As per Hatha Yoga Pradipika - by Swami Swatmarama
Hatha Yoga Pradipika is one of the most authentic text books on Hatha Yoga, written in 1200 AD by Swami Swatmarama, a great Yoga Guru who formulated the principles of Hatha Yoga and systematically explained various techniques, its effects on body, mind and states of consciousness. This is a comprehensive text on Asanas, Pranayama, Cleansing techniques, Mudras (Mental attitude or gestures), Bandhas (Energy locks), Nada (Sound) Meditation and many more guidelines for following the path of Yoga.
Swami Swatmarama was the follower of Natha Tradition, (followers of Adi Nath or Lord Shiva), taught by great Gurus like Gorakshanath and then Matsyendranath. This is the tradition of sages who live in caves or Himalayas and renounce material life adopting sanyasa.
Let us see the meaning of word Hatha, it is made up of Ha + Tha. "Ha" means Pingala Nadi (sun principle) or right nostril and "tha" means Ida nadi, (moon principle) or left nostril. Nadi means psychic passage of energy which can be compared with nerves in physical body. Hatha means balance of Ida and Pingala Nadis, or balancing of mental energy of Ida and Vital / physical energy of Pingala Nadi. Ida Nadi can be compared with Parasympathetic Nervous system and Pingala nadi can be compared with Sympathetic Nervous System. So Hatha Yoga practices results in balancing the entire nervous system resulting in balance of Body and Mind, physical energy and mental energy. The basic purpose of Hatha Yoga is to purify the Ida and Pingala Nadis and then uniting these 2 forces with the third Psychic Nadi Sushumna, which carries Kundalini at Ajna Chakra (eyebrow center).
Hatha Yoga Pradipika starts with the Shatkarmas or cleansing processes, these processes are to remove the blockages in Nadis (psychic / pranic energy channels). A particular disorder or disease is due to blockage in pranic channel supplying vital / bio energy to the particular organ related to disorder. Cleansing techniques removes this energy blocks and the pranic energy starts flowing without hurdles, thus balancing the entire body and mind. The purification is the first in Hatha Yoga, once the body is free of disease, the next step is recommended and that is asanas.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika outlines the purpose of asanas, which says that "One can achieve Sound Health, Stability, Lightness of Body and Mind with Asana". Asana result in disciplining the Body and Mind.
After the asanas comes Pranayama, it is made up of Prana + Ayama, which means the control and extension of the Prana or vital energy or bio energy. Pranayama, if practiced correctly can cure all types of physical and mental disorders, also increase in pranic energy can increase functioning of brain and may result in Siddhis or perfections or extra sensory perceptions, Pranayama is used to control the mental energy and mind. But if pranayama is not done properly, it invites all the diseases. So it must be done under the guidance of Guru.
Pranayama is considered as a fast way to awaken the kundalini. But if one is not prepared to take on this high level energy awakening then this may have negative effects on mind and body. So Pranayama is always practiced under the guidance of Guru.
Bandhas are necessary for practice of Pranayama, Bandha means energy lock. There are main 3 types of locks, first is Jalandhar Bandha or Chin lock, second is Moolabandha or anus lock and third is Uddiyan Bandha or abdominal lock. These locks are essential while doing the Kumbhaka that is retaining the air inside or outside of the lungs. If Kumbhaka or retention is done without Bandhas, it may have a very negative effect.on digestive system, excreatory system, nervous system, brain etc...
Hatha Yoga also describes Mudras or gestures or Mental attitude, which induce the state of Pratyahar (Sense withdrawal) and results in spontaneous state of meditation. Several mudras are mentioned in the Hatha Yoga which include, Vajroli Mudra, Sahajoli Mudra, Khechari Mudra, Shambhavi Mudra, Viprit Karani etc.
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