Hatha Yoga- Emphasis on Shatkarma

In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika the first things we see is that Swatmarama, one outstanding personality who compiled the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, does not worry at all about self-control and self-discipline in the form of Yama and Niyama. The order here is very different. He begins by saying that you should first purify the whole body- the stomach, intestines, nervous system and other system. There, shatkarma (six cleansing techniques) comes first, i.e. Neti, Dhauti, Basti, Kapalbhati, Trataka, and Nauli. Hatha Yoga begins with these practices.

However, shatkarma alone does not constitute the whole of Hatha Yoga. After shatkarma you should practice Asana and Pranayama. Self-control and self-discipline should start with the body. This is much easier. Asana is discipline; Pranayama is discipline; Kumbhaka (retention of breath) is self-control. Sit in Padmasana (lotus pose) for fifteen minutes. That is self-discipline. Why do you fight with the mind first? You have no power to wrestle with the mind, yet you wrestle with it, thereby creating a pattern of animosity towards yourself.

There are not two minds, there is one mind trying to split itself into two. One mind wants to break the discipline and the other mind wants to maintain the discipline. You can find this split in everybody. When this split becomes greater, we call it schizophrenia.

This danger was clearly realized by the authorities and masters of Hatha Yoga. Therefore, they said, first discipline the body. They explained what they meant by body. The subtle elements (tattwas), the energy channels (nadis), within the body should be purified. The behavior of the vital force (prana), the entire nervous system and the various secretions in the body should be properly maintained and harmonized.

After this one should go on to practice Mudras like Vajroli, Sahajoli, Khechari, Shambhavi, Vipareetkarani and others. In this way it will be possible to develop deep meditation. These practices will induce Pratyahara and lead into Dharana, Dhayana and Samadhi.

Sw. Satyananda Saraswati


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