Hope you are having good summers.
Before I start my last part of this series, let’s flash back what we have discussed in our last four parts.
In previous parts, we conversed about the meaning, aim and four authentic paths of Yoga.The rest of the paths explained in different Yoga scriptures, Upanishads and Vedas we will discuss now.
Let us start with the most popular path of present Yoga teachings-‘’Hatha Yoga’’
1-Hatha Yoga- Path of Physical discipline.
- Hatha Yoga is a system of Yoga, which teaches a sadhaka (Student) to master over his body so that he can reach the final goal of Raja Yoga which is Samadhi/Self-realization.Hatha yoga is a preliminary process of other paths of Yoga.
- Between 6th-15th Century AD, Sage Matsyendranath founded the ‘’Nath cult’’.He believed that before taking to the practice of. meditation, you must purify the body and its elements.
- According to Hatha Yoga Pradeepika (HYP)- For people being burned by the three types of afflictions (spiritual afflictions, physical afflictions, and worldly afflictions) Hatha Yoga is the best place of refuge.And for Sadhakas engaged in any kind of Yoga, it is a foundation like a tortoise. (Ch 1,11)
- There are many Hatha Yogis who arranged this science systematically. The most popular one is written by Sage Swami Swatmarama named Hatha Yoga Pradipika (Light of Hatha Yoga).
- Other authentic books are-Gherand Samhita, Goraksha Samhita, Hatharatnavalli.
The word “Ha” means the sun; “Tha” means the moon. “Hatha Yoga” means the Yoga to bring balance between the two opposite, i.e. the sun (Pingala) and the moon (Ida) in a human body.
Finally with the balance of these two Sushumna Nadi (highest energy channel) gets activated.
Limbs of Hatha Yoga
- Asanas –prepare you for spiritual growth and transformation by equipping you with a solid foundation.The purpose of asana is defined in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika as-“Kuryaat tadaasanam sthairyamaarayogyam cha anglaaghavam” meaning one must perform asanas to gain steadiness of body and mind, freedom from disease and lightness of limbs.
- Shat Kriya– is the cleansing or purification process of the body. These practices are neti, dhauti, basti, nauli, kapalbhati and trataka. (depends on the need)
- Pranayama– follows thereafter and is the technique of controlling the breath which helps in purifying nadis or energy channels to increase the flow of prana (vital life force), eventually leading the mind into meditation.
- Mudras and Bandhas– help to harmonize the pranas and the mind, and they complete the practice of Hatha Yoga.
- Yamas and Niyamas-10 each in number but have not much emphasis in Hatha Yoga
”The main objective of hatha yoga is to create an absolute balance of the interacting activities and processes of the physical body, mind, and energy. When this balance is created, the impulses generated give a call of awakening to the central force (Sushumna Nadi) which is responsible for the evolution of human consciousness. If hatha yoga is not used for this purpose, its true objective is lost.’’- Swami Muktibodhananda
2-Kriya Yoga- Path of Kriya (actions)
- Kriya Yoga is one of the ancient school of Yoga and Meditation. It is mentioned by Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita and sage Patanjali in Yoga sutras.
- Meaning– Kriya means action, Path of internal actions.(breathings and other body movements) (do not misunderstand it with Karma Yoga)
- According to Bhagavad Gita-
A muni—he who holds liberation as the sole object of life and therefore frees himself from longings, fears, and wrath—controls his senses, mind, and intelligence and removes their external contacts by (a technique of) making even (or “neutralizing”) the currents of prana and apana that manifest (as inhalation and exhalation) in the nostrils. He fixes his gaze at the middle of the two eyebrows (thus converting the dual current of the physical vision into the single current of the omniscient astral eye). Such a muni wins complete emancipation. — The Bhagavad Gita V:27-28
- According to Patanjali Yoga Sutras-
Tapa svaadayaya ishwarapranidhana I (2.1)
Austerity [tapas], self-study [swadhyaya] and surrender to God [Ishwarapranidhana] constitute Kriya Yoga.
- The well known Kriya Yogi o the modern era is Yogananda Paramhansa.
3-Mantra Yoga-Union through Mantra
- The mantra is consist of two words manah-mind and tra-instrument. Hence the literal meaning will be ‘’mind tool’’.
