Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a revered text on Hatha Yoga was written by Svatmaram sometime in the 15th century C.E. Chapter 1 starts out by Svatmaram paying respect to Lord Shiva, the supreme teacher of Hatha Yoga. He names a number of revered sages of the past (Matsyendra, Goraksha etc) who conquered death through Yoga and still roam this Universe. He states that the purpose of Hatha Yoga is to attain success in Raja Yoga.

Chapter 1-Asanas 

One achieves success in yoga through enthusiasm, open mindedness, courage, knowledge of truth and solitude. Yoga gets destroyed through excessive talking, overeating, and physical strain, spending too much time in the company of people, restlessness and performing unnecessary rituals. A yogi who is celibate, moderate in eating habits, detached and persevering in yoga will achieve success within a year. A moderate diet that is satisfying, soothing and sweet is best. Foods that are bitter, sour, spicy, oily green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, alcohol, mustard, meat, asafetida, garlic etc are not recommended. Also food that is too salty, dry, and stale or has been reheated is prohibited. A yogi should avoid travel, company of bad people, early morning baths and any procedures that might harm the body. Wheat, rice, barley, milk, ghee, sugar, mung beans etc are favorable for the practicing yogi. Whether young or old, weak or strong, everyone can benefit form the practice of Hatha Yoga. One who practices yoga is bound to achieve success. One cannot achieve success in yoga by merely talking about it, reading about it or by donning certain attire. It is only practice that will bestow success in yoga. The yoga asanas mentioned by Svatmaram are:

1. Swastikasan

2. Gomukhasan or Cow Pose

3. Virasana

4. Kurmasan or Tortoise Pose

5. Kukkutasan or Raised Tortoise Pose

6. Uttankurmasan

7. Dhanurasan or Bow Pose

8. Matsyendra asan

9. Paschimottan asan or Forward bend Pose

10. Mayurasan or Peacock Pose

11. Shavasana or Corpse Pose

Out of the 84 asans taught by Lord Shiva, Svatmaram describes the 4 most important ones:

1. Siddhasana also known as Vajrasan, Muktasan, and Guptaasan

2. Padmasan or Lotus Pose

3. Simha asan, Singha asan or Lion Pose

4. Bhadraasan or Gorakshasan or Baddha Kona asan described as the destroyer of all diseases

Chapter 2-Pranayam

Pranayam which should be undertaken only upon successful mastery over the asanas/poses. The mind and breath are interconnected. A steady breath means a calm mind and a calm mind helps steady the breath. Therefore one must learn control over the breath. When impurities are present in the nadis (energy channels in the astral body), it is impossible for the breath to flow through the sushumna (the most important nadi in the astral body, which corresponds to the spinal canal in the physical body). Therefore it is important that one practicing pranayam, should do so in a sattvic (pure, virtuous) state of mind.

The yogi should be seated in Padmasan (lotus pose) and inhale through the left nostril, hold per capacity and exhale through the right nostril. He should then inhale through the right nostril, hold per capacity and exhale through the left nostril. The exhalation should not be forceful. The nadis of a yogi practicing this pranayam for 3 months will become pure. Pranayam done correctly will cure a person of diseases, whereas done incorrectly it could cause diseases. The disorders of pawan (air element/breath) cause hiccups, asthma, cough, headaches, earaches, pain in eyes etc. Hence one should pay careful attention when inhaling and exhaling. The body of a person whose nadis are pure will be lean and glowing. Purification of nadis leads to good health.

A person who has too much fat and phlegm in the body should do pranayam only once he has completed the shatkarmas i.e.

1. Dhauti,

2. Vasti,

3. Neti,

4. Trataka,

5. Nauli and

6. Kapalbhati

Some Yoga masters do not believe in the need of observing the Shatkarmas as doing Pranayam alone can remove all impurities.

One can achieve various mysterious powers from the practice of kumbhakas. There are eight kumbhakas:

1. Suryabhedana- hailed as the best kumbhaka to cleanse the skull, destroy bacteria in the sinuses and destroy and diseases related to vat/vayu (wind element in the body) like asthma, hiccups, arthritis

2. Ujjayi- can be done walking or standing. Removes all phlegm related diseases of the throat, increases digestive fire

3. Sheetkari- gets rid of all diseases, removes lethargy, hunger and thirst

4. Shitali- destroys fever, pith (bile/heat) related disorders and enlargement of spleen and toxins

5. Bhastrika-removes diseases of the vayu, kapha and pith (wind, phlegm, bile elements or air, water and fire elements) and awakens kundalini

6. Bhramari-promotes bliss

7. Murcha-promotes happiness and clarity of mind

8. Plavini-allows one to float in water

Pranayam consists of inhalation, retention and exhalation. Breath retention also known as kumbhaka is of two types: sahita and kevala. One should practice sahita kumbhaka until they master kevala kumbhaka which is retention of breath without any inhalation or exhalation and retention of breath as desired. Kevala kumbhaka awakens the kundalini. Awakening of kundalini opens up the sushumna nadi (spinal canal).

