True Nature of Hatha Yoga

by Dr. Padmashree Yadav

Hatha YogaWhat is Hatha Yog? Is it only the complicated practical aspect which has to do be done forcefully? Absolutely Not!! But nowadays Hatha Yog is considered to be the practice of asana only.
Hatha Yog is the wisdom which is practiced for higher states of consciousness. Hatha Yog Practices were designed by the Rishis for the Raja Yog, however the real purpose of this great science has been forgotten altogether. Hatha Yog has its roots in ancient Upanishads and Puranas. In Shrimad Bhagwad the voluminous scripture has references of hatha yog in several chapters. Sri. Gorakshanath, the chief disciple of Sage Matsyendranath has great contribution in propagating Hatha Yog.

The Nath Tradition plays an important role in compiling the authentic practices of Hatha Yog from "Tantric" practices. The Natha Yogis are held in high esteem because of their severe penances, austere yogic lifestyle and accomplishment of many siddhis. Many texts were written during the 6th – 15th century AD on Hatha Yog.

Swami Swatmaram , a disciple of Nath Sect, has bestowed us with the Hatha Yog Pradipika which is an exclusive text on Hatha Yog. Hathapradipika an important treatise has exerted a great influence not only on the practical students of Yog but also has become a source of inspiration for many later writers on hathayog. This can very well be seen from the treatises like Yogcintamani of Sivananda Sarasvati, Hathatatvakaumudi and Hathasanketa-Candrika by Sundaradeva,Hatharatnavali by Srinivasa-bhatta.
This text illumines the multitude of physical, mental & spiritual aspects. The highest good attainment of kaivalya. Hatha Yog is the path to achieve the Kaivalya yog or Raja Yog This text explicitly details the practices to be done for the union of “Ha” (vital/pranic force) & Tha (mental force) energies to awaken the kundalini which is dormant in the mooladhara chakra I arouse it to travel through the chakras, pierce the granthees and finally meet the Shiva.

Special features of Hatha Yog Pradipika

The various manuscripts on Hatha Pradipika give four, five and even 10 chapters.

We find discussions on the topics of asanas, kumbhaka, mudra and nandanusandhhana in the text, the discussion on pratyahara, dharana dhyana and samadhi is also included. Description of sharira consisting of Mahabhutas and their characteristics are given in this text. Description of Satkarmas the cleansing techniques explains the need of removing the physical impurities as well as mental impurities and make the sadhak capable for higher practices.

Topics on mitahara and description of Yamas and Niyamas are given special importance which have to be followed thoroughly and sincerely. Only fifteen Asanas are explained by Swatmaramji and they are an important milestone to withstand higher practices.
Sage Swatmaram gives ellaborate explanation on Ashta kumbhakas and their effects. There seems to have been great influence of mudras in the literature of medieval times.There is a great divergence among the Tantrika, Pauranika and yogic works on the number, name, definitions and technique of mudras. Limiting our discussion only on the mudras of yog, we find the HP describes ten mudras, Shiv Sanhita mentions the same but also adds yoni-mudra and gives it a great importance. Gheranda Samhita speaks of 25 mudras. In all the texts mudras occupy a larger space for description. The purpose of mudras according to Hatha Pradipika is awakening of Kundalini Shakti. It has been stated that while working in the human body, kundalini presents three modes or poles and that the state of consciousness and functioning of a person depends on which axis of the polarity is active. The three nodes are called urdhva-sakti(higher), madhya-sakti(middle) and adhah-sakti(lower). Different mudras are the techniques based on stimulating and activating one of these nodes.

Bandhas, the neuromuscular blocks, are essentially mudras and are very few in number. They are usually practiced and are essential part of the pranayama in hatha yogic tradition. We may say that those mudras practiced in the technique of pranayama are called bandhas, because they bind the current of prana in a particular region and channelise the pranika currents in a particular direction. The commonly practiced bandhas are Jalandhara, Uddiyana, Mulabandha and Jihva.


All the above bandhas are applied during the performance of abhyantara kumbhaka. Use of bandhas during pranayama seems to be a special technique of hatha yogic pranayama. The idea behind this seems to be to intensity the sensations of pranic currents through the channel of susumna by increasing the pressure in the middle path. The total effect of the application of the three bandhas is to regular the working of ida and pingala to activate sushumna nadi.

If we consider the physiological mechanism of bandhas and mudras, we find that in mudras one tries to consciously control certain semi-voluntary muscles in the body like anal sphincter muscles of the pelvic floor,thoracic diaphragm,muscles of the throat,eye- balls etc.An important aspect is the manipulation of internal pressures, which serves to tone up the internal organs and stimulate their proper functioning. This pressure manipulation directly influences the working of certain endocrine glands and thereby bring about marking of certain endocrine and electrolyte balance.


In the text of Hatha Pradipika there are frequent references to Nadi ,chakra and Kundalini.

NADIS have been referred to in connection with nadi-shuddhi, ida,pingala and sushumna in connection with pranayama and mudras. Out of the 10 nadis described a great significance is given to Ida, Pingala and Sushumna.

CHAKRA is referred to as padma. The six chakras are elaborately explained in the text.chakras are not anatomical entities but are the centers of spiritual activity in the human body and particular parts have been mentioned as their location.

KUNDALINI is a yogic name of consciousness conceived as force of energy, which is working at all levels of existence,although latent or partially awakened. Tantrika and hathayogic technique of attaining self- realization would be to arouse the latent kundalini.
At the gross level, the kundalini is assumed to be lying dormant in the mülädhāra chakra at the base of the spine. The path of awakening of the kundalini is said to be the spinal cord together with the chakras and nädis. This path is blocked or only partially clear. This path has to be cleared fully so that the awakened kundalini can travel its path. The process aims at purification of various nature, such as purification of the elements (tatva-suddhi), the purification of nadis (nādi-suddhi), purification of the nerve plexus (chakra-śuddhi) for which several groups of practices, like asana, prāṇāyāma, kriya, bandha-mudra and varied techniques of meditation are used.

Therapeutic aspect - Hatha yog is a method of preparing the system for spiritual awakening but it is also a very important science of health. Since ancient times it has been used by yogis and rishis for the relief and elimination of all kinds of diseases and defects. It is true that the practices require more skill, time and effort on the part of the patient than conventional therapies, but in terms of permanent,positive results, as well as saving the enormous expenditure on medicines, they are certainly more worthwhile.

Use of double entenders by Swami Svātmārāma - Many methods have been evolved for ensuring that esoteric doctrines are kept secret from being generally known. The purpose of this language is to conceal secret doctrines from the masses and uninitiated. Secrecy is also regarded as essential for preserving the potency of a practice.
In the text there are references of doshas, dhatus, mala, vyadhi that shows all the Hatha yogis had profound knowledge of Ayurveda.

Conclusion: - Hatha yog Pradipika is an important hatha yog treatise that explains yamas, niyamas, mitahar, shodhan karma , asanas, kumbhak, mudra bandha, dharana, pratyahara, nadanusandhan and samadhi. All these practices are subtle and should be learnt from an authentic know the practices and their effects thoroughly one should have the knowledge of Ayurveda too. Hatha yog is much much more than the physical existence.

Dr. Padmashree Yadav is Founder/Director of Neeramay Yoga Ayurveda Research Center - Pune

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