About Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga is a part of Raja Yoga. Both these yoga are therefore, the necessary counterparts of each other. "Ha-tha", term is actually derived of two Sanskrit words, "ha" meaning sun, and "tha" meaning moon. So hatha yoga is actually the "union of the sun and moon". This refers to bringing together our light and dark sides, our masculine (strength) and feminine (gentle) sides, our stable nature and our changing nature. In addition to sun-moon, Hatha also means energy and flexibility.

Concept

Yoga or the union with God gives us the ability to carry out our day-to-day tasks with vigour and alertness, without excessive fatigue and with abundant energy. Increasingly, yoga is being professed and accepted as the link between body and mind. The practice of Hatha Yoga, based on physical postures and controls, has become ever more popular. Breathing exercises have resulted in decrease blood pressure and lower levels of stress hormones, and stretching the body through various asanas promotes efficient drainage of the lymphatic vessels while the holding posture is proven to aid toning up muscle. Yoga improves one’s productivity irrespective of age, gender or profession. The focus is on the end goal of yoga, which is union of the soul with the ultimate God.

Traditional Hatha Yoga is a wholesome yogic path, including moral disciplines, physical exercises (e.g., asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breath control), and Meditation. The Hatha yoga primarily practiced in the West consists of mostly asanas (postures) and exercise.

** Although Pranayama and Meditation are the part of hatha yoga but we have covered them in different chapters to make their concept more clear.

Hatha Yoga represents opposite energies like: hot and cold, male and female, positive and negative. Hatha yoga attempts to balance mind and body through physical exercises, or "asanas", controlled breathing, and the calming of the mind through relaxation and meditation. Asanas teach poise, balance & strength and are practiced to improve the body's physical health and clear the mind in preparation for meditation in the pursuit of enlightenment.

Have you ever been to a lake, or on a mountain, or just about anywhere at sunrise or sunset? Did you notice how calm and still the world become? This feeling that comes at the joining of day and night, the union of sun and moon, is the goal of Hatha Yoga. It makes the body become comfortable and steady so that it is able to attain self control and realize the state of bliss.

As a learner, the practitioner will perform of hatha yoga as a form of physical exercise that challenges and refines his/her flexibility, physical strength and balance. This yoga adds another facet to their life with a matching development in emotional strength that will help to handle the challenges of life with a balanced temperament.

Hatha yoga mostly prepares the body for the divine path through physical and breathing exercises, and asceticism. It prepares and nourishes the body so that the mind can practice meditation largely without obstacles. Therefore, it concentrates only on third and fourth step of raja yoga. It deals with the practice of the postures (asanas) and breathing technique (Pranayama) to control the nadis (nerves).

Exercising the asanas in hatha yoga has two important objectives.

  • First is to bring the health and energy to the body and mind by opening the (nadis) nerves.
  • Second objective is to master at least one posture in which one can be comfortable for a longer duration of time. Thus, to strengthen the power of will and concentration and not paying much attention to the worthless thoughts brought in the mind by sensory organs. When the asanas are regularly performed, slowly and gradually control on the body and mind is achieved.

SHAT KARAMAS:

SUTRA NETI: Sutra Neti is one of classic Shat Karmas (Six Cleansing Activities) of ancient Hatha Yoga. It acts as a significant synergist in accelerating the yogic process as inscribed by the unimpeachable treatises on Hatha Yoga and Yoga Hygiene. As water cleansing or bathing of the nasal cavities instinctively removes irritants, dust and impurities from the nasal passages and is thus usefully relaxing. In addition to this, Sutra Neti also helps in stimulating and toning the nerves, glands, and organs of the whole nasal and cranial area including the eyes, sinuses, ears, and skull. In India, it has been a specific and traditional treatment for lethargy, sinus headaches, eye and ear complaints, congestion, heaviness of the head, excess kapha (mucus), lack of alertness, opening of the third eye, and other similar problems.

