Hatha yoga consists primarily of pranayama, or breath control, asana, or the practice of different postures, and a series of six bandhas, or body purifications. While the author of these words believes that these physical activities cannot help the mind learn or lead to yogic or occult experiences, he acknowledges that when performed correctly, hatha-yoga techniques are very useful to the body. People should regard their bodies like prize animals if they have them, but if it is too much to ask, they should at least provide them with enough exercise, rest, and nutrition. 

Only in this context should the well-known maxim be understood: "No raja without hatha; no hatha without raja." The asanas, or postures, have a few benefits over traditional muscle growth exercises. While these latter do, to some degree, promote healthy breathing and support the nervous system, particularly when used in combination with proper relaxation at appropriate times, hatha-yoga postures often offer suppleness and slenderness, as well as massage to the internal organs. Furthermore, when combined with appropriate (but not excessive) breathing techniques, the entire body gains. 

None of the yoga schools aspire to abnormal strength; a fair level appropriate for ordinary purposes of existence is considered adequate, and anything else could be merely a matter of personal gratification or modesty, rather than the divine enlightenment that the hatha-yogis, raja-yogis, and all other yogis seek, which is devoid of self-satisfaction. In addition, it is worth noting that none of them seeks great mental muscularity (to use a metaphor). If there are some mental giants among them, it's probably due to any supererogation work along that line in their former lives. 

We referred to hatha as the "sun" and "moon" breaths. It enters with the sound of ha and exits with the sound of tha, according to some works. Another theory is that the "sun" and "moon" represent the breaths that pass into the right and left nostrils, respectively. Another viewpoint is that, since the term hatha means "forcefulness," hatha-yoga is a method that, at least in comparison to other yogas, necessitates a lot of energy. As previously mentioned, the thoughts and meditations in such yogas are supposed to be performed without causing any pain in the body. 

We will start with a quote from the Shiva Sanhita to present the image of a traditional type of hatha-yoga breathing: "After drawing air in through the left nostril and closing the right nostril with the thumb of the right hand, the wise man can keep his breath as long as he can before slowly and gently letting it out through the right nostril. Since inhaling deeply through the right nostril, he can hold the air for as long as possible before softly and cautiously exhaling through the left nostril." Let him do it every day, with twenty retentions at dawn, noon, dusk, and midnight, while maintaining a calm mind, and the body's channels will be cleaned in three months. 

The body becomes safe and likeable, emitting a pleasant odor, and there will be good appetite and digestion, cheerfulness, a good figure, bravery, excitement, and stamina. This is the first of four phases of pranayama (breath regulation), and the symptoms are that the body becomes healthy and likeable, emitting a pleasant odor, and there will be good appetite and digestion, cheerfulness, a good figure, courage, enthusiasm, and power." Some ingredients, such as those that are acidic, astringent, pungent, oily, mustardy, and sour, as well as those fried in oil, must be avoided by the swarasadhaka (breath-practicer), as well as various body and mind practices, such as bathing before sunrise, theft, harmfulness, enmity, egotism, cunning, fasting, untruth, cruelty to animals, sexual attachments, fire... etc. 

On the opposite, he can use and appreciate ghi (simmered butter), honey, sweet food, betel without lime, camphor, a strong meditation-chamber with only a small entry, contentment, willingness to learn, doing household chores with vairagya, singing Vishnu's names, hearing sweet music, firmness, persistence, effort, purity, modesty, trust, and assisting the teacher. If you're hungry, have a little milk and butter before practice, just don't practice for a while after you've eaten. It is preferable to consume a small amount of food regularly (at least every three hours) than to eat a large amount of food all at once. If the body sweats, it should be rubbed thoroughly (with the hands). 

These laws do not need to be followed as strictly once the procedure has been well-established." Without sounding a note, one does not want to bring all of these hatha-yoga techniques into print, where they can be read by a variety of people. By doing them without having the proper body and mind requirements, many people have brought upon themselves incurable sickness and even insane. Such warnings abound in old yoga texts, which advise would-be practitioners to seek out an instructor who is well-versed in these matters for personal inspection and guidance. 

The Gheranda Sanhita, for example, states that disease can be contracted if one starts the practices in hot, cold, or rainy weather, as well as if one's diet is not moderate, as only one-half of the stomach can ever be filled with solid food. When the present writer was fourteen or fifteen years old and attempted the long alternative breathing for three quarters of an hour, he discovered that he had lost his sense of touch and weight when he stood up. He carried objects without feeling them and moved without feeling the ground under his feet. After ten to fifteen minutes, the sense returned. According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, breath regulation must be achieved steadily, "as lions, bears, and tigers are tamed," otherwise "the experimenter would be killed," and any error would result in cough, asthma, head, leg, and ear pains, and a variety of other ailments. 

