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Hatha Yoga explained
Hatha Yoga explained
Yoga comes in many forms and Hatha yoga (forced or physical Yoga) has grown in popularity over the last century with millions of people worldwide practicing every day.
The forced or physical yoga known as Hatha, often translated to Ha (sun), Tha (moon) has its origins in the Tantric Yoga practices of a few thousand years ago with Tantra growing from other great teachings such as the Upanishads and the Vedas.
Hatha yoga uses physical postures, breathing techniques, energy work, cleansing techniques and right living to awaken untapped potentials in the human body. These dormant energies are manipulated to the end goal of achieving Samadhi (yogic bliss/ecstacy) where ones mind is awakened to the deeper dimensions of knowledge of our true self.
- Hatha Yoga begins with the body to help remove disease and discomforts as well as awaken the body-mind connection in preparation of energy movement for higher potential.
- During this physical preparation the energy channels and human nervous system are slowly developed to be conduits for the different energies that could be awakened.
- The mind is challenged and tamed through practices of concentration and meditation (first through postures and then via classical meditation practices) into varying stages of withdrawal of the senses through one pointed (eka grata) thinking; where the inner quiet has the chance to be heard.
- Diet, lifestyle and personality traits are manipulated for improved health of body, mind and spirit.
- Other Yoga paths are encouraged (chanting, meditation, selfless service and study of the scriptures) to achieve results for any type of human personality and balanced progression.
Science now shows us that levels of de-stressing enzymes in the body (GABA's) increase after Hatha yoga practices of concentration, alignment, physical strength, flexible movement, deep breathing and relaxed non ego based practice; bringing a new outlook to the surrounding environment. Thought processes become clearer as cells, tissues and organs of the body are stretched, toned and manipulated bringing optimum health, vitality and communication for complete homeostasis. Prana (lifeforce) levels increase with boundless, effortless, peaceful energy and vigor that radiates from every part of our being.
These methods to awakening our potentiality take a lifetime of dedication and practice with many difficulties needing to be overcome along the way. Swami Sivananda Saraswati of Rishikesh famously stated, 'An ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory' for the true Yoga is put into action rather than simply read from a book or scripture.
Not all yoga practices are applicable or appropriate to each and every person. A person who has illness or disease of the body would first need to work on the development of the physical body (annamaya kosher, the physical sheath) before further exploration. Their yoga practices would be more gentle and therapeutic on a mind body relaxation level to de-stress and reprogram any negative influences from keeping hold and to allow healing to begin.
Once the body mind connection has been attained and the physical body has become strong and healthy; deeper practices can be incorporated if the aspirant wishes to explore further. Not everyone will desire to achieve these more esoteric levels of yoga practices which is why
Thousands of years ago wise men known as Rishis (seers) sat and contemplated the questions of 'Who am I', 'Why am I here' and 'Where do I go after here"?
To begin their studies they used their senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste) and the human mind (the interpreter of the senses) to understand the world around them. They observed nature and the stars above as well as human behavior and existence and saw a cycle of birth and death in human beings that they believed could be transcended or bypassed to speed up spiritual evolution.
They perceived that the answers to their questions were not of the external world but inside our own self, and through dedicated practices of silent meditation they became aware of layers of the human body that were not perceivable by the senses.
During these decades of inner study they discovered many wonders including the theory of the atom (Sage Kanad). They discovered that human existence is not limited to the physical dimension alone but has layers that transcend even our atomic make up.
These layers (known as sheaths or koshas) could be explored with deep dedication and practice and they unveil knowledge and truths that awaken one to our true identity. The experiences of these great seers were eventually formulated into instructions for everyone to follow should they choose to.
Through their observations of human personalities the Rishis explored different methods for inner discovery and from their systematic exploration came the many paths of Yoga and ways to attain the answers that are inherent within us all.