The following are the signs of someone whose nadis are purified and has achieved success in Hatha Yoga: lean body, clear eyes, glowing face, anahat nada, increased appetite due to increase in digestive fire.

Chapter 3-Mudras

There are ten mudras that were taught by Lord Shiva. These mudras destroy death and old age. Success in these mudras bestows upon the practitioner the eight siddis which are (ability to become small, big, extremely light, extremely heavy, ability to reach very high, become invisible, tame animals and mesmerize people, attain god like qualities. I will not be going into detail of explaining these mudras as they are not to be trifled with and should be done under the guidance of an experienced guru. The ten mudras are:

1) Mahamudra-frees one from diseases like leprosy, consumption, digestive disorders, etc, ability to become small

2) Mahabandha- conquers death, ability to become small

3) Mahavedha- gets rid of grey hair, wrinkles, ability to become small

4) Khechari-success in this mudra destroys poisons, disease, old age, death

5) Uddiyan- destroys old age, conquers death

6) Mulabandha-destroys old age, improves digestive fire, awakens kundalini

7) Jalandhar Bandha-destroys all throat related diseases, old age and death

8) Viparitkarani- destroys wrinkles, grey hair, old age within 6 months of practice

9) Vajroli-conquers death

10) Shaktichalan

Chapter 4-Samadhi

Samadhi is the destroyer of death, the means to attaining happiness and bliss. Raja Yoga, samadhi, unmani, manomani, amaratva, laya, tattva, shunyashunyam, parampadam, amanaskam, advaitam, niralamban, niranjanam, jivanmukti sahaja and turya are all synonyms. As salt dissolves in water, the unity of atman and mind is called samadhi. It is the state of unity in which all thoughts disappear and the jivatma (individual) becomes one with the paramatama (supreme).

Samadhi is obtained when the prana flows through the sushumna. One who has controlled the breath has controlled the mind. One who has controlled the breath can control the mind. Desires and breath are the two causes of the mind. Just as milk and water blend and become one, mind and breath are untied in action. They both go hand in hand. When one is suspended, the other gets suspended. The mind is the master of the senses and the breath is the master of the mind. If the mind is firm, the breath is firm.

The practice of shambhavi mudra and khecahri mudra is described as the mudras that lead to unmani. Shambhavi mudra is a quick means to attaining unmani. In shambhavi mudra, eyes should be half closed and gaze should be fixed on the tip of the nose.

There are 4 stages of yoga: arambha, ghata, parichay and nishpatti. In the first stage when the Brahma granth (knot) is pierced through, bliss arises. A tinkling sound can be heard in the body. The yogi will have a divine body, full of radiance and fragrance and will be free from all diseases. In the second stage, the Vishnu granthi is split open and the yogi can hear a sound similar to that of kettle drums emanating from the vishuddhi (throat) chakra. In the third stage, the sound of drum can be heard. The breath then enters the Ajna (third eye) chakra. The yogi attains freedom from old age, disease, misery, hunger and sleep. In the nishpatti or final stage, the Rudra granthi is pierced and the sounds of a flute and veena become audible to the practitioner.

One can attain indescribable bliss by practicing nada. The practitioner should concentrate on the sound he hears when he closes his ears with his hands. After 15 days he will attain success. In the initial stages, loud sounds will be audible. As the practice improves, the yogi will be able to hear very subtle sounds. The various sounds heard in the initial stages in the body are as follows: ocean, cloud, kettledrum, and jharjhara drum. In the middle stages the yogi can hear sounds of drum and conch together, bell and drum. In the final stages he can hear the tinkling bell, flute, veena and bee. The yogi should try to hear past the loud sounds and try to focus on the subtle sounds only. Let the mind dissolve in the sound. Don’t let it stray towards any outside objects. Accumulated sins are dissolved by simply concentrating on nada. The yogi who has attained Samadhi cannot be eaten by time, or bound by karma. He is free from smell, taste, form, touch, sound and himself. He is free from heat, cold, sadness and happiness, honor and dishonor. He cannot be hurt by weapons, people, mantras and yantras.

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