HATHA YOGA PRADIPIKA
Hatha Yoga Pradipika is one of the most favored classical journals of yoga, written around 15th Century by Yogi Swatmarama. It was first translated in English by Pancham Sinh circa 1914, and the most popular translation was published by Bihar School of Yoga, translated by Swami Muktibodhananda.
What is Hatha Yoga?
HATHA is the combination of two syllables – HA & THA
HA represents the Sun, the Vital aspect, the masculine nature of one’s individuality governed by the left hemisphere of brain and the right side of the body, which is dynamic, logical, analytical, and controls mostly the conscious activities.
THA represents the Moon, the feminine aspect of one’s individual existence, governed by the right hemisphere of the brain and the left half of the body and is introverted, creative, emotional, and controls mostly the sub-conscious activities.
The distinction between the vital and the mental energy is not limited to the physical or the mental plane, but is also present in the pranic, intellectual, and emotional plane. Hatha Yoga is a classical science to balance the two for which it gives many techniques progressing from gross to subtle i.e. Shatkarmas to Samadhi. The overall idea of smoothening the flow of prana by balancing the two primary nadis (pranic channels) is to develop concentration and prepare the Sadhaka for a higher plane of existence and higher Sadhana.
What's in a Name?
"Hatha Yoga Pradipika" is a popular book in the world of Yoga, but in fact the title is Hathapradipika. The colophon itself says Hathapradipika. It is not sure how the title was modified in popular culture, but maybe it was done to make the title more informative and reveal the nature of its subject. The translations are all titled Hatha Yoga Pradipika, and since virtually every reader accesses translations only, the modified title is now used.
Pradipika originally means to shed the light upon. In a broader perspective, Hatha Yoga Pradipika shines a light upon the techniques of Hatha Yoga leading to the higher purpose, the Raja Yoga Sadhana. It is a science of Purification, Control and Balance, and the Higher Discipline. The beauty of hatha yoga is that it solves a huge problem faced by every aspirant: Swami Swatmarama eliminates the Yama and Niyama (the Social and personal codes of conducts) which are the stepping stones in Buddhist and Jain Systems, as well as in Maharshi Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, bringing a focus to the physical practices like shatkarmas, asanas, and pranayamas in order to stimulate organ functioning and betterment of the physical and mental health which automatically draws the practitioner to a deeper path.
History of Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Information about Yogi Swatmarama is scarce. Most of what we know, we deduce from Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Yogi Swatmarama revered the Natha Tradition (a lineage of great Yogis who spread Hatha Yoga) - there is a verse dedicated to this lineage. It is probable he studied texts written by Gorakshanath and other masters in the Natha tradition. He also quotes a verse from Yoga Vashishtha Sara and mentions Vashishtha Muni - another great Yogi (no information available, but it may refer to the Guru of Lord Rama, the avatar of Narayana). These mentions can be treated as citations.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika is said to be written between 14-16th century A.D. It is probable the book was written earlier than this time as many libraries were destroyed in India during conquests and a disciple may have created new manuscripts. Historians use books like Yoga Cintamani citing Hatha Yoga Pradipika and citations given in Hatha Yoga Pradipika to place it in this period.
Content in Brief
One of the reasons of the popularity of Hatha Yoga Pradipika (HYP) is the range of topics it covers, making it a comprehensive guide of Hatha Yoga. The text deals with topics like place of practice, diet, do's and don'ts, and some manuscripts later found by Kaivalyadham, Lonavla even mention therapeutic techniques. Earlier manuscripts were divided into 4 chapters, but later a publication by Kaivalyadham added a 5th chapter dedicated to the therapy techniques found. Yogi Swatmarama gives four limbs of Yoga which is popularly called Chaturanga Yoga or The Yoga of four limbs -
- Nada Anusandhana
The first chapter talks about the basic pre-requisites of practicing Hatha Yoga. Like all great masters, Yogi Swatmarama talks about the goal of Hatha Yoga first and foremost. The purpose of Hatha Yoga is to make the body-mind complex and the Pranic body fit for the higher practice i.e. Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga is synonymous to experiencing Samadhi which is talked about in detail in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
After putting the goal in vision, Yogi Swatmarama bows his head to the great masters of the past - a way to honor the Gurus nd invoke their blessings. He then begins describing the conditions under which the practice can bear fruit. It has been said by many a students of Yoga that HYP does not talk about Yamas and Niyamas (the social and personal codes of conduct) whereas Maharishi Patanjali talks about them first and then moves on to other practices. In fact, Yogi Swatmarama has also given do's and don'ts which essentially are the codes of conduct. He do's and don'ts are expanded to include the place of practice and dietary habits of the practitioner. We all experience that some places are rejuvenating for the mind, while at some places one feels restless and conflicted. Even the foods we eat affect the state of our mind and body. Therefore, Yogi Swatmarama gives a detailed description of Mitahara (balanced diet) and place of practice.
The major part of the first chapter is dedicated to description of Asanas. Hatha Yoga Pradipika mentions there are 84 asanas, but describes only 15 in detail. The asanas have been described here in great detail along with photographs and instructions on how to practice them.
The breath is the tool to control the mind. Pranayamas, which are breathing techniques are talked about in this chapter. The methods of preparing for Pranayama including Shatkriyas (the six cleansing techniques) and Nadi Shodhana, and different Pranayamas are explained in detail. Yogi Swatmarama uses the term "Kumbhaka" instead of Pranayama. He has given 8 Kumbhakas. The Kumbhakas have been described in detail here along with clear instructions.
This chapter is dedicated to the third limb Mudra. Mudras are very powerful and advanced techniques to control the vital energy sustaining the body. 10 Mudras are described in detail in this chapter which are given in detail here.
The fourth chapter is perhaps the most important and distinctive chapter of Hatha Yogapradipika. Hatha Yogapradipika is the only text of Hatha Yoga which has given prime importance to Nada Anusandhana which is an integral part of Laya Yoga (about which we will talk about in a separate post). Nada Ansusandhana is attuning the mind to the internal sound which is one of the methods of achieving the state of samadhi. It is said to be the most effective technique of Laya Yoga and Yogi Swatmarama recommends it because it is easier to apply than many other techniques. Essentially it involves elements of Pratyahara, Dharna and Dhyana but in a different way that may appeal to many practitioners.
The last chapter may not be available in many publications. The link for the book published by Kaivalyadham is given below:
The last chapter talks about the problems originating due to the imbalance of the Tridoshas - Pitta, Kapha and Vaata. Also, it includes the therapeutic effects of Yogic techniques (which is one of the primary factors of popularity of Yoga in the modern world).
Hatha Yogapradipika answers many questions that arise in our minds but it must be studied carefully keeping in mind the time and place it was written in. Also, the techniques given may not be suitable for every practitioner, and hence the importance of a Guru is vital. The Asanas, Pranayamas, Mudras and Shatkarmas mentioned in this text can be accessed below.