The Shandilya Upanishad also warns against it. Right exercise, on the other hand, can be done by all, including the young and elderly, the sick and the weak, and can result in slenderness and body alignment. The idea behind these meditation techniques is that prana flows between the mind and the body. This term means "principle of existence" which refers to life within the body. The Sanskrit literature that deals with the physiology of the human body thoroughly mentions five essential airs. The leader of these essential airs is often referred to as Prana. The term is derived from the linguistic root "an," which means "to breathe" and therefore "to live." 

In his aphorism on Pranayama, Patanjali refers to it as the control of the manner of action of shwasa and prashwasa, or breathing. In a paper presented at the American Chemical Society's meeting in Detroit in September, the late Dr. Vaman R. Kokatnur, a noted scientist and Sanskrit scholar, quoted a text that states that what is inhaled is prana and what is exhaled is apana. He made a strong argument for these being oxygen and carbon dioxide, with a third "air," udana, being hydrogen, on different grounds. The other two, samana and vyana, are commonly referred to as "important to digestion" and "pervades the whole body." Many people refer to these five airs as "fine" or "etheric," but they are all affected by different breathing techniques. 

Many teachers advise using one unit of time for inbreathing (puraka), four units for keeping the breath inside (Kumbhaka), and two units for outbreathing (rechaka). "When the yogi is able to practice holding the breath for an hour and a half, various siddhis (faculties and powers) arise, including prophecy, travelling at will, sight and hearing at a distance, vision of the invisible worlds, entering others' bodies, turning various metals into gold, invisibility at will," says verse iii of the Shiva Sanhita. More complex breathing techniques, as well as some simpler breathing exercises, are available from a variety of teachers and works. 

The eight items listed below are frequently mentioned: 

  • Practice kumbhaka (holding the breath) before the pressure of air is felt from head to foot, then breathe out through the right nostril; 
  • breathe in deeply and noisily, hold as before, then exhale through the left nostril; 
  • breathe in with a hissing sound with the tongue between the lips; 
  • exhale through both nostrils; 
  • breathe out as completely as possible, then in with a hissing sound, and so on. 
  • Though I'm making cautionary statements about these workouts, I'd like to point out that many people have found value from the following basic exercise. 
  • Inhale deeply while mentally repeating "puraka;" 
  • keep the breath in without exerting any muscle activity while repeating "kumbhaka, kumbhaka, kumbhaka;" 
  • and exhale deeply while repeating "rechaka, rechaka." 

This can be used as a pick-me-up at any time, with only ten repetitions. The student should choose the right slowness or quickness of the words by himself, but all of the words should be the same length. A natural propensity to lengthen them a little may develop over time. Some teachers believe that simply controlling one's breath will eliminate all of the body's impurities, while others believe that some cleansings are also required, especially in the case of people who are flabby and phlegmatic. The below are the six major purifications: Learn to swallow a clean, slightly warm, thin cloth, four fingers wide and fifteen spans long slowly (under the supervision of a teacher).

The six main purifications are as follows: 

  • slowly (under the supervision of a teacher) learn to swallow a clean, slightly warm, thin cloth, four fingers broad and fifteen spans long; 
  • hold on to the end of it, and gradually draw it out again; 
  • take an enema sitting in water and using a small bamboo tube; 
  • shake well and dispel; 
  • draw a fine thread, twelve fingers long, in at one nostril and out at the mouth; 
  • draw a fine thread, twelve fingers long, in at.

These actions are said to cure obesity and a variety of other ailments. The Gheranda Sanhita has a much larger collection—about twenty-four purifications—that includes swallowing air with lips formed "like the beak of a crow" and expelling it from below; doing the same with water; gently pressing the intestines towards the spine one hundred times, massaging the depression at the bridge of the nose (especially after waking and after meals); vomiting by tickling the intestines; and vomiting by tickling the intestines. 

The postures are inextricably linked to the complex rituals of pranayama (asanas). Usually, eighty-four are mentioned, but the Shiva [paragraph continues] Sanhita only recommends four: "The Adept Seat," "The Lotus Seat," "The Powerful Seat," and "The Swastika Seat." These are briefly as follows: body straight, legs crossed, one heel at the anus, the other at the front, gaze between the eyebrows, chin on breast; legs folded with femur on breast; legs folded with femur on breast; The Hatha Yoga Pradipika recommends four asanas in particular, two of which are the same and two of which are distinct. 

