Asana as Meditation
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from Philosophy of Hatha Yoga, Swami Veda
Watching the Mind Watching the Body
In yoga philosophy,
there are 5 sheaths (layers) around the spiritual self of a person – the
outermost first sheath (layer) is known as annamaya, made up of the food
we eat. The second is the finer essence of the food, the pranamaya sheath
made of the vital force. The third is manomaya, a further essence of
prana, the mental essence. The fourth, vijnanamaya is made of limited
consciousness. The fifth is the anandamaya, the sheath made of limited
The average individual is more conscious of
their outermost layer, the annamaya kosha, the food sheath or physical
body. We speak of ourselves and we put our hand to our chest. We say, “I
am hungry”. We are not speaking of the mind’s hunger but of the hunger of
the body. So there is this physical identification. Where does control
of the physical body fit in the entire philosophy of yoga? Its purpose is
to gradually draw the attention from the grosser parts of us to the finer
ones. Ordinarily we use our body and we are not even conscious that the
body is being used. …The primary consideration therefore in the practice
of hatha yoga philosophically is the practice of mindfulness, self
observation, the habit of being a witness to one’s own physical functions,
aware of whatever it is that we are doing with our bodies, whether it be
the external surfaces of the body or internal things like muscle tension,
heart rate, blood flow and breathing. …
This mindfulness in daily life is … the
starting point of being a witness, of being aware of the body from head to
toe. … The process of hatha is from the external levels gradually to the
internal levels. What does that mean? It means first of all to become
more and more conscious of the different levels and slowly shift the
mind’s identification from one level to a finer one. Therefore, you
progressively remove the control that the grosser has over the finer parts
of your being and establish control of the finer over the relatively
grosser parts of your being.
One’s identification has to change: an
awareness of prana and then the awareness of the mind as functioning in
the physical body must develop. Some of this deeper awareness can be felt
in the relaxation exercises that are done in the corpse posture which
enhances one’s awareness of the mind in the body; relax the mind that is
in the forehead, and the muscle of your forehead relaxes; relax the mind
that is in your cheeks, and your cheeks relax; relax the portion of your
mind that is in your shoulders and your shoulders relax.
Yoga as Bridge from Body to Mind
Yoga is unlike any other system of
exercise. The movements are done slowly. There is constant
self-observation. If we do not have constant self-observation then we are
not doing hatha properly. It is not absolutely necessary to have only
slow movements but to have full observation in fast movements too.
The muscles, the skeleton, the nerves, the
breath and the mind are all coordinated and function together at the same
time. Unless a student of hatha bears those five things in mind during a
given exercise, they will not be able to do the exercise correctly. When
you are practicing a hatha yoga position, practice it first in your mind.
The more you relax, the easier your visualization is: you can perfect a
posture without ever moving the body. From your standpoint it would seem
as if we were thinking of the body and then transferring that thought to
the mind in a mental state. But actually, where the functioning of human
consciousness is concerned, consciousness comes first, the body comes
second. If you had no consciousness, what would you be? A corpse.
So it is the mind that trains the body.
(Another way it is done) in hatha yoga classes is training the mind by
first training the body. When a person actually places their body in a
certain position, what they are doing is making the mind experience that
position. The mind that is in the body experiences that shape in thought.
If we place our arm in a particular position, we are doing two things.
One we are giving it that shape and, two, we are having our mind
experience that geometrical formation.
Do the same exercises done purely mentally
give the same benefits as doing them physically? In the long run it could
but there are some very basic physiological benefits that cannot wait.
(Mental and physical working together are the most powerful.) Whenever a
student has difficulty mastering a posture it is well for them to go over
the posture in the mind, over and over.
Hatha yoga builds a bridge from the body to
the deepest recesses of the mind which deal with geometry, with form, with
memory and which send forth the commands to control the entire autonomic
system. That is only one step.
Tense the forehead. Remain aware of the
breath and how the mind is aware of the breath. Know that “I am aware of
the breath” and that “I am aware of the tension that is taking place in
the muscles”. Try to see which of the finer muscles and tissues that you
are not normally aware of, you now become aware of, and try to isolate
them in your mind. Release. Let it be a lesson in self anatomy. Let this
be an exercise in thinking, not in doing. How is the mind thinking this
movement? Observe each movement.
