Nathsampradaya Hatha Yoga (46)

“Praise be to the Supreme Lord, Adi Guru Śiva, who has expounded the Wisdom of Willpower,
known as Hathavidyam, to his consort Parvati
giving her the means of realizing the Ecstasy of Lightbody, Samadhi Mahabhoda!

Glory to Adiśvara, the Supreme Perfection
for expounding the teachings of the true way of Hatha Yoga.”

This is how the Hatha Yoga teachings contained in traditional treatises begin. This shows an approach of reverence for the first Master and Teacher of Hatha Yoga. The first verses only show us the prosaic truth about how to begin real Hatha Yoga training: with greetings and worship directed to Adi Guru, Adiśvara, Lord Śiva. I offer the words of this simple prayer praising the Master of Hatha Yogis to all adepts seeking spiritual union through the methods of Hatha Yoga.

Sages of God such as Krishnaćarya, Goraksha, Matsyendra and Svatmarama knew perfectly well the Revealed Wisdom of Willpower (Hathavidyam) transmitted to them through the grace of the Supreme Mother (Maha Mai) of Hatha Yoga, Śri Devi Parvati. Hatha Yoga is one of the twelve ancient lineages of yoga teaching that descend directly from Lord Śiva. Hatha Yoga is a whole, complete path of transmission, containing complete training in spiritual development divided into seven successive levels of initiation.

Hatha Yoga is a refuge for those hurt by the three sufferings (actions, emotions and thoughts). Hatha Yoga builds a true foundation of spiritual realization for those persistent in its practice. Hatha Yoga comes in two forms known as Kriyapada and Anuttarapada. The first emphasizes subtle exercises to improve the form of the body(s), and the second emphasizes excessive retreats and intense concentration practice.

Success in cultivating Hatha Yoga is achieved through the right mental attitude. We cultivate qualities such as joy, perseverance, courage, wisdom and faith! It is necessary to trust the Guru’s instructions and sincerely follow the spiritual guidance of one’s spiritual master. It is not easy to achieve Yoga (Oneness) for someone who follows in darkness of quarrelling religious sects. Hathavidya is offered to bring the seekers of Truth out of the darkness of quarrelling philosophical sects and dogmatic theological confusions. One must refrain from the spiritual blindness of exalting one’s own religious faith above others. The yogi must free himself from the worries created by the mind, refrain from doing evil, harm and damage, theft and fraud. Telling the truth, honesty, sobriety, tolerance, compassion, modesty and the strength of good will are qualities worth cultivating and developing in Hatha Yoga training.

The seven Groups of practices constitute the path known as Hatha Yoga:

  • Śodhana (Shatkarman) – Six Rituals of Purification;
  • Dridhata (Āsana) – strengthening the form of the body(s); force; skill;
  • Sthairyam (Mudra and Bandha) – an attitude of stability and quietness;
  • Dhairyam (Pratyahara) – patience, perseverance; calm;
  • Laghvan (Prānayāma) – lightness, insight, clarity;
  • Pratyaksham (Dhārana/Dhyāna) – sensitivity, recognition;
  • Samādhi – ecstasy of the body of light; seclusion; peace

The absolute and necessary basis of any Hatha Yoga training is Śodhana – a cleansing ritual, again essentially comprising six groups of preliminary exercises known as:

  1. Neti (Neti Kriya) – removal of impurities from the nostrils; cleansing the nasal passages with water; rinsing the nose and throat; the most elementary practice of all Naths who practice authentic Hatha Yoga;
  2. Dhauti – full body ablutions, baths and washings; washing the body from the outside and inside; washing the body, digestive tract, eyes, ears, cleaning the teeth, tongue and scalp;
  3. Nauli(ka) (Laulika Kriya) – cleansing the mind by massaging the abdomen, tensing and relaxing the abdomen, exercising the abdominal muscles and strengthening the diaphragm belt with rhythmic breathing and stretching the entire abdomen;
  4. Basti (Wasti) – enemas, rinses; washing the bowels or, as we prefer, the lower part of the digestive tract from the rectum to the stomach; enemas are used to prolong life and free oneself from old age and disease;
  5. Kapalabhati – cleansing the head through special cleansing of the nose and mouth with the help of breath or a stream of water; it develops a shining aura around the head in the likeness of the Saints of God;
  6. Trataka – focused eye fixing, concentration; practicing looking with great attention until the movement of thought waves stops; gazing at objects (grahya) such as a flame, a flower, a point and other sight exercises; good eyesight and deep visualization skills develop;

These exercises are called Shatkarman (Six Purification Rituals) and are the basic spiritual practice, sadhana, of every authentic Hatha Yoga. The number of six exercises effectively softens the bastions of egotism and frees one from any astral, demonic influences that could occur on the spiritual path, in other words, we cleanse the six aspects of the sensual nature.

