“What Is(n’t) Hatha Yoga?”
by Scott Smith Miller
Table of Contents
Preparatory Exercise..…………………………,…………. vii
Chapter 1: The (Im)practical Yoga…………………….1
Chapter 2: (Not) Understanding Yoga ……..………. 6
Chapter 3: Hatha Yoga (Un)explained….…….…… 12
Chapter 4: Hatha Yoga is The Yoga of Energy……24
Chapter 5: Hatha Yoga is Pranayama………………. 29
Chapter 6: Karma Yoga Is(n’t) Hatha Yoga………..38
Chapter 7: Hatha Yoga Is Mind Yoga …………..….. 44
Chapter 8: Yoga Isn’t Tantra………………..…………. 51
Chapter 9: Tantra Is(n’t) Hatha Yoga…….…..……. 60
Chapter 10: What Are(n’t) the Forms of Yoga?….. 70
Chapter 11: Yoga Is(n’t) Union…….….………………. 74
Chapter 12: (Not) Knowing the Yogic Truth..…… 77
Chapter 13: What Isn’t Hatha Yoga?………………….. 84
(with historical chart)…..……………………………..…… 88
What Is(n’t) Hatha Yoga?
Our ideas about yoga affect what it is. They help determine how yoga evolves. That’s always been the case, but now we can all be involved. Everyone can affect yoga’s evolution because the yoga we do today is democratic enough to inspire us all to have more easily accepted and understandable ideas about it.
You’ll be reading more about those ideas in the first chapter of this book. Like all the other chapters, the first one is made up of numbered statements. To allow for several levels of understanding, each statement is presented as a 3-part paragraph consisting of a basic idea, an explanation, and a more complex, difficult, or speculative, sometimes even contradictory concept. The longer middle parts contain intermediate-level ideas that will generally serve to explain, explore, and connect basic and advanced approaches to understanding what hatha yoga is(n’t).
The basic ideas always come first, are in bold type like this, and always consist of a single simple sentence. The explanatory, intermediate-level ideas are in the middle and in regular type like this. They usually take up multiple sentences, and don’t have to be completely understood to be of benefit to those seeking a simple understanding of what hatha yoga is. The more advanced third parts are underlined like this, and always consist of a (sometimes not so simple) single sentence.
Now, let’s make sure you’re ready. In Chapter One, you’ll be reading ideas about yoga’s (im)practicality. You can take your time getting used to the ideas. One option is to read all the basic ones first. Each basic idea is bolded, so you can easily skip from one to the next. If you do that, the reading will go like this:
1-1. Health is now a commonly enjoyed byproduct of modern yoga.
1-2. Yoga is more than hygienic.
1-3. Hatha yoga’s sub-practices are cleansing.
And so forth. You can read the whole chapter that way and then loop back to the beginning.
Of course, you can also read all of the paragraphs completely, in order, with the understanding that you’re tracking ideas according to smaller positive loops. You’ll read each paragraph completely, but the third part will probably send you back to the first part. So let’s give that a try with the whole first paragraph:
1-1. Health is now a commonly enjoyed byproduct of modern yoga. Practicing hatha yoga helps the stiff become flexible, the weak become strong, and the lethargic become vital. Yoga’s ability to help the numb regain sensitivity is now of critical importance to the planet.
Once you finished that last underlined part, maybe you wanted to go back to the basic idea. So read the basic idea again. The looping helps anyway. It’s yogic. Let the loops happen until you naturally move on to the next paragraph, 1-2. Read all of it, or part of it. This book is like an “All-Levels” yoga class. We can practice differently and still all practice together.
What Is(n’t) Hatha Yoga?
Chapter 1: The (Im)practical Yoga
1-1. Health is now a commonly enjoyed byproduct of yoga. Practicing hatha yoga helps the stiff become flexible, the weak become strong, and the lethargic become vital. Yoga’s ability to help the numb regain sensitivity is now of critical importance to the planet.
1-2. Yoga is more than hygienic. The difference between ordinary cleanliness and yogic cleanliness has to do with energy experiencing. Yoga helps stressed people relax, but it also leaves room for the anxious feelings positively linked to creativity.
1-3. Hatha yoga’s sub-practices are cleansing. The bodily poses called Asana, and the ten basic behavioral modifications known as the Yamas and Niyamas can purify mind and body. Though the poses come first now, usually to the exclusion of everything else, Asana is still known as the “third Limb of yoga.”
1-4. The ten behavioral practices are commonly ignored. Gandhi famously observed the first Yama, but contrary to popular Indian belief, hatha yogis have been ignoring the so-called “dos and don’ts” since their inception. Western yoga instructors like to frame the teachings positively, but developing the habit of just “not” doing certain things inspires yogic self-observation, not narcissistic self-absorption.
1-5. The five social practices are Non-violence, Truthfulness, Non-stealing, Sexual Continence, and Non-greediness. In Sanskrit the names for the Yamas are Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, and Aparigraha. Intense Yama practice ruins whatever a person has been usually doing in life, while Asana practice can strengthen anything, including greed.
1-6. The five personal practices are Cleanliness, Contentment, Discipline, Self-study, and Surrender to the First Teacher. In Sanskrit the names for the five Niyamas are Saucha, Samtosha, Tapas, Svadyaya, and Ishvara Pranidhana. There is an obvious hierarchical structure to the Niyamas, with the last one (Ishvara Pranidhana) being the highest practice.
1-7. The social practices enable and inform the personal practices. Telling the truth, for example, enables and informs Contentment. There are really only three “don’ts”: Ahimsa (Non-Violence), Asteya (Non-Stealing), and Aparigraha (Non-Greediness).
1-8. Personal practices enable and inform the social practices. So Self-study makes Sexual-continence not just more likely to happen, but more likely to happen in a healthy way. Concept artist Paul McCarthy said, “Hygiene is the religion of fascists.”
