WHAT IS HATHA YOGA AND ITS IMPORTANCE TO GENERAL HEALTH?
The Sanskrit word hatha originates from the combination of two bija mantras (basic or root sounds) ha and tha. These are the two opposing currents or forces in the universe, the positive and negative currents which manifest in A human being as the mental force in ida nadi and the pranic force associated with physical dynamism in pingala nadi.
The bija mantra ha represents the solar flow in pingala and tha signifies the lunar flow in ida nadi.
The sole purpose of Hatha yoga is to bring about perfect harmony between these two pranic flows. When they are perfectly balanced, prana will begin to flow in sushumna, the most important nadi in the psychic body. In this way the person’s consciousness will expand and he will start to tread the path of spiritual enlightenment. Actually, this is the ultimate purpose of all the branches of yoga but hatha yoga is unique.
According to the ancient yogic text the Gherand Samhita, there are seven steps which every spiritual aspirant must tread to eventually qualify for the attainment of self realization. These are:
- Shodhnam- Purification of the body through hatha yoga.
- Dridhata- A steady body/mind through asanas.
- Sthairyam- A calm body/mind through mudras and bandhas.
- Dhairyam- Patience and perseverance through pratyahara, disassociation of the sense organs with the external objects.
- Laghawam- Lightness of the body through pranayama pactice.
- Pratyaksham (Dhyan and Dharna)- Direct perception of the object of meditation through concentration and meditation.
- Samadhi- Detachment from sensual experiences through union with the self.
The first step on the path of self actualization is purification of the gross body since without first eliminating toxins and impurities from the body, it is very difficult to practise the higher yoga techniques.
Six scientific yogic techniques known as shatkarmas have been developed by the ancient yogis for body purification. These six shatkarmas, nothing else, constitute the branch of yoga called hatha yoga:
A process of cleansing and thereby purifying the nasal passages.
A series of techniques for cleaning the whole alimentary canal from the mouth to the anus. It also includes simple methods of cleaning the eyes, ears, teeth, tongue and scalp.
A very powerful method of massaging and strengthening the abdominal organs.
Techniques for washing and toning the large intestine.
A simple series of three techniques for purifying the frontal portion of the brain.
The practice of intense gazing at an object. This develops the powers of concentration and dormant psychic faculties which we all possess.
ONLY THE SIMPLER FORMS OF THESE 6 TECHNIQUES HAVE BEEN DESCRIBED.