Updated: Nov 30, 2021
Yoga is practised by millions around the world today. Or is it? Yoga, comes from the Sanskrit root ‘yuj’, which means to join.
Karma, another Sanskrit word, means to do. And karma is exactly what we are all practising when we say we are practicing yoga. There is a world of difference between these two. Karma is a physical action; Yoga is the experience of mystery. Everyone wants to look fit; few have the time for abstract mysteries. So karma flourishes everywhere, Yoga flourishes in the hearts of a few.
Today Yoga is taught in many parts of the world as a system of fitness and anti-ageing therapy. Yoga has become big business creating multi-million dollar global franchisees.
But the truth is that Yoga which was historically maintained as a secret science, is in fact meant for complete inner evolution. The practitioners of authentic yoga transform themselves within the crucibles of their bodies and minds. Achieving constantly higher states of physical and mental consciousness, they cross over ultimately from normal consciousness to something Higher. We crossed over from animal instinct to human intellect through natural evolution and from the intellectual we cross over to purely intuitive cognition through Yoga. Every time there is a discovery, an original idea, a novel conception, birth of new life, there is effort in Yoga. Whether we term such processes as inspiration, ideation or creativity, the fact is it comes from the sublimation of the normal intellect within a Higher plane of consciousness-and that is Yoga.
And though the existence of a method, for this inspirational process to happen at will might seem impossible, or a figment of somebody’s fertile imagination, the truth is Inspiration and its actual manifestation is the very essence of this secret art, known to all as Yoga.
The History and Lineage of Yoga
Why was Yoga always transmitted (a practice existing till today) as a hermetic occult art and science? Why are there Yoga lineages which pass on practices only upon initiation?
It is because of human greed and fear. The first thing to understand in the science of yoga is that our level of reality is not the only one. There are different levels of consciousness existing simultaneously in the same place at the same time. Each level of consciousness is associated with a separate level of Universal reality.
For example, humans, monkeys and worms all occupy the same planet at the same time. But each of these creatures perceives ‘reality’ completely differently from each other and for each creature the reality it perceives is completely true. Their level of ‘reality’ is based on their level of consciousness.
Siddhis or SuperNatural Powers
Take the case of a human lighting a fire with a box of matches. No other animal in the world is capable of creating and controlling fire and as far as the monkey is concerned, the human is performing a tremendous miracle while creating fire. But the human takes the ability to control fire for granted. It is completely normal for him or her. Similarly, ‘beings’ in levels above the human perform actions which are normal for them but which might seem miraculous for humans. These seemingly extraordinary ‘powers’ in the higher than human levels are called Siddhis (accomplishments) in Sanskrit. The practice of authentic Yoga brings forth these siddhis.
Now, when a greedy, materialist human achieves these higher powers through Yoga he/ she will exploit these powers in a covert manner to gain wealth, fame and to control the minds of his fellow humans.
This will bring great ill repute to the honest practitioners of Yoga and sully the name of Yoga itself.
On the other hand, if a human were to display these awesome powers openly, even if it was for the good of others, normal people would be extremely scared of such a super human and the natural consequence of irrational fear is extreme violence and harm. We all remember what happened to Jesus Christ , one of the greatest historical Yogis. A great friend of humanity, his powers were feared by an uncomprehending society, who, in their ignorant fear chose to kill him and free the convicted murderer, Barabbas.
Such is humanity-overcome by personal greed and public fear; humanity cannot be trusted with the powers that arise from the practice of Yoga. And so, true Yoga has always remained a secret science and continues to be transmitted in secret, personally from an authentic master to a tried and tested student.
The Secret Meaning of Hatha Yoga and Its Relevance?
What is Hatha Yoga and its relevance to Asanas? How is it related to other forms of Yoga? Hatha means two things-if we break up the word into 'ha' and 'tha' it stands for the sun and the moon. And as a single word Hatha-it stands for willpower, disregarding physical pain, lethargy and discomfort completely.