1-9. Why people start a yoga practice matters. It’s true that new students doing the bodily poses for selfish reasons may “get it later,” but problems always mount during the delay. Yoga evolves in favor of democratic inclusion and Asana being taught first hugely increases yoga’s common-level attractiveness.
1-10. Practicing the Yamas and Niyamas second is natural. Asana is energetically sensitizing, and since it takes deep sensitivity to really do the Yamas and Niyamas, the new order works. If Asana’s sensitizing capacity was less important, and if the Yamas and Niyamas really were just the “dos and don’ts of yoga,” they would still be taught first as beginner practices.
1-11. The Yamas and Niyamas are pleasurable energy experiences. That’s what makes them hathayogic. Hatha yoga is the yoga of energy, so its sub-practices are only yogically modifying in connection with energy-oriented sensitization.
1-12. The Yamas are like Inhales and the Niyamas are like Exhales. Yama practices expand our social awareness, and Niyama practices deepen our personal awareness. The Yamas help us take people into our practice as an act of generosity, and the Niyamas keep our internal space energetically clean for visitors.
1-13. Doing the Yamas and Niyamas in pairs makes them yoga practices. Yoga is dynamically dualistic. It only happens through the play of two positively opposing things, so the Yamas and Niyamas aren’t yogic until they are coupled. Pairing the Yamas and Niyamas is a new idea that makes them yogic for the first time, but that change also makes the traditional ordering of them even more important.
1-14. Non-violence and Cleanliness, Truthfulness and Contentment, Non-stealing and Discipline, Sexual Continence and Self-study, and Non-greediness and Surrender to the First Teacher make up the five pairs. Beginning with the first practice in each set, every Yama is coupled with a perfectly opposing Niyama, and every Niyama is coupled with a perfectly opposing Yama. Gandhi’s famously social fasts caused him personal harm, but they were acts of great energetic cleanliness that yogically contradicted what is just “normal” yoga.
1-15. Gandhi (albeit unwittingly) did Non-violence and Cleanliness together. Without knowing it, he started peacefully refusing to tolerate social injustice (Ahimsa) right as he was realizing it was wrong for him personally to wear western clothes (Saucha). Gandhi’s Cleanliness practice became trans-personal in connection with Non-Violent energy, and his Non-Violence practice expressed First Teacher compassion in union with primordial energetic Cleanliness.
1-16. One person’s Ahimsa-Saucha combo practice can change the world. It’s within everyone’s ability to practice Non-Violence and Cleanliness to create the seemingly impossible. Gandhi really didn’t know what he was doing in respect to yoga, and it still worked.
1-17. It takes two to tango and three to yoga. All the yogic pairings are really triad structures. The Yamas and Niyamas are paired like the hot channel (pingala) and the cold channel (ida), but Asana and the sashumna hold those pairs together. Positively charged protons and non-charged neutrons seem to be paired in atoms, but negatively charged electrons balance the atomic structure.
1-18. Yama-Niyama practice transcends issues of “right and wrong.” Because it’s impossible to ascribe a universal sense of correctness to anyone’s actions—even yogic actions—the five social practices must be worked with subjectively, in relation to the right personal practice. Then the dynamic dualism can inspire a free yogic play. “Brahmacharya” can be related to sexual continence, or even celibacy, but even for non-theists, it can also just help discourage all the actions we wouldn’t do while “walking with God.”
1-19. The energy of Truthfulness combines with Contentment in a particularly obvious way. So we can listen to Martin Luther King’s recorded speeches, feel the truthfulness being expressed, sense how much he wanted things to change, but at the same time recognize how content Dr. King must have been to knowingly accept his martyrdom. Conversely, Hitler clearly thought he was telling the truth, but the feeling of his discontentment belied his passion, and should have been a warning to everyone, including himself.
1-20. Yama-Niyama combo practices combine to create yogic energy experiencing. A continuing and guiding subtle feel for the constant quantity in life connects the five pairs to yogic energy experiencing, which is Pranayama. The combo practices all create pranayama as a third thing, and the Non-greediness and Surrender combo practice transcends religious conventionality as Pranayama itself.
1-21. The last Yama-last Niyama combo-practice elevates hatha yoga to its highest purpose. Practicing Non-greediness and Surrender to the First Teacher brings religion and science into yogic union. The “First Teacher” is Yoga itself and as a primordial Field of Knowledge it can be accessed the way great scientists like Einstein have spontaneously accessed it in connection with their free love of physics.
1-22. World conditions both challenge and inspire the attainment of hatha yoga’s highest purposes. Right when we need its specific benefits the most, hatha yoga is here and widely available. Hatha yoga can help humans karmically change the unchangeable.
1-23. Humans did not evolve to live in our present environment, but Yoga evolved to help us now. Our biology is suited to a way of life that no longer exists, and yet that evolutionary difficulty can be a yogic advantage since hatha yoga is at its best as a biological miracle worker. Despite yoga’s long-term societal trendiness, whole-hearted, three-limbed hatha yoga practice is only now being taught and has yet to be realized globally, so even though the yoga world is already in its decadent phase, there is still hope that hatha yoga can create a much more powerful change than it has so far.
1-24. More dynamic Yama-Niyama practicing could save the planet. If we become non-violent and yet clean, truthful but also content, both honest and disciplined, sexually continent and self-aware, non-greedy and open to the teachings of Yoga itself, the power of that collective transformation combined with sensitizing bodily work could cause enough Pranayama to counter society’s death wish. People’s vain and greedy yoga-world motivations do not interfere with yoga’s democratic evolution, and perhaps Yoga itself has come in its present Energy-oriented form as the fulfillment of scriptural promises that we would receive help when it was most needed.
1-25. Hatha yoga is Non-violence and Cleanliness practiced along with the bodily poses. Ahimsa and Saucha, and Asana. Hatha yoga is both practical and impractical.