Visualizing the Movement
“At each level of the practice, there is
something of the mind, of body and of prana (energy). Some people try to
do the exercises by moving the body alone. The principle is that the
movement of the body is nothing and the movement of the mind is
everything. The mind governs the movement of the body. It is the mind
that moves; then the body follows. You watch that movement of the body
which is from the movement of the mind. So every physical exercise is,
first, a mental exercise. Here is an example of the kind of awareness you
can cultivate during your actual practice:
‘Close the eyes and relax your forehead.
Relax your facial muscles. Relax the shoulders. Prepare to lift the hand
and send the order only to the point where movement is felt all the way
down in the fingertips. The fingers are ready to rise but do not rise.
Observe! Now relax all the way from the shoulders to the fingertips. Keep
your eyes closed. Send an order to the arm to move. Feel the order going
down. Feel tension building from the shoulders to the fingertips. Let
your hand rise ever so slightly. Put the hand back again and relax.
Relax all the way from the brain to the fingertips. Now observe the order
to move going down from the brain to the shoulders, to the fingertips, and
lift your hand ever so slightly. Lift it up. Watch it moving. Very
slowly straighten your hand, watch it straightening. Feel every tissue in
the hand. Now feel every tissue relaxing slowly and the hand going down,
back again. Let all the muscles relax again. Open your eyes.’
You can see what can be learned by observing
the movement. When you are practicing hatha, do it as a thought process.
The body will much more easily obey you. Whenever you are practicing
hatha accomplish it first in your mind as a thought process. It is with a
thought that a movement begins, and it is then that your anatomy moves.
Master it as a thought process and then you will know exactly what you are
supposed to do with your body.”
means a concentrated practice, to go toward something with the utmost
concentration. To undertake something with a little bit of sweat and
effort is tapas. The word tapas actually comes from heat or heating up
and any practice should have a little of tapas in it. The word hatha is
not used by the ancient author, master, Patanjali of the Yoga Sutras. He
uses the word tapas, heating oneself up, sweating a little with intense
concentration, putting as much of oneself into it as possible.
The word tapas also occurs as the third of
the five niyamas (2nd step of the 8 rungs of raja yoga). It
means exertion of your total personality, intense concentration with a
definite goal, with a certain something in front of you and pushing
yourself just a little – one step more than you did yesterday. Without
tapas, there is no purification. Doing asanas requires intense
concentration so that one is aware of every minor, fine tissue of the part
of the body that is being exercised. The purpose and goal of tapas is to
attain an intense one-pointed state of mind. Until the mind is fixed on
something, until that something has gone into the depths of your
subconscious, that act remains separate from the body, separate from
life. It is not natural, like a student driver who is very conscious of
shifting the gear, holding the steering wheel, pushing the brakes, pushing
the accelerator, removing the foot, watching here, looking there – there
are just so many things to do. Very confusing. But by doing it over and
over and over again, what happens? You are hardly conscious of what you
are doing when driving.
So tapas is that attitude in life through
which, by doing something repeatedly and exerting oneself repeatedly, one
makes something a definite part of one’s inner mind. Sometimes an act of
tapas may be undertaken just to strengthen the mind by doing something
that is slightly unpleasant and learning to conquer the distinctions our
minds have between pain and pleasure. It is like waking up at 6 am
tomorrow and 6 am the day after tomorrow and for four days and four months
and four years and discovering that your mind has the strength to do such
things. After a time of doing it, it is no longer an exertion. It has
now become a purification. The mind no longer has the sloth, the
negligent attitude. By doing it over and over, by pushing yourself just a
little, you change the habit of your mind. When you have conquered that
part of slothfulness, that impurity, you can set yourself another little
Hatha Yoga is Conquest of the Body
Everyone goes out conquering the rest of the
world. The greatest conquest is self conquest and for an average person,
that begins with conquest of the body. There are very few people who
first conquer the mind and thereby conquer the body. The body should not
be your enemy, it should not be the one who dictates to you; you are the
one who dictates to your body, breaking some of its habits. All of this
comes under the category of tapas, heating up, exertion, changing the
habit by doing something over and over again.