Sutra Neti - Nasal Cleansing Using a Cord

This is very useful technique of keeping the nasal passages open to their maximum capacity. It is performed by passing a cord made of cotton threads or a rubber catheter into the nose through one nostril and then out through the mouth. The cord is gently pulled to and fro for some time, removed and then threaded through the other nostril and out the mouth again. It is also possible to pass the cord in one nostril and take it out from the other. For all those who have been trying Jal Neti, the technique of Sutra Neti is highly recommended. Sutra Neti should be learned under the guidance of an experienced teacher. It is adviceable to smooth and straighten the tip of the string while maintaining a slightly downward direction of the tip throughout the insertion, so that when the tip goes under the medial bottom lip of the nasal-pharyngeal valve at the entrance to the throat, it points downward toward the mouth. It is not necessary to grab the string with the fingers and pull it back and forth through the nose. 99% of the benefit is gained simply by passing the string up to and through the nasal-throat valve while gently massaging the nasal membranes, which reflex back to the powerful group of nerves, which serves commonly the entire skull. Inserting the fingers to grab the end of the string or even the end of the string itself touching the back of the throat can cause a choking reflex with some. Going slowly and breathing consciously helps a lot. The entire procedure can take less than ten seconds after a little practice.

Under no circumstances should pain be experienced during the insertion. If pain occurs, it is a sign of going too fast, the string has become pointed in the wrong direction, and/or is caught up against the nasal wall, or some other obstruction exists. In this case back off the pressure immediately and twist the string in one direction or the other until a clear unobstructed passage through the cave is found. Soon the misty and mysterious dark passage will become a bright and clear one.

Few people can perform this cleansing activity completely on the very first try, while others may take up to a month or longer. At first, take your time, very slowly and gently easing the string forward, enjoying its' cleansing effects, and always breathing deeply. It is common to feel tickled and to sneeze much at first and to eliminate copious mucous from the sinus so have handkerchiefs or tissues. Before and after usage it is advisable to rinse the string in warm water (or in specialized cases medicated oils). Then place straight to dry.

Sutra Neti is one of the most powerful and beneficial, yet one of the most simple, of the Hatha Yoga shat karmas. It is best performed soon after rising in conjunction with the rest of the morning cleansing activities.

Jal Neti - Nasal Cleansing Using Water

The shuddikriya for the cleaning of the nasal path is known as neti. The aim of the process is to purify the breathing path right from the nostrils to the throat.If the aim is achieved using water, the process is known as Jalneti.

Well, to put it simply, jalaneti is a cleansing practice of the sinus passages with warm saline water. Yogis have practiced it for centuries for its innumerable and powerful benefits. It is also called Neti or Saline Nasal Irrigation. In yoga, it has been used for its extremely powerful physical, psychological and spiritual benefits. However, in the modern world - fed on an attitude of immediate gains - jalaneti has gained immense popularity because of its dramatic effect on the sinuses.

Jal Neti: Method (Stage 1)

  • Step1 : Nasal cleansing can be performed over a sink,a bowl on a table, in the shower or outside.
  • Step2 : First fill the Neti Pot with warm water at temperature apt for pouring in the nose.
  • Step3 : Place the nose cone into the right nostril, sealing it inside the nostril with a few twists and slight pressure.
  • Step4 : Now slowly bend forward from the waist so that the tip of the nose is the lowest point of the head. Keep breathing slowly and gently through the mouth. After the water begins to run, wait about 30 seconds for about half a pot to flow right to left, and then remove the pot and stand up.
  • Step5 : Before changing sides, blow out gently through both nostrils to clear water and mucus from the nose.
  • Step6 : Repeat steps 2 & 3 as above, but with the nose cone entering the left nostril and the flow of water going left to right. After the pot runs dry, stand up, blow out gently through both nostrils and then prepare to dry out the nose.
  • Step7 : If after doing the above steps, there is still a mucus blockage; the whole process may be repeated several times until it clears.
  • Drying Of Nose:
    • Drying the nose properly is a very important part of Jal Neti. Never neglect to do this part properly. People with high blood pressure should be careful of this part. If dizziness occurs while drying, it should then be done standing upright.
    • First bend forwards from the waist and hang the head upside down with the nose pointing towards the floor, letting any residual water drain from the nose. Then point the nose towards the knees.In each position, gently breathe in the mouth and out the nose about 10 times. A few droplets of water may run down.
    • Stand up to do some quick breathing through the nostrils. First, do 10 breaths through both nostrils together, sniffing in and out moderately with a bit more stress on the inhalation. If it feels as if there is still some water in there, repeat the whole drying process again. Failure to dry the nose properly may manifest the symptoms of a cold for several hours, or leaving dirty water in the sinus passages or eustachian tubes may result in infection.

