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What is Hatha Yoga?

Last Updated: 8/30/2011 3:31:22 PM

what is hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga: Way to Perfect Health

The greatest miracle on earth is man. His body consisting of bones, flesh and blood hides secrets he has been seeking for thousands of years to unravel, in the search for a solution to the great enigma, the great mystery of the great sphinx. Many have tried to solve this mystery of man, but only a few have been able to make the sphinx speak. Only the very rarest of seekers who delved deeper and deeper, untiringly, into their own SELF, finally succeeded in comprehending the greatest secret there is: themselves.

In India people have been studying the secrets of the human soul from time immemorial, and many have devoted their whole lives to this goal in order to discover: what is man? And what is his destiny here on earth?

They withdrew from the commotion of the world and concentrated all their thoughts and desires on the one question: who am I? Their indefatigable striving, the iron endurance and the yearning with which they pursued their search for truth all bore fruit, and lo! Their spirit was enlightened, and spread out before them lay the whole secret of BEING. They understood LIFE. They were able to see the deepest, hidden most causes. And open before them, they saw the path which leads out of suffering, upwards to freedom, happiness, eternal bliss. They knew that this state is attainable for every human being and those who had been thus enlightened took pity on suffering mankind and began to teach people the way to redemption and liberation.

Various ways lead to the summit. Many will take the comfortable, easy serpentine path upward, because their physical constitution is not adapted to steep climbing. Others will take a short-cut, climbing up more steeply. And lastly, there are those who choose the shortest way, scaling the walls of rock in order to reach their goal sooner.

Similarly, man can approach his great inner goal by various paths, according to his spiritual and physical abilities. The great teachers have worked out several systems in order to make the self-appointed goal attainable for everybody. These systems shorten the path, and those who apply them reach their appointed goal faster and more easily.

The collective name for these systems is Yoga. The great teachers and masters who have reached their goals by travelling the path of Yoga are called Yogis.

The various systems of Yoga differ only in their starting point. Their essence and their goal is always the same: perfect self-knowledge. This goal, however, can only be reached through unconditional self discipline. Hence, the various systems of Yoga first teach us self control. But there are Yoga systems which proceed by disciplining the mind; there are systems which begin with the control of the feelings; and there are others which take the body as the starting point, etc., according to the natural tendencies and abilities of the pupil. Corresponding to the different paths followed, the various Yogas have different names. It is recommended, however, to begin with that Yoga which starts with control of the body. This is the way of perfect health, and its name is HATHA YOGA.

Meaning of Hatha Yoga

The name Hatha Yoga goes back to the truth on which this system is founded. Our body is enlivened by positive and negative currents, and when these currents are in complete equilibrium, we enjoy perfect health. In the ancient language of the Orient, the positive current is designated by the letter 'HA' which is equivalent in meaning to 'SUN.' The negative current is called 'THA' meaning 'MOON.' The word YOGA has a double meaning. On the one hand, it is equivalent to 'joining' while the second meaning is 'yoke.' Thus 'HATHA YOGA' signifies the perfect knowledge of the two energies, the positive sun and negative moon energies, their joining in perfect harmony and complete equilibrium, and the ability to control their energies absolutely, that is, to bend them under the yoke of our 'SELF.'

This system is unique in the entire world, since it consciously perfects the body, compensates for any physical defects, and fills it with glowing life force. Hatha Yoga leads us back to nature, acquaints us with the healing forces dwelling in herbs, trees and roots, teaches us about our own body and the forces acting within it, and leads us to the close harmony of body and soul. The body reacts at the slightest impulses of the mind, and the state of the mind is powerfully influenced by the condition of the body. This reciprocal relationship is utilized by Hatha Yoga, and both mind and body are made healthy. The path to be followed is that of making our body and all its activities conscious. Even the sympathetic nervous system and all those organs whose functioning is usually independent of my consciousness can be made subservient to my will. The incalculable advantage of this is that any malfunctioning can be prevented, and the body can be saved from diseases which originate in functional causes. For example, I can control the activity of my heart and prevent it from palpitations resulting from an external stimulus like fright, bad news or sudden joy. Thus I can protect my heart from dilation, degeneration of the cardiac muscle, or other diseases. Or if I can control the secretions of my glandular system, I can govern the functions of almost all the organs of my body and thus govern my physical condition. The Hatha Yogi who has reached the highest level of ability has complete and absolute control over his body. He can regulate at will the activity of his heart, his digestive organs and the functioning of every other organ in his body. Countless travellers from the West who, after great difficulties, have had the good fortune to find a true Hatha Yogi during their visit to India have confirmed the fact that Yogis of 80 or 90 years give the impression of being 30 or 40, and that by occidental standards they live to an incredibly ripe old age because they can recharge their bodies with new life energies at will.

