Hatha Yoga Pradipika

14 Jan

hatha yoga prodipika

Written in the 15th century, this Hatha Yoga Pradipika, authored by Svami Svatmarama, is considered to be the oldest surviving text on Hatha Yoga. The text is based upon reflections stemming from many of Svatamarama‟s own yogic experiences.

The Pradipika describes the following concepts: asanas, purifying practices, mudras (finger and hand positions), bandhas (locks), and pranayama. It also describes the underlying purpose of Hatha Yoga, which Svatmarama identifies as being both the subtle energy called “Kundalini”, as well as deep, enlightening meditation.

In the text, the practice of Hatha Yoga is presented as a “stairway to Raja Yoga”. In explaining this „stairway‟, Svatmarama gives elaborations on many core yogic techniques, but refrains from systematizing the “stairway”. The Prakipika, or “that which illuminates,” is comprised four chapters which contain 389 couplets altogether. Some manuscripts have additional chapters consisting of 24 stanzas, although these appears to have been added later.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is developed as follows. In Chapter One, Svatmarama provides a description of 16 important asana postures. Most of these yoga asanas are variations of cross-legged sitting postures. In Chapter Two, he gives several descriptions of pranayama, and also discusses shatkarmas, or “six acts”. The shatkarmas are purification practices that are to be engaged in prior to breath control exercises. Svatmarama emphasizes the shatkarmas because they clear and balance what are called doshas, or “bodily humours”. Later in this highly technical chapter, Svatmarama describes eight different types of breath controls, called kumbhaka, or “retentions”. The kumbhaka are, in theory, used to arouse what he calls the kundalini shakti, or “serpent power”. More specifically, the eight kumbhaka are as follows:

(1) Suryabhedhe – or right to left
(2) Ujjayi – or victorious breath
(3) Seetkari – or through the teeth
(4) Shitari – or rolled tongue
(5) Bhastrika – or bellows
(6) Bhramari – or humming
(7) Moorcha – or retention to create fainting
(8) Plavini – or swallowing air into stomach

As you work through the upcoming exercises in this manual, the influence of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika on modern day yoga practice will become very clear.


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