So taken together the word Hatha means strong, willful effort to balance the sun and moon energy within the body. The Sun, as everybody knows is the source of all energy on planet Earth and in our Solar system. Without the Sun no life can exist anywhere in the Solar system. So all life owes its essential existence to the tremendous and constant energy of the Sun. Each one of us as well owes our existence to the energy of the Sun and this energy is constantly entering our body through the food we eat(which owes its existence to the Sun) and the Sun rays that pass into our body energising the cells within. The Moon on the other hand is not taken so seriously because it does not seem to be such a tremendous force as the Sun in our lives. But the mass of the Moon and its orbit around the Earth helps us to maintain our own orbit around the Sun. Everybody knows that the Moon controls the tides of the oceans in our planet. Imagine the mass of the combined oceans. The Moons gravitational pull is strong enough to move this huge mass in massive tidal waves. If the Moon can do this to the oceans,think about the effect it has on our capillary and arterial systems in the body and how powerful the Moons effect is on the liquid blood flowing within the body, from the brain to the toes. The balancing of this energy, of the Sun and the Moon within us is the art of Hatha Yoga and it leads to perfect calm and steadiness-of the body and the mind.
Hatha Yoga & Hatha Karma
Though Hatha practices were developed over a period of many centuries, separate from other yogas and within its own lineages, Hatha became a yoga only when it was utilized as one of the 8 parts in the Raja Yoga system devised by the ancient sage Maharishi Patanjali.
Doing a headstand or Surya namaskar or any other physical asana/position is simply doing physical exercise -it is not Yoga. In order to transform the physical exercise into the Yoga, one must have the 8 part view of Raja Yoga.
There is no other way. Without the view of Raja Yoga, all Hatha practices remain only as Hatha action(Hatha Karma). But when practised with the view of Raja Yoga, the Hatha Karma or Hatha action becomes Hatha Yoga.
So, in fact, all the yoga studios and even many yoga ashrams, do not teach Hatha Yoga, they teach Hatha Karma or physical exercise. No doubt, physical exercise is good for the body but we must not be under the illusion while exercising that we are actually practising yoga.
The eight parts of Raja Yoga are the Yama (actions and thoughts which should not be engaged in) Niyama (actions and thoughts that should always be engaged in), Asana (Body and hand postures), Pranayama (Universal Force control) , Pratyahara (Internalization of the Force of senses and the mind) , Dharana (Unifocussed imagination), Dhyana(Singularity) and Samadhi (That which is not spoken of).
All these 8 parts are to be practised simultaneously while engaging in any Yoga. Hatha Yoga too is comprised of these 8 parts which when practised simultaneously create the arena within which evolution takes place-evolution of our body, our energy field and our mind.
How to Practice Hatha Yoga?
Hatha Yoga needs to be practiced according to the ‘8 limb yoga‘ path as mentioned by Patanjali. Integrating Raja Yoga practices is the very essence and the secret of the practice of Hatha Yoga.
The ultimate objective of Hatha Yoga, like all Yoga-s, is Samadhi or the end of all suffering. The highest suffering is death. The lower sufferings are the physical diseases, the emotional sadness and the many ups and downs that are part and parcel of the human life and the human body.
Now, other Yogas transcend – through correct and consistent practice ,all suffering through the realization that the consciousness is not the body or the mind-rather it is something birthless and therefore deathless. It is pure energy called spanda which is never born, neither does it die, it simply changes form
Hatha Yoga is unique in the fact that apart from this gnosis, it also attempts to physically prolong human life beyond normal life expectancy. Humans practicing Hatha have been known to live for centuries and if ancient accounts are to be believed, for thousands of years.
So Hatha Yoga has two objectives-to make the physical body disease free and long living and the larger goal of achieving spiritual enlightenment and the end to all mortal suffering.
How does one achieve these super human things through Hatha Yoga and what is the ultimate achievement in Hatha Yoga? One achieves all these great things in Hatha Yoga through Control and the ultimate acheivement of Hatha Yoga is Kevala Kumbhaka or Spontaneous stopping of the breathing process. So Hatha Yoga’s essential practice is physical control to the extent of stopping the very process of organic life-the Breath. But this type of control does not lead to death, it leads to the perfection of all Yoga-s,all knowing wisdom and a diamond-hard, long living body. But this steely control needs to be combined with the fiery experience of the Life force for Hatha Yoga to succeed.
Everybody who has ever had a shocking experience, whether it was seeing a snake rear up before oneself or whether it was a high speed accident or near death experience, will remember that the breath suddenly stops and the mind and senses achieve crystal clarity. If you can remember the incident clearly you will even realise that at that point the senses had become fused into one All -sense and the mind had completely stopped thinking-the body was simply perceiving and doing. In these extreme moments, the body-mind starts functioning automatically, close to perfection. Further, there would have been an intense, almost too intense energisation of the whole body-mind as if we were receiving a huge electric shock from within. This feeling is also similar to that experienced in the most crucial moments of extreme sports and also in the rare sexual moments of total body orgasm.
All these are the signs of the awakening of the internal life force. This internal life force is a small part of the Universal life force and when this internal life force, called Kundalini in yoga is awakened, it rises and the experiences happen. This internal life force then keeps on rising with lightning rapidity until it joins with the Universal life force which is present always as a reflection in our mind, when the thought-lake of the mind is completely still.
Though the rising of the kundalini happens by accident in near death or extremely frightening situations, they can be made to manifest in a controlled way through certain practices and ways of visualising-feeling.
The way of feeling or the attitude that raises the life force is called Bhavana. The actual movemement of the Life force is called Spandana.
The method of raising this kundalini to its highest level by courageous force and willful control is Hatha Yoga. It is therefore the Forceful Yoga, dangerous, requiring expert guidance and unflagging practice. It is for the few who are Lion hearted and fear neither death nor pain in their search for that which lies beyond.
Yoga and the Path to Everlasting Happiness
The way to unshakable happiness, the ability to joyfully accept any situation in life and the freedom to be not afraid of death are the great fruits of the practice of Yoga. Such a mastery over the experience of life and death is only possible for those who are willing and able to understand and practice the deeper and hidden realities of Yoga.
The practice of bodily contortions resembling those of a circus acrobat or meditating under a tree, waiting for the fruit of ‘enlightenment’ to fall into one’s lap is considered Yoga by most people. But it can be safely said that people who engage in these types of practices, while developing a great looking body or a relatively calm and concentrated mind, fall by the wayside in the path of Yoga for Yoga is neither fitness training nor meditation.
Yoga does not exist in some abstract , fanciful realm-it exists here, within our hearts and in our minds.An artist or musician in rapture while composing a new work, an ecstatic crowd of people loving a great concert, a rally car driver on the edge of concentration and effort, a small boned martial artist smashing with his fragile head a huge block of ice, a couple having pure, loving thoughts towards each other, basking in the warm sunshine of each others’ love-a terrorist and a soldier, both willing to put their lives on the line for what they believe in-all these and many others are unknowingly practicing some of the basic tenets of yoga most effectively. How is that? Because they are either in total concentration or having an open, fearless heart. These are the fundamental requisites of Yoga.
In the above examples the people are not consciously practicing authentic Yoga, they are engaged in the practice and perfection of some specific quality of Yoga. When this art of Yoga, whose practice is like walking on the razor’s edge, is correctly practiced then the human psyche and body undergo a fundamental change. From Tantra to Hatha and other forms of Yoga, the very objective of all the authentic Yoga is to unite and join the limited consciousness of a human with the unlimited consciousness of the Universe.
To lose the sense of self within the sense of All this I am. And even though this might seem the absolute and ideal objective, the practice of authentic Yoga leads to transformations on a daily basis, each transformation a step on the wondrous path towards the greatest liberation, the freedom from liberation itself.
When the mind and the senses are effortlessly controlled, the coils of mortality are discarded, the bounds of time and space become inconsequential in the light of a consciousness that knows no other. This is Yoga. And if all these stupendous experiences are not achieved, at the very least we become happy people, desiring to make others happy. That in itself is the greatest gift that we can give to an increasingly unhappy world.
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