of Yoga which make the complex teachings of yoga easier to understand:

FIVE POINTS OF YOGA
  1. Proper Exercise (Asanas) – Yoga poses help develop a strong, healthy body by enhancing flexibility and improving circulation.
  2. Proper Breathing (Pranayama) – Deep, conscious breathing reduces stress and many diseases.
  3. Proper Relaxation – Helps keep the body from going into overload mode, easing worry and fatigue.
  4. Proper Diet – Eating simple, healthy and vegetarian foods that are easy to digest notably have a positive effect on the mind and body, as well as the environment and other living beings.
  5. Positive Thinking (Vedanta) and Meditation (Dhyana) – These are the true keys to achieving peace of mind and eliminating negativity in our lives.

Differences from Patanjali Yoga

Hatha yoga is a branch of yoga. It shares numerous ideas and doctrines with other forms of yoga, such as the more ancient Yoga system taught by Patanjali. The differences are in the addition of some limbs, and different emphasis on other limbs. For example, pranayama is crucial in all yogas, but it is the mainstay of Hatha yoga. Mudras and certain kundalini-related ideas are included in Hatha yoga, but not mentioned in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Patanjali yoga considers asanas important but dwells less on various asanas, unlike Hatha yoga texts. In contrast, the Hatha yoga texts consider meditation as important but dwell less on meditation methodology, unlike the Patanjali yoga.

The Hatha yoga texts acknowledge and refer to Patanjali yoga, attesting to the latter’s antiquity. However, this acknowledgment is in the passing, and the Hatha Yoga texts offer no serious commentary or exposition of the Patanjali’s system. This suggests that Hatha yoga likely developed as a satellite branch of the more ancient yoga. According to P.V. Kane, Patanjali yoga concentrates more on the yoga of the mind, while Hatha yoga focuses on body and health. Some Hindu texts do not recognize this distinction. For example, the Yogatattva Upanishad teaches a system that includes all limbs of the Yogasutras of Patanjali, and all additional elements of Hatha yoga practice.

Health impact studies

The impact of Hatha yoga on physical and mental health has been a topic of systematic studies. Some scholars state that a regular and proper yoga practice yields health benefits. Others state that the results of these studies have been mixed and inconclusive, with cancer studies suggesting none to unclear effectiveness, and others suggesting yoga may reduce risk factors and aid in a patient’s psychological healing process.

Yoga’s combined focus on mindfulness, breathing, and physical movements bring health benefits with regular participation. Yoga participants report better sleep, increased energy levels and muscle tone, relief from muscle pain and stiffness, improved circulation and overall better general health. The breathing aspect of yoga can benefit heart rate and blood pressure.

 

So ?! Just grab your YogaYam Leggings and your mat and follow your heart…Practice Yoga!

You can read the full magical article in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatha_yoga

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