By Swami Harshananda
Hathayoga literally means ‘yoga that teaches the union of prāṇa and apāna’.
Significance of Hathayoga
Haṭhayoga is one of the major branches of the Yoga system that teaches the practical aspects of spiritual life. Yoga means the union of the jīva (the individual soul) with Paramātman (God). The word ‘haṭha’ is split into two syllables, ‘ha’ and ‘tha’. It is interpreted as the ‘sun’ and the ‘moon’ or the ‘prāṇa’ and the ‘apāna’. These are the two important aspects of the prāṇic energy in a living being. According to this explanation, Haṭhayoga is the science of prāṇāyāma that includes other aspects of Yoga like āsanas and mudrās.
Teachers of Hathayoga
According to the tradition described in the scriptures dealing with Hathayoga, Adinātha or God Śiva is the first teacher who taught it to his divine spouse Pārvatī. Some of the distinguished teachers of this tradition are:
- Prabhudeva (Allama Prabhu)
Similitude in Haṭhayoga and Rājayoga
Haṭhayoga and Rājayoga are two sides of the same coin. Neither is possible without the help of the other. However, the writers on Haṭhayoga agree that Rājayoga deals with the control of the mind which ultimately leads to samādhi, is primary and hathayoga is only an aid to it.
Regulations to Practice Hathayoga
- To practice Haṭhayoga, a suitable place is needed.
- It should be clean and secluded, with a level ground.
- The air must be pure.
Hathayoga Hampering Attributes
Yoga is destroyed by certain habits which must be avoided. They are:
- Atyāhāra - overeating
- Prayāsa - over- exertion
- Prajalpa - talkativeness
- Niyamāgraha - observance of unsuitable disciplines like fasting etc.
- Janasaṅga - company of persons not spiritually inclined
- Laulya - unsteadiness
Hathayoga Aiding Attributes
On the other hand, there are certain qualities which are conducive to yoga and hence it should be cultivated. They are:
- Sāhasa - daring
- Utsāha - enthusiasm
- Dhairya - courage
- Tattvajñāna - true knowledge
- Niścaya - firmness of faith in the words of the guru
- Janasaṅgaparityāga - abandonment of unsuitable company
Results of Hathayoga
Success in this yoga is indicated by certain signs such as:
- Body losing flabbiness and becoming lean
- Brightness of face and eyes
- Hearing of the anāhata-dhvani (sound of Oṅkāra)
- Better health and appetite
- Purification of the nāḍīs
Moves of Hathayoga
The steps of Hathayoga as described in the standard works are generally four. They are:
- Āsana - various postures like svastikāsana, gomukhāsana, vīrāsana etc.
- Prāṇāyāma - varieties of breath- control like suryabheda, sitkāri and bhastrikā
- Mudrā - exercises for rousing the Kuṇḍalinī such as mahāmudrā, khecarī, uḍḍiyāna and so on
- Nādānu- sandhāna - meditating on the inner sound produced by the rousing of the Kuṇḍalinī
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore