« yogah citta vrtti nirodhah» Patanjali yoga sûtra, I, 2.
« Yoga is the complete control of the vritti (vritti : sanskrit word meaning operations of mind)
is the definition of yoga stated by Patañjali in his famous work Yoga-sûtra, I, 2.. »
« tadâ drashtuh svarûpe avasthânam» Patanjali yoga sûtra, I, 3.
«The following I, 3 explains that “In this condition the observer is well established in his real original nature
(which is not identified).
YOGA AND HATHA YOGA
Considering that there are many
different forms of yoga to practice such as hatha, râja,
karma, jñâna, bhakti, tantra, mantra, nidra etc… which are
integrated in yoga, one may say that it is simultaneously
single and multiple. Single because it uses the body as a
tool; and multiple because its process can fit into each
and every particular human being.
In western countries Hatha yoga is the most widespread and practised version.
An ancient treatise “Hathapradîpikâ” describes hathayoga as “the glorious science which shines like a ladder for those who wish to reach the peaks in Râja yoga.”
The Râja yoga, which is considered as the most perfect state of yoga, stands for the height one attains through practice of hatha yoga, the latter being the most efficient method to succeed in attaining moksha state, that is to say liberation. “The ways for Râja yoga are manifold and as many varieties of opinions do nothing but submerge the yoga practitioners into confusion and darkness. From this darkness only hatha yoga has the ability to save them because it is the means powerful enough to succeed in complete mastery in the field of Râja Yoga. (Hatha yoga prâdipika, p.83, Tara Michael, Editions Fayard)
Hatha yoga is a complete yoga, a way through which you intend to approach your true self and agree to look at yourself as simply as you are, acting with a well-balanced body and mind so that you experience unity and diversity in the world without cutting yourself off from your cultural background and with a sound respect for your spiritual roots.
Spirituality is universal. Man will always ask the same questions about who he is, and what is the meaning of his social and individual lives.
Hatha yoga gives the means to answer these questions. Atheists or believers will find answers. “Hatha yoga concerns those who still suffer and those already involved in any kind of yoga as well. Negatively it puts any suffering to an end and positively gives a chance to achieve success in any kind of yoga.
There is nothing
compared to yoga for pacifying the mind and liberation from
the bondage of actions.” (quote fromTara Michaël)
When to start the practice of hatha yoga ?The teaching is meant to fit the particular needs of each person however old he – or she – is, whatever thir way of living, independent from season, capacities or health.
Yoga practice replies to contemporary man’s needs namely a better control of senses or emotions, stress management, to stand back in relation to excessive worries, to improve concentration, strength and a joyful living with a balanced and hygienic diet corresponding to his individual body and way of life.
Hatha yoga practice is most beneficial to pregnant women : they stay strong and healthier preparing for delivery. A regular practice during pregnancy until the birth and a few weeks afterwards, helps to absorb fatigue and allows for a quality breast-feeding.
In some schools children have an opportunity to discover in hatha yoga classes a pleasant, balanced and competition-free activity.
The practice and its components
“Âsana (Sanskrit for sitting position) is the first part of
hatha yoga. It results in firmness of posture, a state free
of any disease, and lightness of the body.” Hathapradîpikâ
There are innumerable poses, according to the Indian tradtition.
A few are mentioned in Hatha yoga treaties like
- Gheranda Samhita II, 1 “84 hundred of thousand”,
- Goraksha Shatakam, 6 “Among the 84 hundreds of thousands”,
- Shiva Samhitâ III, 84 “84 different kinds of postures”.
The keys to these numbers, of course, are symbolic and
suggest different forms of consciousness or state of mind.
Names as tortoise, locust, snake, peacock and bow etc.. are
symbolic as well. They are required to balance all body
functions and to overcome mental agitation, laziness, the
most famous being the lotus pose padmâsana, sitting
Âsanas make breathing free and easy and is preparatory for
Breathing is the keystone of Hatha yoga.
Focussing on breathing is effective to reduce its rate naturally.
Agitation and confusion of the mind stop as calmness takes over. When mind and breath are united together, movements of the breathing are brought under control.
There are several kinds of prânâyâma. Nadi shodhana, sûrya bhedana, ujjayi, shitali, Bhastrika… They are mentioned and explained in ancient works such as Hatha yoga pradîpikâ, Gheranda samhitâ, Goraksha Satakam.
“ Prânâyâma is the first and foremost among all yoga methods. When correctly applied perfect pratyahâra is self animating (that is to say the withdrawal of the senses from its corresponding objects). Intensive practice of prânâyâma leads to the next anga of yoga (dhârana - concentration, dhyâna - contemplation, samâdhi - union). ”
Those who succeed in prânâyâma are able to stop the movement in the mind. To keep this control the yogi has to be trained also in the practice of mudrâ which are special poses to seal the breath inside the body; imposing limits when perceptions dissipate too much. They put an end to all physical, mental and spiritual. Afflictions.
“Those mudrâs bring yogi success.” (Gheranda Samhitâ III,3). Mahâ mudrâ, mahâbandha, mahâvedha, viparîta karanî, combined with bandha (tying up) vajroli, khecarî, tâdâgî, bhujanginî etc… are quoted in the treatises. As for practice it is specific to each school
bhujanginî etc… are quoted in the treatises. As for practice it is specific to each school because these mudrâ are traditionally taught from master to student as soon as the teacher considers his pupil aware enough to appreciate its effectiveness.
The practice of asana, prânâyâma and mudrâ can be difficult and sometime not without harm if one tries to learn it from books. One should be helped by a teacher or an expert who is aware of all the effects and counter-indications.
The resultsAs several trends consider sometime that “relaxation” is one of the major props in Yoga it should not be understood as “the” technical way of the Indian tradition. It is actually results from the practice when it is correct and appropriate. Relaxation has been created in Western countries to reduce stress. Indian yoga tradition creates an extensive means to rest for the body and the mind. “Savâsana” the lying position, is accurately explained in the Sanskrit textbook Hatha yoga pradîpikâ I, 32 : it eliminates fatigue and brings quietness to the mind. If the practice of âsanas causes excessive muscular strain, it can be absorbed and therefore the process of thought breaks down. Such a balanced state of the mind and body increases presence, concentration of mind, attention, wisdom and compassion to one’s self and mankind.
Hatha Yoga practice relies on a
thousand-year-old experience but it is still very much in
the present and relevant to the contemporary man.
The most ancient and complete treatise about Yoga and the mental states is “yogasûtra” which was composed by the sage Patañjali. It has been commented upon by many famous Indian scholars and among them the most renowned are Vyâsa, Bhojarâja, Vacaspati Misra.
Hatha yoga is transmitted through textbooks like Hatha yoga pradîpikâ, Gheranda samhitâ, Siva samhitâ, Goraksha Sataka, Siddha siddhanta paddhati, Goraksha paddhati…
As for Bhagavad Gîtâ, Upanishad, Samkhya karikâ, Ramayana, these writings allow yoga referring to maintain its philosophical importance.