Yoga Asanas by Swami Shivananda of Rishikesh in the Himalayas is an outstanding contemporary text on pranayama, asanas, and other topics. The Swami describes a wide variety of postures with examples, including Sukhasana, or "good pose," which I defined and suggested for the West in my Practical [paragraph continues] Yoga: Ancient and Modern. He also has both basic and more complex breathing techniques, which are also very beneficial. Now we'll look at another form of yoga known as laya yoga. 

Laya is a word that means "hidden" or "in the dark." The research and practice of kundalini and the chakras are unique aspects of this yoga. Kundalini is defined as a force that lies in three and a half coils in a cavity near the base of the spine, like a sleeping serpent. This is thought to be a deity or force, "luminous as lightning," which, though asleep, keeps all living things alive. She's lying there with her head blocking the sushumna, a fine channel that runs right up the spine. Some also dubbed it the fount of bodily electricity to connect it to modern thinking. 

The object of laya-yoga is to awaken the kundalini (or "coiled one"), who will hiss and then be carried through the sequence of six chakras (literally, "wheels") that are threaded upon the channel at different points in the body, including the base of the spine, the root of the penis, the navel, the groin, the throat, and the brows. These chakras are represented as flowers rather than wheels, with four, six, eight, twelve, sixteen, and two petals, respectively. The number of works detailing these chakras and the impact of meditation on or in them is much too great to list. They're depicted with a lot of symbolism. 

The anahata chakra (at the heart), for example, has a yantra or pattern with twelve petals, each bearing a different letter of the alphabet. A pair of interlaced triangles in the center circle have the syllable "yam" written in the middle of them (which is a mantra or sound which can produce some effect when properly repeated). This yam is depicted riding a black antelope, and a character portraying male divinity is positioned in its final sound, m, which is written as a dot. He goes by the name Isha, has three eyes, and makes movements to dispel terror and give boons with his paws. 

The female divinity Kakini, sitting on a red lotus with golden color, clad in yellow robes, wearing all sorts of jewels and a garland of bones, is nearby, in the pericarp of the lotus (for the chakras are also called lotuses). She has four weapons, two of which are holding a noose and a bone, and the other two are giving boons and dispelling terror. An inverted triangle as brilliant as lightning sits in the middle, above the interlaced triangles, and inside it is a golden Shiva symbol with a crescent moon surmounted by a dot on its head. The petals and pericarp of this chakra, like all padmas (lotus flowers), are brilliantly colored. 

In this limited space, it is impossible to decipher the meanings of all these letters, colors, and symbols, let alone give the symbols of the other five padmas. Each chakra has its own symbol, color scheme, animal, deities, letters, and so on. It will be certain that the yogi will have much to worry about as he meditates in both of them as he progresses. The excellent translation of the Shatchakra Nirupana by Arthur Avalon, with annotations, is a gold mine of knowledge on the topic, but the diligent reader can also read minor Upanishads, Puranas, and general works on yoga that touch on the subject. There is some contradictory testimony on the matter of colors, divinities, and so on, but this does not detract from the overall unity of details on any of the major features. 

There is a poetical rather than an exact summary of what happens when the kundalini grows in all of the literature on the matter. The spine is known as the body's "axis of development." Within that is the channel sushumna; within that, vajroli; and within that, chitrini, "as fine as a spider's cord." The lotuses are said to be threaded "like knots on a bamboo rod" on this tube. As the yogi uses his willpower, Kundalini gradually rises. In one lesson, he takes her as far as he can, and as she pierces each of the lotuses, the profile, which was previously turned downwards, transforms upwards, and when the meditation is completed, he returns her to her home at the base of the spine. 

It is also clarified that when she leaves each chakra on her way up, she withdraws the functions of that heart, making them latent, hence the name laya-yoga, or Suspension Yoga. It's only normal that, when more focus is paid to the higher thinking, the lower responses become latent, as when we're reading and don't hear or see anyone enter the space. Kundalini rises until she meets the great "thousand-petalled lotus" at the crown of the head, which is above all six chakras. She embraces the ecstasy and strength of union with the root of all creation there, and then, when she returns through the cores, she purifies and enhances each of its unique energies. 