Chapter 2: (Not) Understanding Yoga
2-1. Today, yoga is accessible to everyone. More available, comprehensible, and approachable than ever, yoga can now become a part of anyone’s life with relative ease. Yoga will never be wholly and only physical, wholly and only objective, but it has become something that can be known in an easily understood way, as well as in an advanced or “yogic” way.
2-2. Becoming more physical made yoga easier to understand. Exercise helps us feel good. Stretching and strength building yogically helps us feel even better. The idea that yoga is a form of exercise causes confusion, so it’s a good thing that yoga can’t be turned into anything other than what it is.
2-3. Yoga can be known in a regular way on a common level. When something changes, we can contrast what it is now to what it was. Yoga is more physical than it was and that understanding is itself a regular way of knowing what yoga is. Yoga has been relatively physical for only one-fifth of its history.
2-4. Yoga’s evolution toward understandability went unnoticed. Because huge societal upheavals happen over any 4,000-year span, it must have been impossible even for yogis to keep historical account of how yoga was changing from something esoteric and completely spiritual into something increasingly tangible. Claiming that yoga was losing its spirituality, 2,000 years ago, some so-called “yoga gurus,” and the whole of India’s religious orthodoxy began exerting control against yoga’s democratic evolution.
2-5. What yoga is has been explained, but not commonly understood. The second idea in the Yoga Sutra (a 2,000 year old text) explains yoga as the cessation of the movements in consciousness. It’s not an easy idea to understand, but the attempt was there to explain what yoga is in a relatively accessible manner. Yoga has been explained through mythology, science fiction, theory, religion, and science.
2-6. Actually experiencing yoga is not the same as obtaining a conventional understanding of what it is. In fact, experiencing yoga can and in a sense should confound normal thinking. Yoga can’t be understood.
2-7. Only things that are at least relatively tangible can be known. To know what something is, we either have to commonly understand what it does, or be able to compare and contrast it with other similar things. With “air,” for example, we know it by contrasting it to the other elements. Abstractions can also be known through comparison. Originally, knowing what yoga is was impossible because it was singular and expressed as an elevated, completely spiritual realization.
2-8. Yoga became understandable in stages. Yoga’s first form was only for adepts. It’s now for everyone, and there were 3 steps in between. The mythological explanation for how yoga was born in a perfected state had to be interpreted effectively to be truthful, with only yoga adepts really understanding the story about Shiva giving yoga to humankind.
2-9. Ordinary explanations of yoga are becoming common knowledge. Accessible things about yoga started being said at the end of the last century and some of those ideas are now repeated out in the general public, where they are being commonly believed. The regular ideas are not yet considered important knowledge on a level of actual yoga, but the most truthful of them do communicate what yoga is. Resistance to the idea that yoga can be commonly understood makes yogic sense because it will always be a mysterious, unexplainable phenomenon.
2-10. The most popular, useful, and important common idea about yoga is that it is “for everyone.” Since all different types of people do yoga now, its inclusive accessibility is easily recognized, and the “yoga is for everyone” idea not only reflects, but also now drives yoga’s democratic evolution. The common-level knowing of what hatha yoga is will never replace the importance of us understanding that (like all yogic forms) hatha yoga is about experiencing the liberating attainment of Being beyond delusion.
2-11. The “yoga is for everyone” idea itself explains what yoga is now. It isn’t the whole truth, but we can start with the idea anyway—not only because it inspires some interesting questions, but because the answers tell us something about yoga in our time. First and foremost, to know what yoga is today, we must recognize its accessibility and inclusiveness. Yoga is for everyone, but not everyone can do yoga.
2-12. The “yoga is for everyone” idea is itself “for everyone.” It’s a big part of yoga’s democratic evolution, and while there are real-world historians, filmmakers, journalists, and sociologists presenting facts that discredit some of the things “yoga people” commonly believe, even those real-world fact-finders believe in the “yoga is for everyone” idea. People like John Philp, who wrote and directed Yoga Inc., and Dr. David Gordon White, who wrote Sinister Yogis, are inspiring us to be more truthful about what yoga is.
2-13. Truthful ideas about yoga don’t have to be facts. Whether the idea that yoga is for everyone is a fact or not, it’s truthful. It’s telling us something that we can recognize truthfully about yoga. As we follow it and other speculatively accurate ideas wherever they take us, we can’t expect historians like Dr. White, in their capacity as scholars, to accompany us the entire way. Instead, they will probably stick with the facts and try to avoid speculation. With or without the fact-finders, we’ll consider all reasonable possibilities and let the corresponding ideas evolve with yoga.
2-14. Understanding yoga goes beyond the facts. The facts give us useful information, but to be actually truthful about what yoga is, we can’t be caught up in factualism. We have to consider what the facts tell us and don’t tell us. Following from the facts, but comfortable in moving a step further, we recognize that a democratic yogic form namable as hatha yoga is the yoga of our time.
2-15. Common-level truthfulness will suffice. We all don’t have to understand the complex speculations and categorizations involved. “Equal participation by all” may not happen in respect to full understanding, but if we all know that there are explanations for ideas like “yoga is for everyone,” then a truthful democratic commonality can be established and maintained.
2-16. How we do hatha yoga is up to each of us. We can practice hatha yoga however we want and call what we do whatever we want, but (and because) a full sense of truthfulness requires us to acknowledge and take into account a further fact, not necessarily the kind of fact Dr. White or even John Philp would be interested in: We are not just doing yoga. We are also being done by it. Yoga (with a capital Y) does us, and right now, Hatha Yoga is what is doing us.
2-17. The less democratic yogic forms already had their days, or more precisely their eras. Now, a democratic yoga is happening. It’s what’s also happening for those of us studying yoga theory as “jnana yogis,” for those of us being philanthropic as “karma yogis,” and for those of us devoting ourselves to religious practices as “bhakti yogis.”