Jal Neti: Method (Stage 2)

The second stage of Jal Neti is actually called Vyutkrama Kapalbhati, or sinus bellowing. It’s a more advanced and powerful practice; hence one should first master the simpler version of Stage 1.

Jal Neti: Stage 2 (b)

Inhale the water through each nostril separately than spat out of the mouth than do both simultaneously.
Do not swallow; Dry the nose completely to avoid infection.

Jal Neti: Stage 3

The third stage or method is a little more difficult and advanced again. This is called Sheetkarma Kapalbhati.
Take warm salty water in through the mouth and snort out of the nose. This is quite complicated at first and may be a little uncomfortable in the beginning. The benefits are similar yet stronger than the other forms of Neti. It is done after a potful of Stages 1 & 2. Again care must be taken to dry the nasal passages properly.

Benefits of Jal Neti

Vyut Krama Jal Neti:

This is the simplest kind of Neti. Take a cup of water (cold or luke warm). Put some salt according to taste and hold it in front of the nose so that the nostrils dip into the water. Then gently inhale the water and it will very easily pass through the nasal canal and come into the mouth. If the first attempt is not successful the second or the third attempt if done with a strong will must carry the water into the mouth. The first two three draughts of water must be expelled through the mouth and then the water may either let pass into the stomach or thrown out as liked. The quantity of water that we intake may be gradually increased up to half a litre.

Benefits of Vyut Krama Jal Neti

  1. This process clears the clogged up mucus in the air passage which obstructs the free movement of air.
  2. It stimulates the tiny nerves and the tender mucus membrane in the nostrils.
  3. It aids in supplying the necessary moisture to the mucus membrane which in turn removes the dust, thus making the breathing easy.
  4. It has soothing effect on the brain.
  5. It improves eyesight.
  6. Practicing with cold water may hardened the nasal cavity making it cold proof and even the cold wintery wind will no longer produce cold and irritation.

Dugdha Neti - Neti with Milk

Usage of milk in the Neti pot, pre-warmed to body temperature, is suitable for those who may suffer chronic nose bleeds or those who initially find intense irritation from the use of salty water. Milk Neti can be done in instances where airborne chemicals or particles have already stripped and/or irritated the nasal lining, for example after sanding plaster or fibreglass. It is best done after a normal pot of warm salty water of Stages 1 and 2. It is not needed that the milk should flow through from one side to the other for half a pot as in the water methods. It only fills the ingoing nostril and is then withdrawn. Once from each side is adequate. Milk Neti should not be done without qualified advice for your specific problem, and even then, it should not be done excessively.

Dhauti - Internal Cleansing

A strip of wet cloth, four angulas wide (3") and fifteen hands (1¼ metres) in length, is stoutly swallowed and, then taken out, as instructed by the guru. This is known as dhauti. ("Hatha Yoga Pradipika" 2:24)

Dhauti is divided, into four parts. According to the "Gherand Samhita" they are called antar (internal) dhauti, danta (teeth) dhauti, hrid (cardiac) dhauti, and moola shodhana (rectal cleansing). The practice described in this verse is actually vastra dhauti. 'Vastra' means 'cloth', this practice must only be performed under expert guidance and in full accordance with the instructions given :
The cloth should be of finely woven cotton which is clean and new. Synthetic material should definitely not be used. The cloth must also be trimmed neatly so that no fraying takes place. It should be no wider than the tongue or it will fold as it passes down the throat, and should be at least one meter and no more than a meter and a half in length.

Technique

  • Wash, rinse and boil the cloth well - keep it in a container of warm water while you are practicing.
  • Squat with the heels on the ground and buttocks off the ground or resting - on a brick or something of the same height -relax the body.
  • Keep the cloth spread and not folded as you use it.
  • Spread one end over the tongue and start swallowing the cloth.
  • If it catches in the throat and will not pass down, take a sip of warm water, but do not drink a large quantity.
  • The stomach is to be filled with the cloth and not with water - the cloth tends to stick in the lowest point of the throat, so keep swallowing it and resist the urge to vomit.
  • Once (the cloth passes a little further down the oesophagus the problem will end -when two-thirds of the cloth have been swallowed, leave the remaining few inches hanging out of the mouth and stand up ready to practise nauli - the cloth can be left in the stomach for five to twenty minutes but no longer - practice dakshina (right) and vama (left) nauli; then rotations and madhyama nauli.
  • Five to ten minutes is sufficient time to clean the stomach - sit again in the squatting position and remove the cloth.