In ancient and medieval times there were
certain undesirable schools of teaching among whom tapas or asceticism was
so extreme that it was unpleasant both to the doer and the viewer. On the
other hand, in the 19th and 20th centuries, extreme
asceticism has given way to extreme comfort. Hatha yoga is comfortable
asceticism. Do not make yourself too uncomfortable, and yet exert a
little. If you do it harmoniously and gently, your purpose will be
Why this conquest of the body? We are not
talking merely of mastering one desire as against another but of mastering
all the functions of the entire body as a whole. While you are practicing
postures there is no other desire. Why? Because the mind can desire only
one thing at a time. For the duration of time you have set your mind to
watch the body developing, becoming relaxed, releasing tensions, removing
its pain and so on that is its focus until the body is so trained that it
learns to obey the mind. A person who practices hatha yoga regularly,
daily, will have an easier time mastering desires of the senses than a
person who does not. We are not speaking of a puritanical ideal. As
another example, take the desire to overeat: when you are sensitive to the
body, it is much easier to conquer such a desire. You learn how to absorb
your energies into your system and reuse them.
This conquest by the mind of the body then
is the first philosophical goal of hatha yoga: that the body should be
under the direction of the mind. The mind says, move, the body moves.
The body does not say ‘oh, I feel so lazy, I think I’ll just lie here in
this comfortable bed surrounded with these comfortable cushions. I am so
comfortable’. That kind of powerless power that the body has over the
mind has to be broken. Otherwise you can neither sit in meditation for a
long time, nor can you stay healthy, nor can your run your digestive
system in any kind of proper order.
If the body is not purified, it will have
adverse effects on the processes of mental purification. Sooner or later,
one place or another, the body will become a hindrance to the mind in its
own practice or worship, prayer or meditation. This tapas, this gentle
exertion, is where the entire practice of hatha yoga fits in with the
teaching of the great master, Patanjali.
A posture should be not only steady, not
only comfortable, but steady and comfortable. When one becomes
steady without feeling discomfort, then the asana is perfected. The
posture is made steady and comfortable through relaxing (not forcing) the
effort. One the one hand hatha is called force, but the sooner the force
is abandoned and relaxation is used to perfect the asana, the better. The
effort and the movement should be natural. The breath rhythm employed
together with the relaxation of the body and of the mind will help in
making the posture steady and comfortable. The mind should be completely
relaxed and the effort should be a relaxed effort with very natural
rhythmical movement – with relaxed limbs and mind.
For this reason, one of the secrets of
perfecting an asana is to do it over and over again mentally. Go through
each asana in your mind as if you were doing it, and observe the entire
mental process. The teacher describes and demonstrates the asana while
the students relax their bodies and minds completely. They first observe
and then visualize themselves going through the movements from leading in
gracefully to holding and from the held position. Beginners should
mentally experience the easy, natural, beautiful flow of movements that
will lead them effectively and gracefully through the asana. Let them do
that mentally, meditatively and then tell them to do with the body what
their minds already did. Eventually, in the process of doing asana
mentally, they will recognize the obstacles that are present and begin to
soothe and smooth them out in the mental process. Gradually the physical
resistance, which is tension, will be removed and the asana will become
steady, without discomfort.
Concentration on empty space perfects the
asana. If you send your mind out to the entire expanse of space, you can
imagine and find that very space passing through you. This will help you
attain lightness of body without too much effort. What are you? Your
whole framework is made up of perhaps 90% space from head to toe. So what
is it you are trying to twist when you do the asana? Is it not empty
space? What is the problem when you are trying to twist space?
The perfection of the posture, remember,
should not be perfection of the yoga postures at the time of doing hatha.
It is the perfection of a posture throughout life and that is an
indication of where one’s mind is. The more steadiness we have in our
minds, the more grace we will derive from there, and the more controlled
and graceful our movement will become.
It is difficult to
determine how many people practicing hatha yoga are devotionally minded.
