WHAT IS HATHA YOGA?
~Doing HATHA YOGA feels good!! But, Hatha Yoga is much more than just another exercise routine. To make Hatha Yoga just exercise for money taught by basically anyone, is to insult millions of Hindus and otherwise cheapen an extremely profound aspect of Hinduism. The asanas (postures) are a wonderful dance of fluid postures that induce a most tranquil feeling within the body, the nervous system, the mind and emotions. When (as pure awareness) we observe the relaxed body, mind and emotions, the attention is free to dive deep into the spirit/soul/atma within. Hatha Yoga is most definately a spiritual/religious experience. Of course (as you will clearly see) like all aspects of Classical Yoga, the spiritual disciplines of Hatha Yoga are part of the religious path of Sanatan Dharma also known as Hinduism.
~Hatha Yoga is that aspect of Classical Yoga/Hinduism that concerns the physical postures (asanas); i.e., stretching, breathing and relaxation exercises. In the west, this is the most popular aspect of the many facets (hence the term, classical) of Yoga. In fact, many have (erroneously) simply used the word "Yoga" to mean what should properly be called Hatha Yoga. These beneficial exercises are designed to not only bring about a limber state of physical relaxation but also to help calm the mind and emotions in order to, ultimately, tap into the soul/spirit within. With a solid ethical (Karma Yoga) and devotional (Bhakti Yoga) foundation, the student practices Hatha Yoga to further enhance the journey to Spiritual/Self-Realization. Self-Realization recognizes that each one is divine at the core of their being. This is the essence of Sanatan Dharma/Hinduism (the religion of Classical Yoga): "Tat Tvam Asi" or "Thou Art That."
~Anyone is, of course, free to study any form of Classical Yoga/Hinduism including Hatha Yoga. One certainly does not have to be a Hindu or ever become a Hindu to study these profound spiritual disciplines. One should always be able to freely study any religion without feeling pressured into a formal commitment. In fact, it is a very good sign to see many non-Hindus desiring to at least respect if not learn more about he ancient and contemporary religion of
Sanatan Dharma/Hinduism. Learning something about the many religions of the world demonstrates a very mature attitude. Of course if one seriously desires to formally adopt or convert to Hinduism, this can be a most joyous and rewarding decision. However, what is not a good sign today is the trend to divorce so-called "YOGA" from its intrinsic Hindu roots. To deny the essence of something is to be unethical from the start. Therefore it should be obvious that while the student does not have to be a Hindu (Buddhist, Jain or Sikh), certainly the ethical teacher must be a qualified member of one of these religious traditions. This should be common sense. This demonstrates not only an ethical foundation (Karma Yoga) but also the serious commitment that any true spiritual teacher must be willing to make. Also, true to genuine spiritual teachings, intimate spiritual instruction is always given free of charge. The grateful student donates as a sign of respect and gratitude.
~Of course, like all aspects of classical Yoga, the "soul" purpose of HATHA YOGA is Spiritual-Realization. The Divine nature is within each and everyone right now just "waiting" to be uncovered. This Spiritual/Self-Realization is something you will never "get" because you already have it! This is the conner-stone of the Yoga philosophy that is the religion of Hinduism; i.e., "Tat Tvam Asi" or "Thou Art That." Of course, if we are not experiencing "That," we obviously feel something is missing. This is the point(s) in our many lifetimes when we begin the journey to "link-back" ("religio/religion") or "to yoke" ("yuj/yoga") to the spirit. Throughout time, humanity has sought to find "That" which is actually always within. The differing ways we travel on this spiritual journey define the many religions of the world. While Classical Yoga/Hinduism is of course a specific religious path with unique terminology, scriptures, rituals, etc., an essential tenet of Hinduism is the recognition of the validity of the many religious paths. "EKAM SAT VIPRA BAHUDHA VADANTI" or "Truth is One, Sages call it by different names." Theologically, this is both Monism and Theism. Another famous saying (Mahavakya) of the Hindu religion is: "SARVA IDAM BRAHMA" or "Spiritual-Reality ("God" if you will) is everywhere." This is truly the meaning of the word "omnipresent."
~ Let us look further into the intrinsic (Hatha) Yoga/Hindu connection. Of course, the terminology is all Sanskrit the prayer language of Hinduism. Remember the word "Yoga" simply means "spiritual union," therefore, for the sake of clarity, we always preface "yoga" with the specific spiritual discipline that leads to a union with the spirit/soul. All devout Hindus live a spiritual/religious lifestyle incorporating the various forms of yoga. For example, in Karma Yoga (the first yoga in what are progressive spiritual disciplines) one seeks spiritual union/harmony through living an ethical life of selfless service (good karma). In Hatha Yoga, one seeks spiritual union by taking care of and observing primarily the body. Of course, the mind and emotions also come into play. The word "Ha/Tha" means "Sun/Moon." This refers to nature worship or Pantheism. (Within the vast scope of Hinduism [one of the world's most ancient and contemporary religions] every aspect of theology and philosophy is included.)
~Remember, the words "Sanatan Dharma" (the original [and still used] term for what is today known as Hinduism) mean "Eternal Truth" or the Truth of the Omnipresence of the Spirit. This realization of the Divine "interconnectedness" of all things is clearly evident from the many asanas dedicated to the worship of nature and its creatures (remember "to worship" means "to respect and revere").
ASANAS DEDICATED TO THE WORSHIP OF NATURE
SURIYA NAMASKAR to the SUN
CHANDRASANA to the MOON
TADASANA to the MOUNTAIN
VRIKSHASANA to the TREE
PADMASANA to the LOTUS
ASANAS DEDICATED TO THE CREATURES
MATSYASANA to the FISH
NARASIMHASANA to the LION
KURMASANA to the TURTLE
SALABHASANA to the LOCUST
BHEKASANA to the FROG
VATAYANASANA to the HORSE
GOMUKHASANA to the COW
USTRASANA to the CAMEL
KUKKUTASANA to the COCK
BAKASANA to the CRANE
MAYURASANA to the PEACOCK
HAMSASANA to the SWAN
BHUJANGASANA to the SNAKE
~Reading like a "who's who" of the Vedas (the Vedas are to Hinduism what the Bible is to Christianity, for example), the unquestionable Hatha Yoga/Hindu connection is further exemplified in the many asanas dedicated to various Hindu saints and most significantly to the Spiritual Beings unique to the religion of Hinduism. Hinduism recognizes both the "Oneness" (Monism) and "Manyness" (Polytheism).
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