Hatha Yoga needs to be practiced according to the ‘8 limb yoga‘ path as mentioned by Patanjali. Integrating Raja Yoga practices is the very essence and the secret of the practice of Hatha Yoga.
The ultimate objective of Hatha Yoga, like all Yoga-s, is Samadhi or the end of all suffering. The highest suffering is death. The lower sufferings are the physical diseases, the emotional sadness and the many ups and downs that are part and parcel of the human life and the human body.
Now, other Yogas transcend – through correct and consistent practice ,all suffering through the realization that the consciousness is not the body or the mind-rather it is something birthless and therefore deathless. It is pure energy called spanda which is never born, neither does it die, it simply changes form(see here for more info on spanda)
Hatha Yoga is unique in the fact that apart from this gnosis, it also attempts to physically prolong human life beyond normal life expectancy.
Humans practicing Hatha have been known to live for centuries and if ancient accounts are to be believed, for thousands of years.
So Hatha Yoga has two objectives-to make the physical body disease free and long living and the larger goal of achieving spiritual enlightenment and the end to all mortal suffering.
How does one achieve these super human things through Hatha Yoga and what is the ultimate achievement in Hatha Yoga? One achieves all these great things in Hatha Yoga through Control and the ultimate acheivement of Hatha Yoga is Kevala Kumbhaka or Spontaneous stopping of the breathing process. So Hatha Yoga’s essential practice is physical control to the extent of stopping the very process of organic life-the Breath. But this type of control does not lead to death, it leads to the perfection of all Yoga-s,all knowing wisdom and a diamond-hard, long living body. But this steely control needs to be combined with the fiery experience of the Life force for Hatha Yoga to succeed.
Everybody who has ever had a shocking experience, whether it was seeing a snake rear up before oneself or whether it was a high speed accident or near death experience, will remember that the breath suddenly stops and the mind and senses achieve crystal clarity. If you can remember the incident clearly you will even realise that at that point the senses had become fused into one All -sense and the mind had completely stopped thinking-the body was simply perceiving and doing. In these extreme moments, the body-mind starts functioning automatically, close to perfection. Further, there would have been an intense, almost too intense energisation of the whole body-mind as if we were receiving a huge electric shock from within. This feeling is also similar to that experienced in the most crucial moments of extreme sports and also in the rare sexual moments of total body orgasm.
All these are the signs of the awakening of the internal life force. This internal life force is a small part of the Universal life force and when this internal life force, called Kundalini in yoga is awakened, it rises and the experiences happen. This internal life force then keeps on rising with lightning rapidity until it joins with the Universal life force which is present always as a reflection in our mind, when the thought-lake of the mind is completely still.
Though the rising of the kundalini happens by accident in near death or extremely frightening situations, they can be made to manifest in a controlled way through certain practices and ways of visualising-feeling.
The way of feeling or the attitude that raises the life force is called Bhavana.
The actual movemement of the Life force is called Spandana.
The method of raising this kundalini to its highest level by courageous force and willful control is Hatha Yoga. It is therefore the Forceful Yoga, dangerous, requiring expert guidance and unflagging practice. It is for the few who are Lion hearted and fear neither death nor pain in their search for that which lies beyond.
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