Vatsara dhauti

Vatsara dhauti is performed by breathing in slowly through the mouth in kaki mudra and then swallowing the air into the stomach while expanding the abdomen. It can be done up to ten times or until the stomach is fully expanded. Then the air should be passed through the large intestine. To do this it is helpful to assume an inverted posture. Pashinee mudra is best. The air should then pass out of the anus easily.

Shankha Prashalana

Varisara dhauti is more commonly known today as shankhaprakshalana. In this practice you drink a total of sixteen glasses of warm salty water and evacuate it through the bowels. First you drink two glasses and perform a series of five specific asanas: tadasana, tiryaka tadasana, kati chakrasana, tiryaka bhujangasana and udarakarshan asana. After every two glasses the asanas should be performed until the water starts flowing out of the anus. Once clear water starts coming through, you will know that the stomach and intestines are perfectly clean and you can stop the practice.

Forty-five minutes after completing the practice, a saltless liquid mixture of cooked rice, mung dal, and ghee has to be eaten until the stomach is completely full. There are dietary restrictions to be observed for the minimum period of one week after the practice, and as it is a major cleansing operation, it must be done under expert guidance.

Agnisara kriya

Agnisara kriya also known as Vahnisara dhauti, it is a practice, which involves moving the 'fire' in the body. 'Vahni' and 'agni' mean 'fire'. 'Sar' means 'essence'. This 'essence of fire' is located in the navel region. On a physical level, the practice involves conscious movement of the abdominal muscles and organs, which creates internal heat. The practice is very advantageous as a preparation for kapalbhati and bhastrika pranayama.

  • Simple Form:
    Sit in vajrasana - keep the toes together and separate the knees as far as possible - place the hands on the knees and keep the arms straight - lean forward slightly -open the mouth and extend the tongue outside - breathe rapidly in and out while simultaneously expanding and contracting the abdomen - the respiration should be in harmony with the movement of the abdomen and should resemble the panting) of a dog - breathe in and out up to 25 times - advanced practitioners can perform 50 - 100 breaths
  • Advance Form:
    Exhale as intensely as possible - perform jalandhara bandha (chin lock) - rapidly expand and contract the abdominal muscles for as long as you are able to retain the breath. For both forms the standing position can be used.
  • Benefits of Agnisara kriya :
    This practice massages all the abdominal nerves, strengthens the muscles and stimulates the associated nerves, encouraging the best possible functioning of these organs. It promotes the correct secretion of digestive juices and thereby allows most favorable absorption of nutrients. It prevents and removes various digestive maladies such as constipation, indigestion, hyper - acidity, hypo acidity, flatulence, constipation and sluggish liver.

Vaman Dhauti

  • Vaman dhauti or vyaghra kriya: This is the second practice of hrid dhauti. 'Vaman' is 'to vomit' 'vyaghra' means 'tiger'. Just as a tiger regurgitates its food a couple of hours after eating; in this practice you vomit the food from the stomach three hours after a meal. If it is difficult you can drink a glass or two of warm saline water and then tickle the back of the throat with the first two fingers to induce vomiting. A sweet milk rice pudding should be eaten after performing this practice traditionally.
  • Kunjal kriya: : is done by inserting the middle finger into the rectum and rotating it clockwise, then anticlockwise. Make sure the fingernail is cut short, and if necessary, you can put some non irritating oil on the finger to lubricate the anus. The "Gherand Samhita" also recommends the use of a turmeric root instead of the finger, and starting by sitting in utkatasana.
  • Bahiskrita dhauti: This is a very difficult practice unless you are an advanced hatha yogi. It involves standing navel deep in clean water, pushing the rectum out and washing it in the hands. The "Gherand Samhita" states, "It is not easily available even to the gods" (1:23).

