July: Hatha Yoga Part 1 of 4

by Kevin Sahaj, 01-Jul-2016

The purpose of Yoga according to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Hatha Yoga is the system of yoga we follow when we practice yoga asanas, pranayamas, bandhas etc. Any practice that involves these aspects is Hatha Yoga, every "style" of yoga you are practicing it is directly related to Hatha Yoga.

The most relevant guide to Hatha Yoga is called the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, or "the light that illuminates hatha yoga". It was written down in the 15th century by Swami Swatmarama, but is not the origin of Hatha Yoga which is much earlier, however it is an important text that was often quoted to us by Pattabhi Jois. Krishnamacharya (the teacher of Pattabhi Jois) taught extensively on this text, so we should consider it to be very important in our study of yoga. The one thing that stands out in Hatha Yoga that is different than the other yogas is the use of the body and breath and mudras extensively as a method to achieve Raja Yoga (Astanga Yoga Sutras of Patanjali) for those who don't have the capacity to come to Samadhi by the path set forth in the Yoga Sutras. It is said in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika:

bhrāntyā bahumata-dhvānte rāja-yoghamajānatām |
haṭha-pradīpikāṃ dhatte svātmārāmaḥ kṝpākaraḥ || 3 ||

Owing to the darkness arising from mental confusion people are unable to know the Râja Yoga. Compassionate Swâtmârâma composes the Haṭha Yoga Pradipikâ like a torch to dispel it.

So this text is saying that because people are confused and do not have the capacity to directly access the mind and go beyond the dualistic mind, Swatmarama offers the practices of Hatha Yoga. The foundation of the Hatha Yoga method is asana and is covered in the first chapter which we will cover in next months newsletter. But asana practice is only the preparation for more subtle practices that are given in detail by most of the text.

It is important to realize the goal of Hatha Yoga (which is what everyone is practicing when they are practicing asana) is the same as the goal of Raja Yoga: the stilling of the mind in Samadhi to go beyond dualism and the fluctuations of mind and see our real nature shining in pure being.

To illustrate the relevance and importance of this text to all yoga asana practitioners, many favorite quotes from our teacher of Astanga Yoga, K. Pattabhi jois come directly from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika such as:

puṣhṭaṃ sumadhuraṃ snighdhaṃ ghavyaṃ dhātu-prapoṣhaṇam |
manobhilaṣhitaṃ yoghyaṃ yoghī bhojanamācharet || 66 ||

Whether young, old or too old, sick or lean, one who discards laziness, gets success if he practices Yoga.

"Anyone can practice. Young man can practice. Old man can practice. Very old man can practice. Man who is sick, he can practice. Man who doesn't have strength can practice. Except lazy people; lazy people can't practice Ashtanga yoga" K. Pattabhi jois

yuvo vṝddho|ativṝddho vā vyādhito durbalo|api vā |
abhyāsātsiddhimāpnoti sarva-yogheṣhvatandritaḥ || 67 ||

Success comes to him who is engaged in the practice. How can one get success without practice; for by merely reading books on Yoga, one can never get success.

"99% percent practice 1% theory" K. Pattabhi jois

kriyā-yuktasya siddhiḥ syādakriyasya kathaṃ bhavet |
na śāstra-pāṭha-mātreṇa yogha-siddhiḥ prajāyate || 68 ||

Success cannot be attained by dressing like a yogi. It cannot be gained by talking about it. Practice alone is the means to success. This is true, there is no doubt.

"Do your practice and all is coming" K. Pattabhi jois

About Kevin Sahaj

Kevin Sahaj is a dedicated yoga practitioner who has been studying and practicing yoga for 30 years. His approach to teaching is eclectic and draws from many different methods and teachings to help students align their lives towards awakening.