Goal of Hatha Yoga

Merely prolonging their lives, however, is not the Yogis' goal. Hatha Yoga is not an end in itself, but rather a preparation for a higher spiritual Yoga. In a sick body it is very difficult to develop consciousness and quicken the mind to a higher level of activity. For this reason, we should first get acquainted with the forces acting within our bodies in order to be able to use and control them properly later. Then our body is no longer an impediment during our climb up to higher mental and spiritual planes. Some persons are content to come into possession of magic powers with the aid of which they can perform things commonly regarded as miracles. Such people are stranded halfway to the goal and can make no progress. The goal we must strive for can only be this: liberation from the prison of the material world. Let us, therefore, not mistake the end for the means. The knowledge of our body and its secret powers is no matter how important still merely a means to an end. Hence a true Hatha Yogi will never make a display of his science and ability just to satisfy idle curiosity. Anyone who does so is no real Hatha Yogi. The true Hatha Yogi uses his abilities only when he can assist others through their use.

My own master, for example, never told us pupils what powers he could command. Once he was sitting in his little hut deep in the forest. In a clearing in the front of the hut, we pupils were engrossed in conversation. Suddenly a mongoose came out of a thicket. Half dead, the poor little creature dragged itself over the ground, and as it came nearer, we saw that it had been bitten by a snake. Its instinct drove it towards our teacher's hut. It was barely able to drag itself up to the door where it stopped and writhed in its death struggle. Our master laid his right hand on the little animal and fell into a trance. For a time he remained thus. Suddenly the mongoose quivered, shook itself and ran away again, fresh and well. Now we had seen what powers our master commanded.

In recent times occidental medical science has turned its attention towards Hatha Yoga, and those who know the secrets of Hatha Yoga the Yogis offer valuable information for the aims and ends of medical science.

Hatha Yoga: Art of Being Healthy

The lower degree of Hatha Yoga is so interesting and useful that it is worth while getting acquainted with it and devoting our attention to it. Even the greatest masters had to begin their learning with this step, for without the alphabet there can be no reading. The first step of Hatha Yoga teaches us the art of being healthy! First and foremost we must get acquainted with our body, but not in theory as in the study of anatomy. Anatomy teaches us what is in the human body and where it is to be found. Really knowing my body, however, means something quite different. It means, assuming I know, for example, where my heart is, that I can also go down with my consciousness into my heart; that I can feel its shape, auricles, ventricles and valves all so clearly and positively that this condition could perhaps best be expressed in the following way: 'I am my heart.' And I must be able to do the same with my stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys, and every fiber of my body. One who has never practiced any Yoga exercises can, at most, know his palate and the inside of his mouth to this extent. One who wants to become a Hatha Yogi, however, must practice so long that he is able to direct his consciousness to the smallest parts of his body. When he reaches this point, the next step is to direct his consciousness, united with his willpower, to the minutest fibers of his body.

To return to the previous example, it is no longer adequate to be able to penetrate my heart with my consciousness; but I must bring it under my authority. My heart must subordinate itself to my will, so that it can pump blood slower or faster as I see fit. This is not impossible! Just as anybody can learn to move his tongue, his fingers or many other parts of his body at will, anyone can also learn through systematic practice to control every part of the body. Even among average people, there are great differences in the extent to which their bodies are conscious. There are also differences according to profession. A pianist's fingers are much more independent and conscious than the fingers of a person who has never played the piano. Why? Because the pianist has made his fingers more conscious through constant exercise. The Hatha Yogi pupil also practices constantly, day after day, year after year, with patience and endurance. But he practices how to lead his consciousness into every part of his body. Is this worthwhile? Yes! For the result is worthy of admiration. He discovers secret forces in himself which, little by little, he learns to control. He learns that there are two life currents active in his body and that the complete equilibrium of these two forces means perfect health. Simultaneously with the expansion of his consciousness, the pupil comes to the realization that everything that lives in time and space is alive because it carries within itself polarity and rhythm. He begins to see the secrets of creation. In that moment when the creative principle leaves the absolute and splits in two, the negative and positive pole, i.e., polarity, is born. Between the two there arises a pulsating connection, rhythm is born, and there begins the manifestation of LIFE.

Even in crystals we can discover the presence of positive and negative poles, and we find them in all degrees of expressions of life. Polarity and rhythm give life to the entire universe. The movements of gigantic bodies in endless space, with their planets and satellites even the sunspots, the throbbing heartbeats of living beings, our own breathing and being, all this occurs in a rhythm originating in polarity. Positive and negative currents alternate rhythmically, creating positive and negative conditions in complete equilibrium.

In Indian mythology the rhythm active throughout the universe is symbolized by the dancing figure of the god Shiva. The dance is a manifestation of rhythm.