A Hatha Yoga adept is a person who practices the Six Rituals of Śodhasana, called the First Class of Yoga, and who has received initiation from his Guru. Each initiated adept of the Hatha Yoga lineage is called Natha, which means Guardian of the Path. The Order (Path) of Hatha Yoga practitioners is called Nathsampradaya (Body of the Guardians of the HY Path) or Karthabaja!

In the second lesson, Dridhata, 84 forms of Sitting postures (Āsana means sitting) given by Lord Shiva are practiced, of which 32 forms are the most necessary for humanity. Most of the Āsanas are performed in the lotus form, therefore, to develop asana training, mastering the lotus (Padmasana) is absolutely the most urgent necessity.

Pavanmukta (tension release) is basic body work used to release tensions that block the body from sitting in lotus. This is work preparing for the proper practice of asanas, which are the main note of the Second Class training of Hatha Yoga. The principle of Pavanmukta practice is to stretch the body by tensing and relaxing both physically and mentally, as well as circular, spiral movement in the form of all kinds of circulations.

The most essential Asana is Siddhasana (Fruitful Sitting, Fruit Posture), which enables proper practice of focus and concentration. The body is straight, the left heel near the groin, the right heel on top of the left, and the toes tucked between the calf and thigh. The head is tilted so that the chin is pressed to the chest. Hands placed on the knees in a gesture of wisdom (vidya) and clarity (prakaśa). The legs arranged in the form of a crescent moon reflect the meaning of the syllable THAM, while the bowed head is a symbol of the sun, which has the meaning of the syllable HAM. Collectively, the posture conveys the idea of Ha-Tha and allows to raise towards the sun with the inhalation of the moon’s energy, and, with the exhale, the sun’s energy to illuminate the moon. The breathing is deep, the exhalation is a liberating sigh. A simplified version of this asana is called Muktasana, in which the right heel rests on the left, but the toes are not tucked between the calf and the thigh of the other foot. Every adept practicing Hatha Yoga should master Siddhasana (Muktasana) as soon as possible, which is necessary for deeper practice of this path. Siddhasana is the basis for beginning the practice of Jnana (Chin) Mudra.

The basic, intensive course of Hatha Yoga is a Śodhana practice performed for a period of at least 3.5 years (the revolution of the earth around the sun). Later we move on to more intense Asana, Mudra and Bandha training. During the year of Śodhasana practice, we emphasize another group of cleansings every two months. We start with Neti and proceed in the given order. The last two months we focus on Trataka. We repeat this cycle for the next three years. For the last half a year, every month we are strengthening a different group in order. Śodhasana is a primarily individual practice. We consult the exercises with Guru (Acharya), following His advice and instructions.

Trying to practice Hatha Yoga without real and deep work with the Six Rituals of Purification (Śodhana) is like building a house without foundations, building on sand only. The fruits of such training are easily lost, and the exercises become empty gymnastics. It is also easy to get injured during asanas if the body is not previously cleansed with Śodhasana, the Attitude of Purity, obtained from these basic practices of all true Hatha Yogis. There are also no actual spiritual fruits of practice called Siddhis! Even progress in asanas becomes distant.

A moderate diet involves eating light, tasty and naturally sweet foods. The fourth part of the stomach should be left empty and the food is offered to Lord Shiva (Adi Guru). A healthy, vegetarian diet is required if we want to start working in the second circle of practice, dridhata (asana). In intensive Anuttarapada practice, at most one meal is eaten a day, before noon. Long periods of fasting are observed, where 7, 21 and 40 days are merely a “warm-up”.

There are 84 asanas created by Lord Shiva, of which four are the most important: Siddha, Padma, Simha and Bhadra. The most comfortable and beautiful is Siddhasana. Of the 84 asanas, Siddhasana should always be practiced as it is the most important. It cleanses 72 thousand Nadis – subtle energy channels. This posture completely and subtly cleanses the energy channels that are the model of health and perfection of body form (sthulla rupa). The series of the four most important asanas can be completed as one lesson in lotus practice. We begin with meditation of Nathas in Siddhasana. Then we move on to Padmasana (Full Lotus Flower). Of course, when necessary, with the help of Pawanmuktasana – exercises that release tensions and body blocks that make it difficult to perform these asanas. Next, from the Lotus, we perform Simhasana, adopting the Lotus Lion King archetype. Then we try to fix the body in the Bhadrasana posture, which is an advanced variation of Lotus, in which the hands placed behind the back grasp the toes of the corresponding legs. So we end with a posture of complete binding of the sense energy channels, where both arms and legs become intertwined. Let us remember that ASANA is an attitude leading to the path to Perfection.