2-18. Hatha Yoga is knowable as an active evolutionary achievement. It’s a complex idea, but it’s meant for beginners anyway. New students are supposed to be “attentive” to Ishvara. The practice of Ishvara-pranidhana—one of our ten beginner-level behavioral practices—means being attentive to a primordial, active, loving, abstract, evolving, and accessible energetic Field of First Teacher (Ishvara) intelligence. We can also refer to that Field as Yoga itself and (after being the other four Yogas) right now it’s Hatha Yoga itself. Effective surrender reveals ordinary and yogic knowledge, with the most important new thing to know about Yoga itself being that it evolved downward.
2-19. The most knowable yoga is hatha yoga. As the result of yoga’s evolution toward accessible tangibility, hatha yoga is understandable yoga. The understanding hasn’t taken hold yet because so much common-level confusion about yoga had already been created before hatha yoga’s inception, and ever since then its tangibility has caused hatha yoga in particular to be misjudged. Now, we can adopt accessible ideas about it that are more democratic than yoga theory and yet more truthful than factualism. Yoga’s mysteriousness may always cause confusion.
2-20. Common-level confusion will end once hatha yoga is recognized as the yogic form that is for everyone. It’s the simplest way to understand what hatha yoga is and the idea helps us distinguish hatha yoga in comparison with the other four yogic forms. More accessibly tangible than karma yoga, jnana yoga, bhakti yoga, and raja yoga, it is for everyone. It’s impossible to really know what hatha yoga is because that requires the knowing of energy and energy can’t be known, even in a regular scientific way.
Chapter 3: Hatha Yoga (Un)explained
3-1. Hatha yoga is a complete yogic form. Its scope and capacity are equal to the other major forms of yoga, and because it came into existence last, everything that yoga is can be hathayogically expressed. Physical, emotional, mental, soulful, and spiritual, hatha yoga happens multi-dimensionally on all the levels of Being. Since hatha yoga expresses universality, eternality, and pervasiveness, it can contain all that is yogic.
3-2. Today, what most people commonly call “yoga” refers to hathayogic bodily postures. Most practitioners don’t understand the categorizations involved, so the fact that yoga is synonymous with asana practice creates confusion. Due to evolution, the whole of yoga is being expressed as hatha yoga.
3-3. Hatha yoga unifies spirit and body. Therein lies the miracle. The evolution had to go just right, with yoga starting off wholly abstract and evolving until it became possible for everyone to do spiritual yoga even on a physical level. Hathayogic spirit and body unifity allows for a full attainment of Realization.
3-4. Yoga today is accessible and inclusive. So yoga is now for everyone, and that particular understanding is specifically related to hatha yoga—which is not just yoga’s youngest form or “modern” form, but also its most accessible and inclusive one. Even hatha yoga is esoteric.
3-5. The idea that “yoga is for everyone” applies to hatha yoga. It’s the only major form of yoga that is for everyone. The other four forms are not only harder to practice, but also less commonly attractive. A full understanding of the “yoga is for everyone” idea leads us to recognize how yoga became something we can all at least practice through (and as) hatha yoga.
3-6. Hatha yoga means many things to many people. Ideas and beliefs about it have always run the gamut. Devoted practitioners think of it as a sacred art that optimizes one’s experience of energy, while aggressive detractors see it as a degraded, overly commercialized activity. Hathayogic expressions are rationally and trans-rationally varied and variable.
3-7. The compound word ha-tha means “force” in Sanskrit, an ancient East Indian language. Ha refers to the sun, and tha refers to the moon. The sun and moon combination describes a personal energy structure moving in a double-helix shape up, down and around the spine. Hatha yoga balances the hot (ha) and cool (tha) energy channels on a personal level, but that effect also creates favorable conditions for the overall, transcendent unification and balancing of energy on a trans-personal level.
3-8. Hatha yoga is forceful. Even so-called “gentle” hathayogic practices utilize force since they compel an experience of relaxation into existence. As effects, energetic things like relaxation seem to be brought into being hathayogically, but they really already exist. Hatha yoga’s true expression transcends forcefulness.
3-9. The sensing of personal energy structures can be hathayogically optimized. To sense the ha-tha channels and the seven chakras (vortices) more clearly, hatha yogis employ asanas (postures), bandhas (energy locks), mudras (gestures), drishtis (gazes) and mantras (sounds). Hatha yoga can go beyond the limits of experience—including chakra experiences—which means the first unconditioned, transcendent hathayogic event should be considered the date of its inception, even if it happened before the chakras were discovered (around 900 CE in India).
3-10. Hatha yoga is for every human being without exception. Everyone capable of sensing the energy responsible for life can do hatha yoga because the energy that keeps us all alive is its focus. While our personal life-force is a pleasurable thing that everyone should be experiencing naturally, expanding the pleasure hathayogically also creates favorable conditions for transcendence.
3-11. Hatha yoga’s preparatory practices are universally, multi-dimensionally, and lovingly accessible. Combining the Yamas and Niyamas and Asana practices, any person can gain a hathayogic degree of energetic sensitivity and start sharing that awareness with others. These days, most people think of hatha yoga as asana practice, and while it may seem to define the form, the bodily poses are not the only things that make hatha yoga accessible. Thanks to new teaching methods and the increasingly democratic and loving understanding that those methods foster, a new, better, more inclusive, and at the same time more traditional way of practicing yoga has developed in our time. Perhaps impossibly, then, hatha yoga is now different and yet the same, more basic and yet more elevated. Around 1900, under the incipient globalization of changed beliefs about humanity that virtually require that any “good” be a common, democratic good, a more democratic hatha yoga emerged.
