Everyone claims to know what Hatha-Yoga is by knowing the names of few postures, practicing and sweating like any modern exercise fitness regime. The greatest myth about Hatha-Yoga is that it is stretching of the body and separate from meditation. Accepting this myth, simply takes one far from real yoga that aims at inner awakening. The argument is that one must begin with the physical is unfounded and comes from modern science. Actually we are following science in the name of asana (physical practices of yoga).
The word ‘Hatha’ is made of two syllables – ‘ha’ meaning ‘hot flow’ and ‘the’ meaning ‘cold flow’ of energy. The union between the two is termed as Hatha-Yoga. The definition further clears the doubt that union between individual and supreme consciousness is Hatha-Yoga. This polarity at energy level is understood deeply by great Tantra/yoga masters. Polarity of brain as understood by science, may be correlated with the dual nature of energy flow in the human frame. The union is in essence is regaining equilibrium that releases the Prana from unconsciousness leading to awakening or absorption into a meditative state.
The popular texts of Hatha-Yoga like Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Gherand Samhita, and Goraksh Samhita etc. Are latest texts that copies many of its verses from the oldest texts of the Upanishads? However, these texts clearly declares that Hatha-Yoga has 6/7 organs according to two famous texts. They further explain that Hatha-Yoga is basically an offshoot of Tantra-Yoga.
First limb is known as Sat karma (six cleansing practices) aims to remove impurities or the toxicity of the body. Second limb is Asana (physical postures) leads to strength, third limb is Mudra (not be misunderstood with hand gestures. They are Hatha-Yoga Madras combines breathing, postures and internalization of mind), fourth limb is Pratyahara which is a process of withdrawing the mind within for gaining patience. Fifth limb is Pranayama (breathing practices) aims at lightness in the body and mind (refers to physical and mental wellbeing). Sixth and seventh limbs are meditation and Samadhi leads one to right perception and awakening.
Many masters divides the above limbs into external and internal practices but agree that Hatha-Yoga is actually practiced of all seven limbs. Even the goal of physical practices is strength, stillness by balancing energy flows and calming the mind. It is quite amazing to know that masters declare the progress in Hatha-Yoga indicates that number of postures one practices reduces to merely one or two so that higher practices can be done without any physical disturbances. The next series will deal with Asana, its practices and benefits.