August: Hatha Yoga Part 2 of 4
by Kevin Sahaj, 29-Jul-2016
Hatha Yoga part 2
Part 2. Asana practice according to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika:
The second chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika explains asana as the foundation of the Hatha Yoga training. First it is explained that you should have the right motivation for practice (for the attainment of self realization "raja yoga"), the right inner and outer conditions (a clean and quiet practice place, and positive conduct "yamas and niyamas"), and attention to a supportive diet and lifestyle or your efforts at yoga will be "destroyed".
Basically the Asana practice rests on the foundation of these aspects, without having the right conditions and motivation there will not be success in Hatha yoga as a means to realization. If you have been practicing Hatha Yoga asanas consistently and correctly with the guidance of an experienced teacher you will have noticed that your whole life has to find a fine balance to support your practice. You naturally have a more balance diet and generally healthy lifestyle as a product of your consistent practice.
The unique aspect of Hatha Yoga is that it uses the asana training as a preliminary practice for creating the right balanced and healthy condition of physical body. This creates the right base for prana to flow and the mind naturally becomes more clear. But it is very clearly a necessary foundation practice and not the essential point of Hatha Yoga which is the attainment of our highest potential; union with the Divine or self realization.
haṭhasya prathamāngghatvādāsanaṃ pūrvamuchyate |
kuryāttadāsanaṃ sthairyamāroghyaṃ chānggha-lāghavam || HYP 19 ||
The first practice of Hatha Yoga is Asana, it creates a strong and steady, healthy and light body.
In modern India before the 20th century the Hatha Yoga practices like Asana, Mudra etc, were widely considered to be degenerate yoga practices that were more for attainment of power rather than self realization, or at best a form of exercise. Great masters like Krishnamacharya, Shivananda, and others revived the ancient Hatha Yoga as a valid path to God rather than merely physical exercise or circus.
The biggest misconception in the modern world regarding yoga is that it is a form of exercise rather than a path to self realization. And this comes mostly from the perception that Asana is a kind of sport or something you do to achieve more and more complex asanas while loosing the main point of Hatha Yoga.
The main asana described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika are mostly sittings postures to open the hips and circulation of prana there for the application of Bandhas and Mudras described in the next chapter.
This important point here for modern practitioners of Hatha Yoga asana, is that this is really just the beginning of Hatha Yoga and we should explore more deeply and not get stuck just the physical aspects of asana. If we are interested, the incredible subtle inner world of prana energy, vital essence, kundalini and mind are waiting to be explored and awakened with the power of Hatha Yoga.
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.