3-12. Practicing the Yamas, Niyamas, and Asanas enables a yogic way of living to develop. Anyone can practice the hathayogic behavioral “do’s and don’ts” and combine that work with daily bodily posture routines well enough to eventually teach hatha yoga. Countless lives have been completely turned around through that process. Unless the preparatory practices are maintained, elevated, and at the same time personally rendered obsolete, there is no yoga—not even hatha yoga.
3-13. The beginner levels of hatha yoga make it a unique form. Hatha yoga practitioners can “fake it until they make it.” That was definitely not the case with other yogic forms. Karma yoga was the second most universally, multi-dimensionally, and lovingly accessible yoga, and it had no beginner level. Karma yogis either understood what Jesus said about giving others “the shirt off your back,” or not, just as they either made a connection with Presence or not.
3-14. Hatha yoga was always recognized as a form of yoga. From its inception, hatha has been known as a yogic form. Only now is there any confusion about that and most of the confusion comes from a simple misunderstanding. Since the styles of hatha yoga are named on yoga studio schedules, and since classes that aren’t given specific style names are sometimes listed on the schedules as “Hatha Yoga,” students are unwittingly encouraged to think of hatha yoga as just a style of practice. Although things have always been confused, it’s never been like this. In India, even hatha yoga’s harshest critics knew it as a yogic form. The Hindu orthodoxy rightly considered hatha yoga a threat to its institutional conventions, so it’s especially laughable that some modern Hindus—forgetting that yoga predates Hinduism—complain about hatha yoga being appropriated from them.
3-15. Hatha yoga is a yogic form, not just a style of practice. There is a unique hathayogic way to experience union with something eternal and pervasive and that makes hatha yoga a form of yoga. It belongs to the forms of yoga category, and all the yoga being practiced at yoga studios, and gyms, and schools today is hathayogic. Hatha yoga styles have different names and focuses, but hatha yoga’s democratic evolution toward common-level universality and pervasiveness keeps advancing.
3-16. Today, all yoga is hatha yoga. At this point, all yoga is hatha yoga. Whatever its emphasis, however it’s done, everything being yogically practiced now is hathayogic. “Yoga makes the impossible possible,” wrote Desikachar. Even so, the idea that “all yoga is hatha yoga” exists as a kind of ridiculousness. Are there, then, no other kinds of yoga being done? What about the devotional yogis of our time? Are they not bhaktis? Impossibly perhaps—No. They are hatha yogis since all yoga is hatha yoga. And the contemporary yogis error can be explained as a pre-figuring of this impossibility. Not giving themselves permission to redefine yoga, Paramahansa Yogananda, Krishnamacharya, Sivananda, Vishnu-devananda, Yogi Bhajan, B.K.S. Iyengar, Pattabhi Jois, and even Desikachar all turned hatha yoga into something that, according to their understanding, it could not be. They were spiritualists in a new era, but lacked the terms for it, and denied themselves permission to seek the impossible. Unable or unwilling to be seen as attempting to re-define yoga, they mis-defined their actual practices as “more than hatha yoga.” Thus, their seemingly un-yogic fierceness: They couldn’t be as fierce on behalf of yoga on the level of yoga, so they overcompensated. One might say that yoga’s contemporary leaders knew they were inadequate to the immense task before them—to fashion a yoga for a world in danger, of billions of souls, desperately in need not just of hathayogic help, but of all the “lost” yogas, too. Anyone would be inadequate to that task. It’s a task of 1,000 years.
3-17. More people practicing hatha yoga has meant more people misunderstanding hatha yoga. Plus, the miscomprehension applies to yogis and non-yogis alike. We’ve all been part of the confusion, which must, until cleared up, stand in the way of hatha yoga’s broadest experience and development, as well as the fullest attainment among its practitioners. At first, hatha yoga was judged for being too physical and at the same time for being something people found too much pleasure in doing. From a societal perspective hatha yoga attracted the “wrong” kind of people—people interested in either subverting institutional authority or rejecting society all together. Now, society is embracing hatha yoga, but since strong-minded people aware of societal problems are justifiably disinclined to do what society embraces, true rebels are not taking up the practice of hatha yoga as much as they did last century.
3-18. We know hatha yoga as a major form of yoga, complete in itself, through comparison. That’s the key. To simply know what hatha yoga is, we must recognize it as a major form, complete in itself, and compare it to the other major forms. Just as we know what a fork is by comparing and contrasting it to other things in the utensil category, we can best know what hatha yoga is in an ordinary, everyday, (albeit sub-yogic) way through comparison. So we should compare it to the other four forms: karma yoga, jnana yoga, bhakti yoga, and the first yoga (what we’ll call raja yoga). The order of how the five yogic forms came into existence matters in respect to comparison, which means we should consider how there seems to have been a lot of cross-over between the forms, but at the same time recognize that certain time periods have been dominated by a specific type of yoga.
3-19. The other four yogic forms are known for being the yoga of something specific. Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion; raja yoga is the yoga of concentration; jnana yoga is the yoga of study; and, karma yoga is the yoga of philanthropy. So why isn’t hatha yoga known as the yoga of whatever it is that hatha yoga practitioners do most? Over one thousand years old, it’s certainly old enough to be known as something. Now it’s certainly popular enough to be associated with something specific. But what if the something that hatha yoga is can’t be known, or is uniquely difficult to know—in part because the essence of hatha yoga is at the same time the essence of knowing things at all?
3-20. Hatha yoga is more than and different from any particular thing anyone can say about it. That is particularly true in explanation because yoga is not the same as language. “Hatha” can be roughly translated as “energy,” but “energy” is a different property or essence than “devotion” or “study” or “concentration” or “philanthropy,” all of which are normal activities that people “do.” How do we “do” energy? It sounds kind of silly. To translate the term into something more easily understood, we go a step further and think of hatha yoga as the yoga of “physical action” or even the yoga of “exercise” or the “body.” This concept works well enough at least to get us into yoga class, and it works in a different, maybe better way because, simple human beings that we are, we experience and express energy through our bodies, through exercise, through physical action. It works even better because energy is the subject of physics: Physical exercise in the broadest sense is how we “do” physics. At the same time, exercise (activity, all activity including mental activity) is how physics does us. Searching for the essence of hatha yoga is therefore inseparable from searching for the essence of ourselves, which also may explain why it’s possible through hathayogic devotion, study, concentration, and service to find ourselves doing what, or some of what, or something very like what bhakti, raja, jnana, and karma yogis did.