The method of raising kundalini to its highest point is generally thought to take years, although there are certain rare cases where it can be accomplished easily. The hatha-yoga works provide an intriguing perspective on the mind in regards to both of these issues. The Hatha-Yoga Pradipika expresses it in a few chapters. "The eye is the lord of the senses; the breath is the lord of the mind; and nada is the lord of the mind." "There's talk of laya, laya, but what exactly does it entail? Laya is the absence of new vasanas as well as the forgetting of external things." 

Some minor Upanishads, such as the Shukla-Muktika, Yajurveda's have a related concept. Although a brief description of these practices would be inadequate if the mudras, or physical practices, and the nadas, or internal sounds, were not included. The mudras, though similar to the purifications in several ways, are used to gain pleasure or strength, as well as to awaken kundalini, as it is believed that kundalini can be awakened by asanas (postures), kumbhakas (breath holdings), and mudras. About the fact that there are many mudras, only ten are commonly recommended. 

The practice of supporting the body on the palms of the hands and gently pounding the posteriors on the ground to awaken kundalini is one of the most common. It is often thought to eliminate wrinkles and grey hair. Another method, which is strongly recommended, is to gradually cut the membrane under the tongue ("one hair's breadth every seven days") and rub it with salt and turmeric to prevent the detached pieces from joining. 

The tongue is often eventually lengthened by a method similar to milking, so that after six months, the yogi will transform it upwards into the cavity at the back of the palate and contemplate kundalini and "drink the nectar" streaming there with the hole closed and the air suspended. Another physical technique includes an hour and a half of massage every morning and evening for up to 45 days. Another involves crossing one's foot behind the neck. It's worth noting that even those raja yogis who don't believe in the external methods of kundalini awakening, or even meditation on it, believe that kundalini spontaneously awakens and rises as a result of the strictly internal meditations they perform. This happens gradually, but there is no strong sensation of pressure in the body, as is always the case.

This is performed gradually so that there is no intense sensation of discomfort in the body, which is always the case where hatha-yoga techniques are used. The purifying and sublimating effects of the return path through the chakra awaken clairvoyance and related forces in both situations, but what the yogi sees depends on his state of mind, and even then, his perception of what he sees depends on his evolutionary position. There is plenty of space for confusion, and his own and others' feelings can easily be misinterpreted as factual truths, as in dreams. 

Some of the works recommend doing a "elephant mudra," which entails standing up to the neck in water, inhaling through the nostrils, exhaling through the lips, and repeating the procedure. Elephants in lakes and rivers do something similar, but they only use their trunks and not their mouths. We've arrived at the nadas, or vibrations. The Shiva Sanhita instructs the yogi to use the thumbs to close the ears, the index fingers to close the eyes, the middle fingers to close the nostrils, and the remaining four fingers to close the mouth. He can begin to hear the mystic sounds after some practice. 

The first sound would be like a bee's hum, followed by a flute, and finally a vina. Through further practice, the sound of bells becomes audible, followed by thunder. The yogi's mind becomes engulfed in these sounds, and he forgets about something else that could distract him. These sounds are known as anahata, which means "belonging to the heart base." According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, when the ears, eyes, nose, and mouth are closed, a distinct sound is heard—at first like tinkling ornaments, then like kettledrums, and finally the flute and vina. Bells and horns can be heard during the middle level. 

The yogi must concentrate on the more delicate vibrations. The Nadabindu Upanishad follows the Hatha Yoga Pradipika's sound order, listing the sound of the sea, clouds, waterfalls, and kettledrums in stage one, drums, bells, and horns in stage two, and tinkling bells, flutes, vinas, and bees in stage three. The Hansa Upanishad provides the order in a more Shiva Sanhita-like manner. Soft chattering sounds are followed by bells, conches, lutes, cymbals, flutes, drums, double drums, and finally thunder. The nada laya, or "echo absorption," is thought to be a powerful concentrating aid. 

In hatha-yoga texts, samadhi, the highest practice of yoga, is formulated in a rather materialistic way. The theory is that a yogi in samadhi is unaffected by everything beyond because his senses have been dormant, and he has lost all knowledge of himself and others. While the Gheranda Sanhita claims that samadhi entails the individual's union with the supreme Self (Paratman) so that "I am Brahma and no other; Brahma am I, without any sorrows; I am of the nature of fundamental life, knowledge and bliss, always free and self-supporting," it also suggests that various mudras or physical practices, such as turning the tonus, be used to achieve this.