Our earth, too, has two poles, and we humans who are born of dust and return to dust again also carry polarity within us, as positive and negative poles. The positive pole is in the top of the skull, at the spot where our hair forms a whorl. This point is easily located on a child's head. The negative pole is in the coccyx, the lowest vertebra. Between these two poles there is a current of extremely high frequency and short wave-length. This tension is LIFE! The carrier of life is the spinal column.

Life wanted to manifest itself, and so it expanded the topmost vertebra of the spinal column and developed it into a skull. It formed the fine material in the latter into a conductor of a current and gave it the ability to express intelligence and feeling. Thus the brain came into existence. Through this material Life wanted to see, hear, smell, and feel. Thus the organs of sense evolved: eyes, ears, nose, mouth and sensory nerves. In order to move in space and be able to act, it created feet and hands. So that this creature could continue to exist and supply a replacement in case of deterioration, it created the various organs for reproduction and propagation. The nervous system serves to transmit the life current. Finally, this vehicle of life, moving about on two feet, was given a name: 'MAN.' LIFE within man became conscious of itself and, consequently, it spoke and said, 'I AM.'

LIFE within us is what man refers to as T within himself. LIFE is the T, the ever-Jiving, immortal SELF that was never born and can never die, for the SELF is LIFE and LIFE cannot die. It is only the body that is born and will die. But the body is only the clothing, the outer garment of the SELF, an instrument by which it manifests itself on the material plane.

When LIFE becomes conscious of itself and leads back this consciousness, via the intelligence, into its own SELF, we call this condition CONSCIOUSNESS OF SELF.

The SELF clothed itself with the body and by means of the nervous system it radiates itself, that is LIFE, into every fiber of the body, filling the latter with perfect equilibrium and harmony. Thus the functioning of the body is regular, that is, HEALTHY.

Hatha Yoga & Consciousness

Man carries within himself the positive-sending and at the same time the negative-receiving resisting characteristics of his being. Within his personality which is woven of contrasts he must preserve complete balance, join the opposites together, supplementing each by the other, and reconcile them within himself. Only then is he perfect. Only then is he whole and healthy and able to perform his earthly task, just as complementary colors supplement each other in sunlight: red and green violet and yellow blue and orange. These colors are direct opposites, yet for that very reason, they belong together. Their unity results in perfection. The laws of spirit and body involve the same direct opposition. The law of the spirit is selflessness, whereas that of the body is selfishness. And yet man must learn to join the two in complete harmony and to manifest them in himself. This truth was taught by all prophets and great teachers who ever lived on earth, for they knew the secret of being: the tension between the positive and the negative pole. For this reason they all used the same symbol to represent the absolute commander of the opposing forces the God-Man who attained perfection. In every religion this symbol was the same as six-pointed star made by interweaving two triangles.

This star symbolizes the secret of the forces which maintain the universe, and at the same time also the perfected being which is master of life and manifests spirit and matter in the same way: the man who has perfected creation within himself; that is: the God-Man.

The God-Man does not use the body as an end in itself, but as a vehicle for manifesting the spirit: UNSELFISH LOVE, and he fills his body uniformly with the highest energies. His body is therefore enlivened with consciousness.

The consciousness of the average man is still on a very low level of development. For that reason, the radiation of the life current within his body is only conscious to a very low degree; for the most part unconscious, automatic. The body of a person on such a low level of development is much less alive than that of a person on a more advanced plane. The latter has many more convolutions of the brain. His nervous system is much more closely woven, that is, more conscious, more alive, and as a consequence, his body is a much more willing and elastic vehicle for his SELF.

The bodily movements of the conscious person with a very live body are different from those of a person on a lower level of development. The movements of the more conscious person we characterize as 'graceful', 'supple' and 'beautiful', while we refer to someone in whose body the expressions of LIFE stand on a lower level as 'clumsy' or 'awkward'. We feel a thing to be beautiful or charming in which LIFE expresses itself more maturely; that is, we discover and recognize in it the universal SELF, our own BEING.

The only bliss that exists is to find oneself I that is what we are seeking in every joy, in every feeling of happiness. If our SELF is in this condition, if it rests within itself, there is a complete equilibrium in the life forces we radiate. In this case, our mind and our body are both healthy.

In persons on a lower level, the equilibrium can be easily upset through ignorance or as a result of inadequate consciousness. Such persons fall out of their SELF, because the unconscious part of their person is bigger than the conscious part. This disturbance to their equilibrium also expresses itself in their way of thinking and in their spiritual life. The result is that the balance between positive and negative currents is disturbed. If, however, there is not a perfect balance between the two life energies radiated, there develops the condition we call sickness.

A major prerequisite for health is, therefore, that of gradually expanding our consciousness and leading it into all parts of our body. In this way we can avoid disturbing the order we can prevent disease. And if sickness is already present we consciously and intentionally restore the condition of order.

This is what is taught by the science and art known as HATHA YOGA.

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