3-21. Hatha yoga can be physical. It can connect to our physicality, and since there is so much emphasis placed on the practicing of bodily postures, it’s fair to say that hatha yoga is physical. Since it’s easy to explain hatha yoga as “the physical yoga,” it’s now synonymous with things we can see and do. Hatha yoga’s bodily poses are the most visible and most doable yogic things ever. They are tangible enough for everyone. Their function is easily recognized. So we can say hatha yoga is the yoga of the body. We can also say that hatha yoga is the yoga of breath. We can say that hatha yoga is the yoga of energy. We could even say that hatha yoga is the yoga of yoga. We can say all of these things are hatha yoga, and mean something slightly different with each one, but at the same time we can also say that each one implies every other one, and, though it’s a contradiction, it’s still true that each one says the same thing.
3-22. Instantly and inherently, hatha yoga meets us as we are, at the moment we come to know it. If we’re physically oriented, so is it; if we’re spiritually oriented, so is it. Plus, Yoga itself evolved to meet us at this point in history, during what yogis refer to as the Dwapara Yuga: the Electrical Age. It’s fitting, then, that the yoga we do is the yoga of energy. The physics of electricity is now doing us, so we are intellectually aware of—if not sensitive to—the electrical charges going on all around us, and while the name hatha connects specifically to the balancing of an electrically charged hot (“ha”) line of energy with a not necessarily equally electrically charged cold (“tha”) line of energy, we don’t experience the lines as separate. Universally and pervasively, hatha yoga meets us as we are because it is what we are.
3-23. Hatha yoga is the yoga of life. It brings our attention to the fact that we are alive. With it, we truly recognize what life is. Hathayogic experiencing seems to connect our awareness to something with which we are already, always united: a universal, eternal, and pervasive life-force known as “prana.”
3-24. Hatha yoga is a teaching tool. Yoga came into existence as something we instruct, and there is no hatha yoga without the teaching of hatha yoga. In surrendering to Ishvara, we are surrendering to the teaching of hatha yoga. (see 2-18-2)
3-25. Hatha yoga’s name is instructive. As Sufi musician Hazrat Inayat Khan wrote, “We naturally call soft things by smooth names and hard things by hard-sounding names, as for instance flower and rock, wool and flint.” Clearly, “hatha” is an exceptionally smooth name no matter how it’s translated into English, so just repeating the name “hatha yoga” is a teaching.
3-26. Hatha yoga is the yoga of balance. With it, the ha and tha energy channels are forced into an equally dynamic para-electrical, positive and negative charging, and again, repeating the name hatha is part of that instruction. Khan believed that “the influence of rhythm suggested by a name has an effect upon the entity whose name it is, as well as upon those who call it the name. Evenness of rhythm gives balance, while unevenness causes lack of balance.” So saying the name “hatha yoga,” is rhythmically balancing. No thing can be electrically charged without being both positively and negatively energized, so energetic balance is the key to life.
3-27. Hatha yoga is the yoga of breathing. Yogic breathing is the easiest and most direct way to optimize our energetic experience of life. It causes a kind of soundless, energetic music. The more we practice the central discipline of pranayama, the more beautiful the music seems to get and the physical practice of hatha yoga works as a kind of tuning. As hathayogic instruments, our bodies are tuned. But no matter how beautiful the instrument is, sensing the music is what matters and the most profound sounds happen with all instruments, regardless of their condition. Playing jazz hatha yoga requires an awareness of how phrasing should continually resolve and un-resolve according to cosmic rhythms.
3-28. At the same time, hatha yoga can’t be taught, is not physical, is not the yoga of breathing, is not the yoga of life, is not the yoga of balance, and is not the yoga of pleasure. It is those things and at the same time, it’s not those things, and that’s the real reason hatha yoga can be for everyone. To be for everyone–to be truly universal–yoga must be more than experiential. Breath is only experiential. We experience it while we’re alive, and the same goes with the chakras, and our personal life force. Those things end. Yoga doesn’t. So like the other forms, hatha yoga connects us with something inseparable and eternal. It unites us with something equally universal, inseparable, eternal, and pervasive. Because hathayogic experiencing is inevitably, inescapably, unalterably, inexorably, and lovingly energetic, we can still refer to hatha yoga as the yoga of energy because the energy in question transcends our individuality. It’s the Creativity giving life to everything. It’s Energy itself. It’s the Energy that lives us, and that understanding helps effectively identify the inseparable and eternal thing, or non-thing with which hatha yoga unites us. Hatha yoga’s unification interest (Energy itself) is as universal, eternal, and pervasive as those related to the other yogic forms.
3-29. So the knowing of hatha yoga only happens on a common level. We know it is the form of yoga that is for everyone, that is relatively physical, that soothes the mind, that emphasizes yogic breathing, and that sensitizes us to profound but still common energy experiences. On a relatively uncommon, trans-personal level Hatha Yoga unifies us with Energy itself.
Chapter 4: Hatha Yoga is the Yoga of Energy
4-1. The double word “hatha” actually relates to a three-part energy structure. “Ha” and “tha” refer to the hot (pingala) and cold (ida) energy channels, but those energies circle a central third channel called the sushumna. The three-channeled energy triad has no Sanskrit name, but could be called the “Hathumna.”