- Mantras can be a group of words or single syllable.
- Mantras are the heart and soul of Vedic culture.
Definition–‘Mananat Trayate Iti Mantrah-by the Manan (constant thinking or recollection) of which one is released from the round of births and deaths is Mantra Yoga.
- Method of Mantra remembering
-Japa- means repeating or remembering the mantra. Japa can be loud or Mental reciting.
-Ajapa-japa-constant awareness of mantra, without any mental efforts. In other words, it has begun to come naturally, turning into a constant awareness.
– Mantra writing is another method for Mantra Meditation.
- One who practices mantra japa in this way will find that the challenges and stressors of daily life are not nearly as disturbing.The incoming streams of negative thoughts, emotions, and desires from the unconscious mind attenuate or become weaker.The mantra japa gradually becomes a best friend of the mind.
4-Nada Yoga- Union through subtle sound
”In the beginning was Brahman, with whom was the Word. And the Word is Brahman.” (The Vedas)
Meaning- Nada means sound.
- In the course of the further practical investigation, the Sages and Seers found that Sound had the power to attract the mind and absorb it, so to say.
- Thus Mano-Laya through Nada Yoga (union or merger into Sound) was found to be an effective and safe means of Self-realisation.
- Nada Yoga is mentioned in Nadabindu Upanishad.Om is considered as first sound of the universe.
- Nadanusandhanam means meditation on Nada or Sound that is heard at the Anahata Chakra.
- There are two aspects of these sounds, gross and subtle.
- You should proceed from the gross ones (ahata) to the subtle ones (Anahata).
- HYP- there are four stages; arambha, beginning; ghata -vessel, parichaya- increase; nishpati- consummation
- According to Hamsa Upanishad, Nada that is heard is of 10 kinds-
- First is Chini (like the sound of the word Chini)
- Second is sound like Chini-Chini;
- Third is Sound of bell;
- Forth is Sound of conch;
- Fifth is Sound of Tantri (lute);
- Sixth is Sound of Tala (cymbals);
- Seventh is Sound of flute;
- Eighth is Sound of Bheri (drum);
- Ninth is Sound of Mridanga (double drum)
- Tenth is Sound of clouds, viz., thunder
According to HYP-As fire burns wood and both subside together so the mind which moves with nada is absorbed in it.
Om is the first sound(Nada) of the creation.(Mandukya Upanishada)
5- Swara Yoga-Union through Breath regulation
- Swara yoga is the ancient science of pranic body rhythms which explains how the movement of prana can be controlled by manipulation of the breath.
- Meaning –‘’Swara’’ etymologically means ‘the sound of one’s own breath’. Yoga means ‘union’. Therefore, Swara yoga enables the state of the union to be reached by means of one’s breath.
- Through the practice of Swara yoga, one can realize the breath as being the medium of the cosmic life force. The breath has so much importance in human existence that the ancient rishis or seers evolved a complete science around it just from studying the simple process of respiration.
- Shiva swarodaya is the ancient scripture which explains about Swara Yoga.
6- Tantra Yoga- System of awakening of psychic energy (Kundalini Shakti)
- Tantra is again most ancient school of Yoga and has kept secret by Yogis.Tantra is suggested to learn only from experienced Yogis and Gurus.
- This ancient practice is actually a powerful combination of asana, mantra, mudra, and bandha (energy lock) and chakra (energy center) work that you can use to build strength, clarity, and bliss in everyday life.
- Word “tantra” literally means a technique or system.
- In modern time tantra is misunderstood with sexual activities and defamed, in reality, it is a subtle science of awakening of psychic powers.
- Tantra considers the universe to be a manifestation of pure consciousness. Through this process of manifesting, consciousness divides itself into two parts, which cannot exist without one another.One aspect remains as a static, formless quality (shiva), while the other is a dynamic, creative aspect (shakti). The two eternally coexist, like ink and the written word, which, though one and the same, are different.Through a process of kundalini awakening, the two are eventually experienced in their state of the union.
Therefore a true student should not worry about the ”styles” in Yoga. He/She should choose his/her path according to their interest and inclination.Ultimately all paths lead towards the harmony of life.
Hari Om Tat Sat !
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