The essence of Hatha Yoga (Kundalini)


Hatha Yoga is traditionally defined as part of Raja Yoga. It is composed of the terms Ha (sun) and Tha (moon). Hatha Yoga is believed to balance the flow of energy in the body, ignite vital energy or prana through breathing exercises and postures, and ultimately lead to the ignition of Kundalini energy, which is said to be dormant at the base of the spine. When Hatha Yoga is practiced fully, it becomes true Kundalini Yoga.

Hatha Yoga has six components: Ethical guidelines (yama and niyama), postures (asana), control/expansion of breath or energy (pranayama), energy locks (bandhas) and six cleansing techniques (shat kriyas).

Health Benefits

Hatha Yoga is generally practiced for health reasons. In this form, he gained enormous popularity in the West. Most people who practice simple postures and breathing techniques experience significant health benefits. Regular practice has been shown to strengthen core muscles, reduce tension in major muscle groups and ligaments, strengthen and stretch extremities, improve digestion, stimulate the endocrine system, improve hormonal balance, increase blood flow to all areas of the body, decreased joint discomfort, increased oxygen flow, and the list can go on.

It’s no wonder that Hatha Yoga – and every other iconic version of this physical approach – has become so popular in the West. With all its health benefits and relaxing qualities, those who haven’t tried it yet should take the first step and convince themselves.

Seven categories of postures

When practicing Hatha Yoga, especially positions (asanas), be sure to include practices from all of the following seven categories to achieve the major health benefits.

1) Warm-ups and strengthening; sun salutations, plank, Indian push-ups, core and back strengthening, warrior pose and other standing poses.

2) inverted postures; handstand (advanced), handstand and plow, or other poses that invert the body and increase blood flow to the abdomen, spine, and head.

3) forward turns; sitting or standing bends forward to stretch the back of the legs, spine and back, and to massage the internal organs.

4) back turns; cobra, bridge, wheel, fish, bow or other similar poses that bend the spine to stimulate the kidneys, relieve tension in the back, stretch the abdomen, hips, front of the legs and neck, stimulate the thyroid and in some cases massage the internal organs.

5) Torsion of the spine; spinal twists standing or lying down to soften the spine, massage the internal organs and stimulate/balance the nervous system.

6) meditation postures; lotus, half-lotus, cross-legged or sitting on the heels, back straight and head, neck and spine aligned vertically.

7) Relaxation poses; like the corpse pose to relax the body and assimilate all the benefits of physical practice.

Any variation of Hatha Yoga, regardless of brand, must consist of at least one pose from each of these categories and include breathing practices to provide the full benefits of Hatha Yoga.

Vital energy (prana)

The ultimate goal of Hatha Yoga focuses on the control and expansion of Vital Energy or prana. According to ancient texts of yoga philosophy, control of prana can result in the ignition of Kundalini (intense spiritual energy that generates instantaneous enlightenment according to the scriptures). But, according to Yogi Shanti Desai, the concept of Kundalini is very theoretical, while increased control of prana is available to everyone.

Pranayama, bandhas and mudras

Control and expansion of prana is achieved through breath (pranayama), energy locks (bandhas), and controlled postures (mudras), which resemble asanas but are held for longer periods. These practices require the body to be healthy, strong, flexible, and free from tension and restlessness. Breath control ultimately leads to better control of prana, which flows through energy channels called nadis, a system very similar to the nervous system.

Nervous system of the astral body

Yoga philosophy makes a clear distinction between the nerves and the nadis, holding that the 72,000 nadis are the nervous system of the astral body. Of the reported 72,000 nadis, there are three main energy channels: Ida (feminine current), Pingala (male current) and Shushumna, the primary energy channel which lies next to the spine.

Interestingly, the three energy channels form the international medical sign, which is a staff (Shushumna) enveloped by two serpents (Ida and Pingala).

The Seven Chakras

Along the spinal path or Shushumna there would be seven energy wheels or chakras, from the coccyx to the crown of the head. The end goal of Hatha or Kundalini Yoga is to control prana or life energy in such a way that the energy flows evenly through the channels of Ida and Pingala, thus igniting the Kundalini energy at the base of the spine and channeling it through Shushumna. , igniting every chakra or wheel of energy along the way.

Increase prana control

The ideology surrounding Kundalini energy is very seductive. However, my two teachers, Yogi Shanti Desai and Sri Yogi Hari, say they have not fully awakened this energy despite decades of practice. On the other hand, both have increased control over their vital energy or prana. This should be the goal of the average yoga practitioner.

Kundalini Warnings

In most yoga books I have read, the yoga practitioner is cautioned against attempting to awaken or ignite the Kundalini energy prematurely, especially without the guidance of an experienced teacher who has already mastered the path (of which there may be less than reported). The reason is that this energy would be extremely powerful and possibly volatile. Minor physical aches, pains, and mental instabilities (such as obsessions, depression, and other mental illnesses) can increase exponentially if the practitioner ignites Kundalini energy prematurely.

The warnings indicate that premature ignition can lead to serious health problems and even lead to insanity. This is one more reason why it is important to practice physical cleaning (shat kriyas) and increase mental resilience following ethical guidelines (yama and niyama).

Basic Hatha Yoga is Safe

Practicing postures and breathing exercises related to Hatha Yoga has positive effects, as long as the practitioner does not abuse energy locks (bandhas) and controlled postures (mudras).

The main goal of Hatha Yoga for the regular practitioner should be to condition the body to sit for long periods of time without becoming stiff or restless, thus allowing the practitioner to enter the state of meditation.

Swami Sivananda said:

“Health is the greatest wealth; peace of mind is the greatest blessing. Yoga gives you both.

Gudjon Bergman
Author, coach and columnist

ps I have been teaching yoga since 19998, have studied with Yogi Shanti Desai and Sri Yogi Hari, and am registered at the highest level with Yoga Alliance. This article is taken from my book titled Know Thyself: The Philosophy of Yoga Made Accessible

Image: CC0 License

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