To me, hatha yoga is worship. I am not inventing something or making up a
new interpretation. It is only in the modern context, both in India and
the West, that hatha has become separated from worship. Modern man knows
only worship with speech: sing a hymn, recite a prayer, utter inspiring
words and so on. Worship with the body and worship with the mind have
been almost completely forgotten.
A truth-seeker is one
in whom mind, speech and body all act together, in unison. In ancient
traditions, one definition of personal truth in terms of truthful speech
and truthful acts, is that ‘what one thinks with the mind, that one utters
with the speech; what one utters with the speech, that one puts into
action; what one thus puts into action is accomplished and fulfilled’.
The entire personality is involved.
Some of the acts in the
hatha exercises are symbolic. The movement of the arm is an offering of
your arm to the Divine; it is not simply to build a muscle, but ‘here, I
give to you my arm; I receive from you strength and movement’. A forward
movement with an exhalation going down is a gesture of humility, modesty,
bending down towards Mother Earth; and a movement upward, backwards, is
looking upward at the sky, filling myself with the sun, with the light,
thinking of that light which is in me here and coming into contact with
that cosmic magnificence; and again, coming back to earth and exhaling.
Holding a posture, holding still, means maintaining there what you have
filled yourself with.
So there is this
awareness in each posture; in each posture there could be this
interpretation from the heart; a prayer, a worship, an awareness. When I
place my body in that position, what mood naturally evolves? Or what mood
would make me place myself in such a position? It can be looked at both
ways. You can experiment; you know your body, you know its language, you
know what it means when you are ‘like this’ and ‘like that’. Observe it,
analyze it, conquer it.
The conquest of mood means that in your life you are never subject to the
tyranny of moods, that your moods are subject to your pleasure. Do you
know the tyranny of moods? “I can’t do this because I’m not in the mood.
I’m down and depressed.” How can we be down and depressed when we woke up
in the morning and looked at the sun and raised our eyes to the galaxies,
took that light into our bodies and brought it down to the very earth?
And from that earth, we rose again and looked up and resurrected
ourselves. How can we be down and depressed for the rest of the day.? It
is not enough for us to just sit there with our shoulders down and say we
are like the light of the sun, but rather we must go through the postures
and cultivate the attitude of strength and conquest. Not only conquest of
the body but conquest of moods is what hatha yoga will accomplish for you.
One of the purposes of
hatha yoga is the burning of karma. Yoga philosophy believes that nothing
happens in the body without first happening in the mind. You sow certain
seeds in your mental personality. You drop a seed in the soil of your mind
where it grows; it becomes either a mango tree or a mulberry bush, poison
ivy or a rose, whichever one you wish to sow. If you sow a rose, it is a
rose that grows from you. You have placed in your mind the raw material
of your thought. Each thought once placed in the mind becomes the raw
material for further thought. Some other thoughts will arise out of it,
consciously or unconsciously, directly or indirectly, depending on how
much this seed-thought is watered, how much you contemplate it, how much
your strengthen it. Every act you perform with your body is a thought.
Every act you perform with your speech too is a thought planted in your
This is where hatha
yoga and meditation connect. A person plants lazy thoughts in his mind
every time he slouches. That lazy thought becomes the seed for a further
thought and so it becomes a habit. He lies comfortably on a pillow and
does not want to get up for the next morning’s asanas. When he finally
does get up it is too late.
This process of wrong
decision making eventually becomes the cause of disease. Disease is a
ripening of the poison ivy plant from the seed planted in the original
lazy thought which then leads to the decision to remain lazy, to not use
the body correctly, not use food properly, not use sleep in the right
way. That suffering becomes the fruition of his karma and he later
complains of having so much suffering. The instrument of discrimination,
the buddhi, becomes occluded by cloudy thoughts and gets into the wrong
process of decision making and thereby one makes choices to use the body
wrongfully. The natural karmic result of these poor decisions is
suffering, which is really only a purging of accumulated toxins.