A Natha who contemplates his Atman (Essential Self), follows a moderate diet (no overeating or fasting) and practices Siddhasana for 12 years undoubtedly achieves Siddhi Yoga. This is how the Fruit of God Realization is realized. Instructors (Acharya Snataka) of Hatha yoga therefore have as their primary goal to teach their students the ability to practice contemplation in the Siddhasana posture for a longer period of time. There is no right to teach Hatha Yoga to someone who has not undergone a year of contemplation practice in this asana, he is not able to teach it or lead others to it. The traditional list of asanas always lists Siddhasana first. Once you have mastered Siddhasana, you must immediately master Padmasana in order to practice most other Asanas and Mudras. During the 84 days of the traditional Nath retreat, one more Asana is practiced every day until perfection. This is a retreat known as the Nathyogis samnyasa.

Rishi Svatmarama in ‘Hathayoga Pradipika’ teaches a course of Hathayoga methods as a basis (auxiliary system) for practicing the path of Raja Yoga (Uro Yoga), which is one of the 12 lineages of yoga transmission founded by Lord Shiva. Svatmarama’s lecture is adequate to the Raja Yoga system and should be treated as an auxiliary method of the Royal Path. This lecture also corresponds to the method of practice adopted in isolation as a form of Anuttarapada Hatha Yoga. The sequence of practices is therefore a typical guide for those interested in arranging a long retreat dedicated to practicing Hatha Yoga non-stop (e.g. for several consecutive years).

Rishi Gheranda presents authentic Hatha Yoga as a lineage of yoga transmission from scratch, and the training presented should be considered a fundamental guide to the Path of Hatha Yoga. This is the authentic Kriyapada of the Nathyogis. The order in which the Six Purification Rituals exercises are introduced, other than that mentioned by Gheranda, results from the individualization of the methods of the path, which is intended for a specific adept. The Guru’s individual instruction for practicing is extremely important and without it it’s not advisable to even try the exercises. Rishi Gheranda’s lecture is an image of Hatha Yoga in everyday life, as a spiritual lifestyle of adepts of the Hatha Yoga path.

The Third Lesson (Advancement Level) of Hatha Yoga is, of course, the practice of Mudras and Bandhas, of which there are basically 25 listed, which gives a general scheme of work at this level. Sthairyam, as we call this stage, serves to develop calmness and stability. Lord Shiva says this about the Mudras to his consort, Devi Parvati: “O Devi! Knowledge of all Mudras reaches the level of an adept (initiated). They should be kept secret and not revealed to just anyone. They give yogis happiness, but they are not easy to master even for Maruts (Angels of Air).” Indian teachers often treat Europeans as potential just anyone, so rarely does a white person have any idea about Mudras. This lesson is missing from many European yoga courses. Instead of authentic learning of Mudras and Bandhas, you can find simplified “little finger mudras” courses especially for Europeans, arranged in such a way that they do not achieve anything special and do not learn the actual secret.

Asana is an essential class to be able to then start practicing Mudras and Bandhas. The technique called Bandha is an easier and preliminary form of cleansing for the application of Mudra. So much for the introduction about this lesson for those interested in actually practicing Hatha Yoga. Now let’s list 25 classic Power Mudras:

  1. Maha-Mudra;
  2. Nabho-Mudra;
  3. Uddhiyana-Bandha;
  4. Jalandhara-Bandha;
  5. Mula-Bhandha;
  6. Maha-Bhandha;
  7. Mahavedha-Bandha;
  8. Klećari-Mudra (Varieties as in Akaśa);
  9. Viparitakarani-Mudra;
  10. Yoni Mudra;
  11. Vajroli-Mudra;
  12. Śaktićalani-Mudra;
  13. Tadagi-Mudra;
  14. Manduki-Mudra (also as Linga Mudra in several variations);
  15. Śambhavi-Mudra;
  16. Panćadharana-Mudra: Parthivi, Ambhani, Agneyi, Vajavi, Akaśi;
  17. Aśvini-Mudra (also as Linga Mudra in several variations);
  18. Paśini-Mudra;
  19. Kaki-Mudra;
  20. Matangi-Mudra;
  21. Bhujangani-Mudra;
  22. Prana Mudra;
  23. Bhućari-Mudra;
  24. Akaśi-Mudra (In variations of hand position: Gyana, Śunya, Vayu, Prithvi, Prana, Apana, Apana Vayu);
  25. Yoga-Mudra (variants: Hrid, Śankhi/Shell, Varuna).

