A Little Historical Perspective on Hatha Yoga

Thought this comment on yogaspy’s recent blog Hatha yoga misunderstood might be interesting as a blog of its own. (Be sure to read yogaspy’s original blog, too.)

Good blog, yogaspy!  I agree with your definition of “Hatha” as it is currently used today in the West.

Just to add a little bit of historical perspective:

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (literally “Light on Hatha Yoga”) was written in the 15th century but it was based on much earlier works.  It has four parts:

1) Asana, 2)Purification and Pranayama, 3) Mudra and Bandha, and 4) Samadhi

Samadhi covers the same ground as the Yoga Sutra, but not nearly as effectively, in my opinion, mixed in with a lot of kundalini and chakra instruction.

The Purification and Mudra sections contains a number of physical practices that I’m too squeamish to describe here.  If you are curious, you’ll have to get a copy or google it.

According to the version I read, hatha was founded on the premise that one must prepare the body for the higher spiritual pursuits of Yoga.  Hence the association of “Hatha” with the physical side of Yoga.

The definition of Hatha has taken on a very different meaning in the West, but originally it was a very comprehensive system of Yoga that covered everything from asana and pranayama to meditation and Tantra.

I found Hatha Yoga Pradipika, except for the asana and pranayama sections, to be a very difficult text.  The commentary I happened to read was even more difficult, and I don’t recommend it in general.  It reminded me why I started writing Yoga Demystified!  (Perhaps some of you have better experiences and more accessible commentary to recommend.)

~ by Bob Weisenberg on September 15, 2009.

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