Hatha Yoga is a branch of yogic science which uses primarily physical practices to spiritually evolve into a state of immortality – literally, to kill time – by uniting (yoga) the pranic energy in the sun (Ha - right hand channel) and the moon (Tha - left hand channel) into the central channel – Sushumna.
We can use these physical practices as a stand-alone system, or balance their extremely powerful and sometimes volatile effects with other yogas such as Bhakti, the practice of devotion towards others, and Karma Yoga – the yoga of work and activities which we undertake solely for the benefit of others.
It's interesting - Hatha Yoga seems to have developed a reputation in the West as an “easy class” where you don’t need to exert yourself or sweat much. Traditionally, the connotation is quite different! The word hatha implies drastic means, measures undertaken when all else fails. The Sanskrit word ha means sun and derives from the root “han” which means to strike - English cognates include “gun.” There is nothing at all easy about the yogic science of hatha yoga. The Sanskrit “tha” means moon – the implication is the balancing of the deadly combination of sun and moon which give rise to time.
Improves overall health through practices for purifying virtually all systems of the body using physical asanas or poses, pranayama or breath control practices and pranic energy manipulation.
Harmonizes the mind, improves concentration and ability to focus, reduces fluctuations of emotions, restores a general sense of well-being and contentment, raises the consciousness to a level beyond concern solely for ourselves.
Subtle Body Benefits
Purifies the side channels or nadis through integration and balance of body, mind and breath practices; clears the knots in the chakras in the central channel, enabling pranic energy to flow freely and inducing higher states of awareness and spiritual development.
Births the state of total enlightenment if all practices are infused with the motivation to bring all living beings to this state.
The Yoga Sutras of Master Patanjali outline primarily the inner methods or Raja Yoga - the mental and philosophical steps to enlightenment. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika of Yogi Swatmarama is predominantly a practical guide to the physical steps to enlightenment. It presents the outer methods of Hatha Yoga. We always begin with a tribute to the lineage and to our teachers. Without them, we have nothing. We then review the yama and niyama – guidelines for conducting ourselves. Only then are we prepared to begin the actual physical practices:
Yoga Asanas - Hatha Yoga Pradipika lists fifteen physical poses.
1. Swastikasana 2. Gomukhasana 3. Virasana
4. Kurmasana 5. Kukkutasana 6. Uttan Kurmasana
7. Dhanurasana 8. Matsyendrasana
Shatkarma - six preliminary purification practices to be undertaken only under the direct guidance of a teacher.
1. Dhauti 2. Basti
3. Neti 4. Trataka 5. Nauli 6. Kapala Bhati
Pranayama – breath and prana practices
1. Nadi Shodhana as preliminary 2. Eight Kumbhakas:
1) Surya Bheda
2) Ujjayi 3) Seetkari 4) Sheetali
Mudras and Bandhas – seals and locking mechanisms for retaining pranic energy and redirecting it into the central channel in order to raise the kundalini.
1. Maha Mudra 2. Maha Bandha
3. Maha Vedha 4. Khechari Mudra
5. Uddiyana Bandha
6. Mula Bandha 7. Jalandhara Bandha 8. Viparita Karani Mudra 9. Vajroli Mudra/Sahajoli Mudra
10.Shakti Chalana Mudra
Samadhi – stages of meditation leading to the final goal of a body which is composed of light/energy.
Tips from Deep Retreat
Following the advice of our Teachers always works. Trying to do our own thing rarely does!
Following the sequence outlined in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika worked best for us for our daily practice schedule, ie., shatkarmas when necessary, then asana followed by pranayama, then meditation.
Follow your Teacher’s advice for shatkarma practices that are necessary for you – do them only as long as you need to.
Balance Hatha Yoga practice with Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion, and Karma Yoga, activities and work undertaken for the good of others.
There's nothing more important than finding a competent yoga teacher who is properly trained in the classical yoga texts, such as Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.