‘Râja Yoga cannot be attained without the practise of Haṭha Yoga, and success in Haṭha Yoga cannot be achieved without Râja Yoga’.
No matter how many times one repeats the fact that Asana’s are just one of the limbs of Yoga, we often drift back to the notion that ‘Asana = Yoga’. Now, where does Hatha Yoga stand on this – let us see.
Sage Patanjali, is believed to have lived sometime between the last century BCE and 4 AD. He is said to have compiled the ‘Yoga Darshana’. This was a book on the Philosophy of Yoga comprising of 196 verses in 4 chapters. Patanjali’s Yoga Darshana, was centered around the Mind, its power and its management. The book was intended to take one to the highest state of Consciousness known as ‘Samadhi’.
As centuries passed, the disciplines suggested in this profound compilation became challenging for a common man to imbibe in his daily life. This lead to the evolution of Hatha Yoga. Swami Svatma Rama, compiled the first Hatha Yoga Text book known as ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika, sometime in the 1300’s.
The HathaYoga Pradipika comprises of four Chapters, which considered the Body+Mind as an Instrument. The practice of Asanas, Pranyama, Mudras, Bandhas and Nadanusandana were meant to cleanse and purify the instrument for the purpose of achieving the highest goal set out by Sage Patanjali.
The Gheranda Samhita (Another classic test of Hatha Yoga) went one step further and recommended that one begins the practice of Hatha Yoga with cleansing processes called Kriya’s. Much later,Asanas were to be introduced for physical and psychological well-being. Then came the practice of Pranayama which was meant to purify, balance and channelize the subtle vital energies called Prana, within ones Body.
The Seeker was expected to be in a position to control his thoughts, with the above practice. At this point, the practice of ‘Nadanusandhana’ was introduced which leads the Seeker to a Meditative state of Mind. This step alone was expected to take a few years to master. Then came the journey of Raja Yoga or otherwise known as Patanjali’s Samadhi Yoga.
In summary, as per Hatha Yoga, the steps to begin Patanjali’s Yoga Darshana was as follows:
KRIYA → ASANA → PRANAYAMA → NADANUSANDHANA → YOGA DARSHANA
Keep in mind that our BODY+MIND complex is like a Ghatta (Pot) which houses our inner Spirit. So, our Body is not the ultimate destination in our practice. Just as one would keep the House of God clean and in good shape. So does one need to practice Yoga Asanas to keep this House in good order. However, the Asana practices are only one step in the progress towards keeping our Spirits high.
We know that no two Body+Mind complexes of students are identical.Therefore, it is important to identify a Guru, who can then take you through these steps to leave you in charge of your destination/path.
– Lalitha Viswanath