What the hatha yogis do
is follow a very wise principle which has been spoken of by all the
schools of wisdom and philosophy and which is one of the many secrets of a
happy life. This principle is that whatever you dislike, do voluntarily
and willingly, if you do not want it to come to you by force. Whatever
you are running away from, turn and face it squarely and say ‘what is it
that I am afraid of? Let me examine you.”
We usually run away
from physical discomfort. Tapas is when we turn around and say ‘let’s see
what is this discomfort that I run away from?’ Do that at every step in
your life if you want to attain perfection- in health, mind, speech,
action, spirituality. Whatever you are running away from, find out what
it is and turn around and look it straight in the eyes and examine it. As
soon as you turn around, this thing you have feared so long will try to
run away from you.
In hatha yoga, we turn
around and where in the body we have deposited fat and blubber and many
other unnecessary things, we remove them as a voluntary act of karmic
purification. We can take 15 minutes of daily discomfort or fifteen days
later in a hospital. The choice is ours. If we do not pay the karma
voluntarily, it will be paid involuntarily. If we will not put ourselves
on a diet, the doctor will put us on one. If we will not do it today, we
will have to do it 15 years from now and come face to face with the whole
accumulation and we will have to handle it.
exercises are called shaucha – the first of the five niyamas (2nd
of the 8 rungs of raja yoga). Shaucha is a word both for physical
cleanliness and mental purity. A clean, clear mind is a purified mind.
You become very sensitive to impurities in the body. So we go from
purification of the mind to purification of the body. A pure mind cannot
live in an impure body, just as a clear mind cannot live in confused
surroundings. A clear mind has fixed daily habits.
Quite often people do
their practices mechanically but their overall attitude toward life is not
changing. This is seen in the craze about diets, substituting one kind of
drug culture for another. Food still remains an object that is picked up
and put in the mouth when one craves it. How we eat or when or how much
is ignored. We also ignore the idea of gratefully accepting the gift of
food and passing on this gift by offering food to someone else. We eat it
without offering it to anybody else. We cannot take one little thing in
isolation and experiment with it without making it part of our overall
growth. I would rather see a person eat meat and share it than become a
vegetarian, live on the diet of a hermit and not share his food with
others in mind.
People ask ‘should I
take a shower before my hatha yoga or after my hatha yoga? If we cannot
revive the concept that all waters are mother waters, that taking a shower
is an act of washing off the dirt of the body and the mind, then it
doesn’t matter whether we shower before or after doing hatha postures.
It’s going to keep our bodies clean, that’s all. The psychological impact
is missed, because we have demolished mythology, killed Milton, murdered
Dante, destroyed the ancient Greek culture, because we have cut off our
connections between the individual mind and the cosmic mind, because we
are too ashamed to recite poetry in school. Because of all those
collective, cultural murders, entering a shower is for us only washing the
dirt and sweat from the body; but the psychological satisfaction, the
spiritual satisfaction, the ritual satisfaction, the washing of the mind,
changing the overall pattern of thought is missing.
Objects are just
objects and have no psychic connections. There is nothing from the subtle
body flowing between ourselves and the mother waters. Unless this overall
attitude changes, just moving the body in the sun salutation is of no
use. Rather, when we practice our physical yoga, let our connection of
the mind be between the core of the mind and the vast field of cosmic
energy. The two are one.
yoga philosophy, there are 3 universal qualities: tamas (stability), rajas
(activity) and sattva (harmony). Tamas may take the form of lethargy,
heaviness of mind or depression, rajas excitement or nervousness, and
sattva joyfulness, clarity of mind and calmness. Everything in nature has
these 3 qualities, as in the case of food. Choose the right food and
choose the right attitude that goes with the food.
We can overcome
conditions by undertaking certain types of action – fresh actions to
counter those psychological effects from the subtle body. There has to be
the intent to love, to be concerned, to share, and it has to be pure,
positive altruistic without seeking results therefrom, without asking for
fruits of that action. Only then will it bring the necessary changes in
the subtle body which will very minutely adjust the relationship between
the mental and physical body. That minute intangible adjustment will
change the flow of secretions in our glands and will begin to undo the
damage caused by the warping of energies due to past selfishness.
