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Friday, March 2, 2007

Hatha Yoga - The Yoga Of Movement

By Michael Russell



Hatha Yoga can be described as the yoga, which brings about the union of opposing forces. This is inherent in the name of this branch of yoga, since "ha" means sun and "tha" means moon. It is the form of yoga best known in the West and is very suitable for persons who are physically oriented. One of the nice things about yoga is that there are six main kinds, each suited to a different temperament. In addition to Hatha Yoga, there is Raja Yoga, the yoga of meditation, which is best suited to persons of a contemplative nature, Karma Yoga, the yoga of selfless service, best suited to those who are attuned to the idea of serving humanity, Jnana Yoga, the yoga of knowledge, best suited to those who are intellectual and enjoy using their minds, Tantra Yoga, the yoga of ceremonies, which persons who like formal situations would find appealing and Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of love, for those who wish to adore the Divine and reach towards it through their hearts.


The two most important aspects of Hatha Yoga are the postures, or asanas and breath control, or pranayama. The postures help to keep the body flexible, but, most importantly, they help to purify the body and make spiritual progress faster and more successful. The most important element in fostering spiritual progress is the opening of the chakras, energy centers along the spine, which allow spiritual energy or Kundalini, resident in latent form at the base of the spine, to travel up the spine and out of the head's Sahasrara Chakra, thereby elevating the spirit of the practitioner to bring him closer to Cosmic Consciousness. Equally important in this process is pranayama, control of the breath. This, likewise, helps to purify the body, to make faster spiritual progress and, indeed, while doing asanas, the yogi is supposed to focus on the breath, making it conscious breathing.


The postures also have an important effect on meditation. While doing meditation, the aspirant needs to have a posture, which he can hold for a significant period of time. Asanas help with this. The more postures an aspirant can hold for periods of time, the better his meditative experiences. In addition, asanas help with the development of inner meditation techniques. Another purpose of asanas is to bring health and vitality to the body through the opening of nadis.


Pranayama, which is breath control, is beneficial, in that if one can master the breath, mastery of the mind is not far off. Pranayama also enhances the flow of prana, the life force, which is a vital part of the yogic experience. That energy is needed in the more advanced aspects of Hatha Yoga, which eventually lead to Samadhi, or Cosmic Consciousness. One aspect of Pranayama is breathing techniques, which alternate the use of the nostrils. This helps to bring balance to the two hemispheres of the brain.