4-2. The universal “quality” triad known as the gunas is the macro-structure of the hatha energy triad. Just as our bodies are completely dependent on coolness for sustainability, heat for change, and light for lucidity, the whole universe is dependent on those “qualities” as well, and the gunas provide them. So rajas is related to the pingala, tamas is related to the ida, and sattva is related to the sushumna.
4-3. Hatha yoga balances the three personal energies. More accurately, hatha yoga balances coolness and heat—sustainability and change—so that the light of lucidity is created. But the light of lucidity is really co-created with Energy itself.
4-4. More basically, and accessibly, hatha yoga balances the energies of relaxation and vitalization. Effective exhales relax us, and effective inhales vitalize us. The dynamic dualism of hathayogically grounding and blooming forces energy experiences to happen.
4-5. Balanced relaxation and vitalization creates a third energy that we can call sensitization. Those three energies also relate to the gunas, but are not just more personal (like the hathayogic triad), but also more accessible to a common, regular, everyday type of understanding. The pleasure of relaxing, vitalizing, and sensitizing is obvious and made more obvious through increased hathayogic sensitization.
4-6. Sensing energy effectively increases both pleasure and understanding. Hatha yoga can now be understood according to that simple knowledge, which is part of yoga’s democratic evolution. When we sense things rather than just think about them, we all know those things more clearly and more intensely.
4-7. Everyone can understand hatha yoga in connection with its ability to help us relax, vitalize, and sensitize. Everyone wants to relax, feel alive, and be sensitive to the pleasure of existence, and everyone can participate in that relatable understanding of what hatha yoga does. Through energetic appreciation of its function, we can all know what hatha yoga is.
4-8. Hatha yoga classes have always been oriented in relation to relaxation, vitalization, and sensitization. It’s nothing new in respect to practice, but the new “three energies” idea clears things up in respect to what hatha yoga does on a common level without conflicting with any higher-level understanding. The three energies are different and yet the same as “the three qualities,” or gunas.
4-9. The main styles of hatha yoga vary in respect to the three energies. So they can be categorized according to which energy is emphasized most. Any list of the “main” hathayogic styles becomes dated.
4-10. Kriya Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, and Kundalini Yoga are sensitizing styles of practice. They create sensitization through intense breathing (pranayama), gesture (mudra), binding (bandha), and/or pose (asana) engagements that are always followed by relaxation. In Kundalini Yoga, students are encouraged to do an exercise (kriya) for a certain length of time and then to lie on their backs and rest. In Sivananda Yoga, students are encouraged to focus on the breath or do a series of poses and then lie down on their backs and rest. In Ashtanga, especially during the standing pose part of its sequencing, students are encouraged to do a pose or two poses while focusing on both “victorious” breathing and energy binds before coming to rest regularly in a relatively relaxing standing pose, Samastitihi. With Kriya Yoga, students are asked to repeatedly pressurize certain spots on their head before resting in meditation. So even though each of those four styles is very different, the main point to their practice is for students to become more sensitive to the experiencing of energy. Each style promotes sensitization and each style does that by getting students to do something energetically intense before allowing them to integrate the experience through rest. Sensitizing hathayogic styles force relatively drastic changes in the way people live.
4-11. Power Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, and any classes listed as “Level 3-4” or “Advanced Yoga” on studio schedules are vitalizing styles of practice. They create profound, after-class energetic liveliness that is more commonly referred to as “a yoga buzz.” In class, students do mostly all standing poses, with multiple sets of one side of five poses or more before doing the other side. Instruction of the poses is kept to a minimum so there is no disruption of the flow and so that a lively energetic experience can be kept up without interruption. The hallmark of vitalization instruction is that poses are linked on one side continuously for a long set of poses. So the teacher must remember all the links and be able to match that sequence on the second side. To make students feel more alive, classes are also usually conducted in heated rooms where lots of students can come and create a communal sweating experience. The “fitness” of vitalization practices is commonly integrated into conventional life styles.
4-12. Viniyoga, Kripalu Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, and Yin Yoga are relaxing styles of practice. What makes these styles relaxation-oriented is their emphasis on continued energetic ease. In “Gentle Yoga” classes, things are never purposefully strenuous. But relaxation doesn’t always have to be created, it also just happens, and even with Iyengar Yoga, though muscles are engaged in a forceful manner, energetic relaxation must be allowed to happen for students to hold a single pose for an extremely long time. With Yin Yoga, students relax their muscles completely and let yin relaxed energy be experienced. One way includes muscle activation and the other one doesn’t, but both allow relaxation to be experienced. Then, with Viniyoga and Kripalu Yoga, it’s a mix since students activate muscles in a very relaxed manner. Relaxation practices help people recover from the wear and tear of societal living.
4-13. Hatha yoga’s main styles all start with pose practice but can still end with spiritual absorption. As complete practices, the styles don’t just prepare students for higher limbs. They all can relax and vitalize us to the point of samadhic sensitization and since that blissful spiritual sensing is really an effect—a third thing—yoga is not just dualistic.
4-14. Hatha yoga’s relationship to Samadhi is described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Authored in the 15th century by Swami Svatmarama, the text includes a whole chapter on hatha yoga’s connection to “Samadhi.” Since Samadhi is yoga’s highest limb, and hatha yoga facilitates it as well as any of the other yogic forms, it makes no sense for Svatmarama to have seen hatha yoga as a “preparatory form.”
4-15. Hatha yoga was misunderstood and devalued historically, but is becoming truthfully known now. Practicing hatha yoga more democratically has led to greater appreciation of what it really does in unifying us with energy. And it can still be related to yoga’s highest practice: Samadhi.
4-16. Hatha yoga can know be commonly known as the yoga of energetic pleasure. Experiencing yogic relaxation, vitalization, and sensitization can make hathayogic sense to everyone. It all started with chakra experiencing, but hatha yoga is being sustained, changed, and illuminated by the energies that sustain, change, and illuminate everything.
