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Hatha Pradipika: A Guide to Yoga Practitioners - Part 1

Updated: 2 days ago

Hatha Pradipika is a seminal text on Hatha Yoga written by Yogi Svatmarama in the 14th century. It extensively details the techniques and methods of Yogic practices. The text is structured according to the Natha tradition clearly and lucidly to do away with the confusion surrounding the yogic practices during the time. Even after centuries of being written, it still holds its importance due to its timeless wisdom and applications.

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Salient features of Hatha Pradipika

Hatha Pradipika is unique in its structure and presentation of the data. Certain key features distinguish Hatha Pradipika from other texts. Let us have a look into them. They are briefly described below.

  • Structure: According to Svatmarama’s Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Hatha Yoga has been described as chaturyoga or divided into four limbs. These are:

  1. Asana (postures)

  2. Pranayama (breath control)

  3. Mudra (hand gestures)

  4. Nadanusandhana (sound practices)

  • Meaning of Hatha: As the name Hatha Yoga implies, it is Yoga through Hatha. Brahmananda, the Sanskrit commentator of Hatha Pradipika, has shed light on the deep meaning of the word “Hatha”. Hatha is composed of the words ‘Ha’ and ‘Tha’. ‘Ha’ refers to the sun or Pingala nadi (right nostril) and ‘Tha’ stands for the moon or Ida nadi (left nostril). Breathing through different nostrils activates different states, which are a key part of pranayama. In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Svatmarama has explained eight types of Pranayama. He has used the word Kumbhaka, which is breath retention, to refer to Pranayama. He has elaborated on the eight types of the Sahita Kumbhaka, which results in the Kevala Kumbhaka.

  • Goal of Hatha Yoga: Yogi Svatmarama emphasizes that Hatha Yoga is a stepping stone to Raja Yoga (Yoga of the Mind), which leads to enlightenment. Even during his time, people practiced Hatha Yoga for physical benefits, and he criticized them, saying that ‘they are only Hathakarmin’ or mere asana practitioners. Yogi found their efforts in vain, as they didn’t result in the attainment of Raja Yoga          

  • Bridging Traditions: Svatmarama tried to create a connection between both the yogic and monastic traditions. He incorporated asanas, which were accepted by both traditions.

  • Ethical Guidelines: It is generally said that there are no particular rules or regulations when it comes to Hatha Yoga. While not explicitly mentioning Yamas and Niyamas (ethical observances), Svatmarama states Sadhaka tatva and Bhadhaka tatva and thus outlines dos and don'ts for yogic success.

  • Mitahara: The text emphasizes a balanced diet suited for yogic practices like the ones prescribed by modern nutritionists. The quality and quantity of food and the mental attitude while eating are the important components of mitahara. The selection of the food depends on the requirements of the practice. Mitahara is elaborately mentioned in the book.

  • Nadanusandhana: Svatmarama gives independent importance to Nadanusandhana, a sound meditation practice, unlike other Hatha Yoga texts. In Gheranda Samhita, Nadanusandhana is placed under Bhramari Kumbhaka, not giving it independent status. However, it is considered as an independent limb of Hatha Yoga and is described in a very elaborate fashion in Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

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