The basic session of introductory work with one Mudra lasts one Muhurta. This is approximately a good teaching hour because Muhurta is 1/30 of a day, i.e. 48 minutes. Mudra and Bandha techniques sometimes seem to overlap, and some of them may appear under different names, but the canon of these exercises should be considered absolutely basic. According to Rishi Svatmarama, the most important of the Mudras is Klećari: “There is no other Mudra than Klećari!” Fruitful Klećari is practiced while sitting in the full Lotus posture. The tongue is then rolled back to touch the uvula in the palate. The importance of this Mudra for deeper spiritual realization is confirmed by both Laya Yoga and Raja Yoga. Klećari erases all sins, removes the causes of aging, suffering and death. It brings relief from ailments, the desire to eat and sleep, and removes mental dullness and weakness. Karma and time lose their power over the adept remaining in the lotus posture of Klećari-Mudra.

The Fourth Lesson, Dhairyam or Pratyahara, is work on patience, perseverance and calm in their deepest sense. In Hatha Yoga it is changelessness and constancy towards all manifestations of passions or worldly desires. Naths experience the emptying of the thought-feeling sphere of all chaotic and disordered waves of experiences and impressions. You should not give in to the impulses of worldly passions and entanglements here. The yogi is indifferent both to praise and to criticism, to sweet or bitter, cold or warm. Dhairyam can be understood as intensive work on the endurance of the body and mind in extreme conditions. It is a training in self-sacrifice to the limit and fortitude. Drawing the psychic energy of the senses from external objects inward and storing energy reserves internally, in the reservoir of our centre, is probably the very essence of Pratyahara. Pratyahara is immersion in the feeling of One Being, the Omnipresence of God. One experiences the depth of peace of inner spaces. Of course, while remaining in one of the lotus positions of Mudra, which serve to awaken the inner contemplative life. To begin a real spiritual practice of this level of Hatha Yoga, long-term purification through Bandhas and mastery of all Mudras are necessary. To learn Mudra techniques, you generally need to practice sitting for a long time in the Padmasana position, i.e. in the full lotus position. Narrow and tight is the Path that leads to spiritual liberation!

The term Hatha consists of two syllables: Ha and Tha. “Ha” is the energy of Prana, the forces of life, a symbol of reality, the shape of Lord Shiva, also heavenly water and heavenly wisdom. “Tha” is lunar receptivity, romance, pleasure, and concentration. Ha is the sun and Tha is the moon. Solar energy means tension, strain, while lunar energy increases relaxation, unwinding and rest. Thus the syllable Ha refers to the stream of the solar nostril called Pingala, and Tha to the lunar nostril called Ida. Winding and unwinding, tension and relaxation are the right ways to balance the energies of Pingala and Ida.

Hatha is the reception of reality, concentration of prana (heavenly water of life), the pleasure of concentration on the shape of Lord Shiva, the moon receiving solar prana (energy), the pleasure of receiving and concentration of heavenly wisdom. The term Hatha means balance or balancing of the energies of Pingala and Ida, sun and moon, activity and passivity, radiance and passivity. Equanimity brings with it great Power, Strength, and this is the essence of the meaning of the term Hatha.

From a mantric point of view, the syllables Ham and Tham are the seminal vibrations (bija) of the solar force. In the colloquial meaning, Hatha is translated as strength, and Hatha Yoga as Unity of Forces, One Power. Solar power is also known as Will Power when it manifests itself in connection and balance. Activity (strength) manifests itself best in rest, the sun in the moon, then it is the Power of Will. The sun (Surya) symbolizes the divine soul, and the moon (Ćandra) symbolizes the animal soul (psyche). The combination of both unleashes the powerful Force of Unity.

Jina or Jaina is the Victor, the one who has tamed the desire to incarnate, the conqueror of enlightenment, knowledge and freedom. This word designates the realized Nath, who is the great hero, the conqueror of the body and senses, Mahavira. The Jina is the embodiment of the perfect Natha (Adept, Guardian of the Path). The Śrivatsa of the supreme knowledge of the divine being’s heart radiates from the Jain’s heart in the form of a double vajra, which Natha carries as a symbol of the goal of Hatha Yoga. Hum!

Many Blessings on your Path to Awakening and Realization!

Om Namaśśivaya! Hum!

Aćaryaćarya Swami Lalita-Mohan G.K.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *