by Kedar Nath: Hatha Yoga aims to balance and harmonise the vital and mental, or solar and lunar energies within the body…
The word Hatha, is a sanskrit word derived from two mantras: Ham and Tham. Ham refers to the vital energy and Tham refers to the mental energy. The sympathetic nervous system is associated to the vital energy, whereas the mental energy deals with the parasympathetic nervous system. When both these energies are in a state of balance, we experience physical, psychological, emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. When these energies eventually unite, a great event occurs. The awakening of higher consciousness takes place.
Hatha yoga is formed by groups of practices, which are called shatkarma, asana, pranayama, mudra and bandha.
Shatkarma or the six karmas, comprise the six purificatory and cleansing practices of yoga, which purify the body at physical, pranic(energy) and mental level. The purpose of these practices is to detoxify the body and the internal systems, which helps overcome the imbalances which occur within the body due to an irregular lifestyle and diet.
Asanas or yogic postures, are practiced in order to gain steadiness of body and mind, and freedom from disease. They are known as a posture or condition of the body in which one is able to regulate and harmonise the various functions of the internal organs. Asanas are also a necessary preliminary practice for meditation. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the father of Yoga; asanas are defined as “Sthiram sukham aasanam” in Sanskrit, meaning “that position which is comfortable and steady.” Steadiness and comfort are key requirements for meditation.
Pranayama are a group of breathing techniques, which bring forth the purification of the nadis (energy channels), give the practitioner experience and awareness over the energy field, increase prana (energy), and eventually lead the mind into meditation. Pranayama is practiced to increase the vitality of the body. There are three groups of Pranayamas: The stimulating, the tranquilising and the balancing.
- The stimulating pranayamas stimulate the body, mind, prana and senses. They intensify the sensations, generate heat in the body and increase the blood pressure and the heart rate.
- The tranquilizing pranayamas, cool the various parts of the body, relaxing them and giving them rest. They calm any stimulation in the body and senses.
- The balancing pranayamas, aim at balancing the energies and senses within the body.
Mudras stop the dissipation of energies from distal body parts such as the fingers, feet or the top of the head; ensuring exiting energies are reabsorbed and preserved.
Bandhas or locks stimulate the awakening of the various psychic centres. Their purpose is to lock the pranas in specific locations, and redirect the energies into networks within the human body exclusive to spiritual awakening.
There are three types of locks: “Jalandhara” or Neck lock, “Uddiyana” or Abdominal lock, and the “Moola” or perineum lock.
In various areas in the body, there are masses of nerves. Amongst these masses, bandhas target three points, which are located near the rectum, behind the navel inside the abdomen, and in the neck region. The body’s nerves come together in the neck region and go to the brain. The exchange of sensations between the brain and the senses, and the brain and the mind takes place through these nerves.
The bandhas are used to reverse the sensations. When the sensations are reversed, the energy flow is limited to the place where the bandha is being applied.
The use of bandhas unites the energy by blocking it; then by releasing the bandha, the energy is distributed.
A HOLISTIC APPROACH
When hatha yoga is perfected, it harmonises, reorganizes and balances the body, the physical structure and the energy system. Once the body and energy system are purified, one moves into a new dimension of mind, where raja yoga begins.