Besides changing the
energy pattern of the subtle body by altering one’s attitude and conduct,
there are other ways to help remedy diseases. The exercises can be done
mentally but there is one secret. That is breath. Breathe as though the
diseased part of the body is being exhaled out from that point. It is the
breath that is flowing from that point outward, outward through the
nostrils, then inhale as if peace and healing are going down to that
point. If you are too ill to exercise, breathe as if the breath is
flowing out from the cardiac area and flowing upward and flowing into that
area. Do it for a good one hour every day at home or in the hospital.
This is the first exercise in the complex and long art of self healing.
At the same time, we
are also working from the physical angle, doing our exercise with this
openness of heart. When we are opening our arms, we shouldn’t just open
our arms out into empty space, we are opening our arms out to the whole
universe. When we close our arms, it is not a selfish act of drawing in,
but embracing and gathering.
If we observe our
natural inclinations, there is a certain point where the whole yoga
practice will come to us. We have to learn it by prescription now because
we are not sensitive to whatever is natural in us. Why? Because we have
been incorrectly trained in the use of the mind; we have been told that
the rational mind is the only worthwhile mind. In the process, what women
of the primitive tribes of Africa practice naturally at childbirth, here
we have to go to classes to learn. Dr. Leboyer observed the women of
India at childbirth and wrote his book, which is selling millions. So:
self-sensitivity, self-observation; an overall view of the universe –
where we are in the universe, what our connections are. We know this in
the moon and the tides and the menstrual cycles yet we don’t understand
The real philosophy
of hatha yoga can come to us by practice, practice of the mind – doing it
as a mental exercise, as an act of worship, as an act of reestablishing
the relationship both with the lower world of the instincts , of the snake
and camel and elephant and with the higher world of the beings of energy
which we really are – beings of energy which have come and occupied these
physical bodies and are exercising control over them. In that context, we
should practice our yoga and enjoy it.
At a moment’s notice
we should be able to be still; there should be no movement in us. Our
mind should become fixed on one point, and there should be no movement
from that point. Then we would have conquest of emotion. A person who
moves and shakes about uncontrollably is emotionally disturbed. A person
who has steady emotion has a settled calm body and a steady voice. The
perfection of a posture has all these ramifications. What is our posture
like when we are walking, standing, talking at a party? Stillness becomes
artificial when it does not come from steadiness of emotions and of mind.
The first thing we
have to do is straighten our lives. If the mind is divided four ways, the
posture will be divided four ways. The more we grow, the more we should
become aware of our posture. Let the emotions work on the posture and at
the same time let the posture train the emotions.
The perfection of the
posture, remember, should not be perfection of the yoga postures at the
time of doing hatha. It is the perfection of a posture throughout life
and that is an indication of where one’s mind is. The more steadiness we
have in our minds, the more grace we will derive from there, and the more
controlled and graceful our movement will become.
A person should work
on the condition of mind that disturbs their posture. Then the posture
itself will automatically correct itself. What is in the mind that makes
a person move?
When a person has
perfected their meditative asana they are no longer disturbed by pairs of
opposites (like pain/pleasure. When the axis of the spine is straight and
firm and neither falls to the left nor the right, nor front nor backwards
there is perfect balance. When you have found your axis in life, it shows
in your posture. You stand firm with your body, with your emotions, and
then you are not easily distracted by heat and cold or pain and pleasure
or craving and satisfaction or praise and blame. If we just force our
bodies to withstand pain, we will not succeed. It is the duality of the
mind between pain and pleasure that has to be conquered, that has to be
unified. If you are torn all the time between this and that,
you cannot be still for long.
Find in the mind where
the posture begins and from there send the right impulse, the right
direction, and that is the perfection of the posture. Posture is the
firmness of mind, firmness of emotions, firmness of life, firmness of
decision. It is a whole body language.
yoga is the yoga of energy currents, not in the sense of electric or heat
or light energy which are material, but in the sense of living energy,
which is I, the Self. The mainstream of kundalini flows through the spine
divided into three streams, ida (to the left), pingala (to the right) and
Only a very minor
current of the kundalini is awake in most of us and keeps us going through
our lives. Everything we do is a function of our kundalini force. A
minute amount is released into our system through the spine, connecting to
the brain and to the seven centers of consciousness. From there it is
distributed through the entire system. A yogi’s ultimate aim is the total
awakening of kundalini and when that awakening takes place, the yogi’s
consciousness thereafter is the entire life force which exists in the
entire universe. It is from this that all the miraculous powers are
derived by the yogi. Kundalini yoga is a very high and subtle form of
yoga in which nothing happens that is visible to others.