Benefits of the dhauti series

  1. The 'Hatha Yoga Pradipika' states, "There is no doubt that cough, asthma, diseases of the spleen, leprosy and twenty kinds of diseases caused by excess mucus are destroyed through the effect of dhauti karma.
  2. The whole digestive tract and respiratory tract is cleaned and purified by the practices of dhauti.
  3. It removes excess and old bile, mucus and toxins, and restores the natural balance of the body's chemical composition, thus alleviating ailments caused by such imbalances.
  4. Dhauti Kriya helps remove the infectious bacteria from the mouth, nose, eyes, ears, throat, stomach, intestines and anus. The results are a reduction of excess fatty tissue and relief from flatulence, constipation, poor digestion and loss of appetite.
  5. Dhauti is even said to cure leprosy. Although this disease is not prevalent in many countries today, the point is that even such dangerous diseases can be alleviated through this powerful practice.

The "Gherand Samhita" states that dhauti can cure abdominal ailments and fever; of course it is not sensible to practice dhauti during a fever or acute visceral infection. But if it is practiced after recovery it will prevent recurrence of the problem. There are certain conditions in which antar dhauti must not be practiced. These conditions include stomach or intestinal ulcers, hernia, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Completion

Nauli & Uddiyana Bandha

Nauli Kriya is proposed for regenerating, invigorating and stimulating the abdominal viscera and the gastro-intestinal or alimentary system. For the practice of Nauli you should know the Uddiyana Bandha. Uddiyana can be done even in a sitting posture; but Nauli is generally done while standing.

Technique

  • Step1 : For practicing Nauli, stand up. Keep the right leg a foot apart from the left leg. If you keep up the feet close together, at times you may lose the balance and stumble down. Rest your hands on the thighs, thus making a slight curve of the back. Then do Uddiyana Bandha. Do this for one week before proceeding to the next stage.
  • Step2 : Now allow the centre of the abdomen free by contracting the left and right side of the abdomen. You will have all the muscles in the centre in a vertical line. This is called Madhyama Nauli. Keep it as long as you can with comfort. Do only this much for a few days.
  • Step3 : You should contract the right side of the abdomen and allow the left side free. You will have the muscles on the left side only. This is called Vama Nauli. Again contract the left side muscles and allow the right side free. This is Dakshina Nauli. By having such gradual practices, you will understand how to contract the muscles of the central, left and right sides of the abdomen. You will also notice how they move from side to side. In this stage you will see the abdominal muscles only in the central, right or the left side. Practice this stage for a week
  • Step4 : For keeping the muscles in the centre, slowly bring to the right side and then to left side in a circular way. Do this several times from the right to left side and then do it in a reverse way from the left to right side. You should turn the muscles always with a circular motion slowly. When you advance in the practice you can do it quickly; but you can derive full benefits of this Kriya when you do it very slowly and gradually. This last stage of Nauli will appear like ‘churning’ when the abdominal muscles are isolated and rotated from side to side.

CAUTIONS

  • Slight pain of abdomen in the first two or three attempts could be felt by the beginners. They should not panic and stop the practice. The pain will vanish away in 2 or 3 days. When the advanced Yogic student demonstrates Nauli, the onlookers will be extremely surprised to look at the movements of the abdominal muscles. They will feel as if an engine is working in the abdominal factory.
  • When beginners want to do Dakshina Nauli, they should slightly bend towards the left side and contract the left muscles. When they want to do Vama Nauli, let them bend a little to the right side. In Madhyama Nauli, push the entire muscles forward by contracting the two sides.
  • This exercise is not at all possible for those who have a barrel-like belly. When they find it difficult to carry their own belly, they cannot at all dream of getting success in this Kriya. They can also try by gradual slow practice. For getting success, they must exert hard and have rigorous practice for a long time. Those who have a tender body can very easily learn and perform this Kriya in a beautiful and efficient manner.
  • If the Yogic exercises are executed in the right way with the right mental attitude, it will surely lead you to spiritual growth. Nauli Kriya eradicates chronic constipation, dyspepsia and all other diseases of the gastro-intestinal system. Nauli helps Sang Pachar and Basti Kriya also. The liver and pancreas are toned. The kidneys and other organs of the abdomen function properly. Nauli is a blessing to humankind.