Hatha yoga in its
finest, highest, deepest philosophy is a preparation for kundalini yoga.
It is the preparation for the control and direction of meditative
experience. Hatha yoga is refining the body to move a human being to a
finer energy existence. Initially the experiences of kundalini are very
pleasant, so pleasant that the physical or sensual experiences that people
are familiar with become as nothing compared to the kundalini
sensations. A yogi does not identify with them or derive the pleasure
from them that we do.
A person may come to a
hatha yoga class to learn about how to strengthen his back or work on a
thyroid problem. Such things are very easy. If the spine is not straight,
the energy flow is obstructed. Kundalini yoga is working from within,
whereas hatha yoga is working from the outside. The idea in kundalini
yoga is to raise energy up into the higher centers of consciousness. As
you raise the energy into these higher centers, you are able to accomplish
much more. When the heart center is opened for example, it is not that
you become unemotional but rather that you become a master of your own
emotions. There are people who claim to be followers of kundalini yoga
and say ‘love everybody, have sex with everybody’. The two statements are
contradictory. To love everybody means opening the heart center – an
upward, inward flow. Having sex with everybody is blocking the lower
sexual center so that the kundalini energy flows downward and outward and
is dissipated. When it flows inward and upward, the heart center receives
that energy and opens up its love to everyone.
In kundalini yoga,
nothing is seen happening because what is moving is the finer energy
current within. Hatha yoga becomes a preparation for this inner
movement. Unless one understands these higher purposes for hatha yoga, it
remains only a fine physical body exercise.
purpose of hatha yoga
Ultimately, hatha yoga
is a preparation for the body to contain the kundalini. Hatha yoga is
what is done with this body to lead toward that realization of being this
energy being. Energy has no weight, it occupies no space, it is
invisible, yet what is happening is intensely dynamic, intensely alive.
That is kundalini yoga.
When you perform your
hatha yoga, do it with the awareness of these energies. Do not merely
move muscles when doing hatha yoga. The muscles move anyway, but the
purpose is to locate the field of energy.
People are not
essentially a physical configuration. We are a pattern of energy
channels, shakti-nadis, along which our physical body has arranged itself
like iron filings along magnetic force lines, like straw floating on
currents, eddies, whirlpools.
All that is physical
is projected from and shaped by the patterns of subtler essences and
currents. All that happens in the physical body is a manifestation of
changes in the subtle body and in the energy channels. Only a part of
what happens in the subtle body and in the energy channels is manifested
on the physical plane. The chakras and nadis (energy channels) are
co-incident with the plexuses and nerves but are not the same. They are
flows ,patterns and hub-centers in the circuitry of the subtle body. They
are also connections and channels for the flow of forces from the causal
body and above all they are energy currents and concentrations of the
universal forces – prana (the vital force), chit (the consciousness force)
and jiva (the life force).
Hatha yoga is
essential as we learn to identify the subtler forces. As controls are
established, the barriers begin to crumble ever so slowly. We need to
whittle down tamas, the physical inertia of the body, by a constant
process of purification through the practice of hatha yoga.
The practice of the
physical aspects of yoga should be undertaken with a view to preparing the
body in anticipation of changes that spiritual progress will require or
induce. The practice of hatha yoga should not be overemphasized in
isolation from general spiritual aims. To practice it only for health,
beauty and longevity without any pursuit of deeper truths is to reduce
yoga to the level of other physical sciences. As one progresses, hatha
yoga practices at first help and then give way to kundalini yoga. Then an
entry into the subtle body is gained. Hatha escorts one to this point and
then bids adieu.
Back to Asana.