Chapter 5: Hatha Yoga Is Pranayama
5-1. The most common Sanskrit word for energy is prana. It can refer to the energy of our personal life force, or two particular personal energy structures, or to universal energy. It would have made things easier to grasp if hatha yoga was named “prana yoga.”
5-2. Pranayama is the practice of energy engagement. It allows us to experience our personal prana (life force) with great pleasure. Pranayama also helps us recognize Energy itself as spirit.
5-3. Perfected or not, energy experiencing is pranayama and it is pranayama with or without any change in respiration. Pranayama can be forceful and dangerous, but it doesn’t have to be. Deep, prolonged, powerful pranayama is dangerous on all levels, but worth the risk.
5-4. Pranayama is now commonly understood as yogic breathing. It’s definable as a pleasurable practice involving conscious respiration. Pranayama reveals how breathing is the basis of all human life.
5-5. Pranayama can be done very simply, without exertion. We can just be aware of how inhales and exhales effect us differently. Inhales create a blooming energy, while exhales create a grounding energy.
5-6. Yogic breathing connects one action, state, or energy to another. Anyone can compare his or her inhales and exhales well enough to realize a yogic sense of dynamic duality. Yogic breathing is clearly expressive of how life and death actions (karmas) continually resolve and un-resolve.
5-7. Beginners practice modern pranayama. New students are taught to exhale into poses and inhale out of a poses, and that in itself is pranayama. Feeling the difference between inhales and exhales is pranayama even if breath management techniques like ujjayi are not employed.
5-8. All styles of hatha yoga, including Iyengar Yoga, involve pranayama. In keeping with Mr. Iyengar’s beliefs, Iyengar Yoga instructors may not teach asana and breathing techniques like ujjayi together, but they still instruct students to exhale into poses and inhale out. They also emphasize an awareness of how one side of the body feels in relationship to the other. That’s clearly hathayogic pranayama since two things are being energetically balanced. The Yoga Rahasya as told by Iyengar’s teacher, Krishnamacharya, supports the idea that asana and pranayama are inseparable.
5-9. Pranayama once meant “life-restraint.” Pran is the energy of life and the word ayama means restraint. “Classical Pranayama,” then, was about restraining one’s life force. It involved staying alive without normal human respiration, depended on the yogi being in a state of samadhi, and could be done underground during a tantric burial practice.
5-10. Ujjayi, Kumbhaka, and other contemporary breathing techniques do not restrain the life force. They are not Classical Pranayama. They are hathayogic practices and hatha yoga was not part of so-called Classical Yoga, or Patanjalian Yoga.
5-11. Contemporary Pranayama is the first “Limb” of a Fivefold Path. Hatha yogis most likely changed the Yoga Sutras, adding the first three preparatory practices (Yamas, Niyamas, and Asana) to what is mistakenly known as the Eightfold Path, and in any case, there are now only five Limbs, beginning with modern Pranayama. Hathayogic Pranayama replaced Classical Pranayama as the first Limb of the Fivefold Path, which could be called Panchangayoga.
5-12. Hathayogic Pranayama is accessible to us all. Everyone can bring awareness to the experience of breathing. No matter how unskillfully breath awareness is practiced, if energy is consciously experienced at all, it’s pranayama.
5-12. Pranayama is for everyone. We can all be conscious of how we breathe, and the awareness automatically forces a more dynamic union between inhale energy and exhale energy. Hatha yoga can happen in that context whether we notice the effects or not, but what we can call real hatha yoga happens when we’re not merely aware of energy, but when we allow ourselves to be affected by the experience.
5-13. Breath awareness always creates a hathayogic effect. It’s impossible to really pay attention to the breath without sensing more energy and sensing energy helps us feel better in connection with a constant dualistically unifying experience. So hatha yogis always become sensitized to what energy is: “the (inseparable) constant quantity of life.”
5-14. The effects of pranayama are themselves energetic. Relaxation, vitalization, and sensitization are energies. What we experience as energy sensitization has always been considered spiritual.
5-15. Hathayogic energy sensing was a new spiritual discovery. The yoga of pranayama was a unique evolutionary development even though some Tibetan Buddhist meditation-breathing techniques (designed to just keep the mind focused) pre-date it. Mystics have always related spiritual practice to the breath—just not as tangibly as it can be done with hatha yoga.
5-16. Pranayama leads to spiritual advancement. The “Five-fold Path” begins with yogic energy experiencing and ends (just like the Eight-fold Path) with total immersion in spirit. Pranayama can create a kind of samadhi that is uniquely short-lived.
5-17. The pleasure of pranayama is spiritually sensitizing. Even a short-lived blissful experience elevates consciousness. Narcissists get stuck in the self-gratification of yogic pleasure.
5-18. More basically, the pleasure of pranayama is energetically sensitizing. The combination of deeply relaxing exhales and profoundly vitalizing inhales creates yogic sensitization (See Chapter 4). Due to the contemporary habit of combining lots of fast foods and television watching, many people are now too numb to sense the pleasure of pranayama.
5-19. Energetically sensitized people can be truthful even when they don’t consciously know the truth. For example, Svatmarama didn’t understand what hatha yoga is, but because he practiced pranayama, he also conveyed some important hathayogic truths. Since “the truth of Being is bliss,” the experience of even a small amount of relatively “unconditioned” pleasure is useful.
5-20. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is primarily a guide to practicing pranayama. Svatmarama was very knowledgeable about pranayama, and since hatha yoga is pranayama, he was a great hatha yoga teacher. But Svatmarama did not know what hatha is and he mistakenly explained hatha yoga as preparatory for “raja yoga,” which he also misidentified in connection with a common error.
5-21. The words “Pranayama” and “asana” are used differently in an ancient text. People sat contemplatively in earlier times. They did classical pranayama, and they adopted a “firm and steady” sitting position referred to as an asana because the word also means “seat.” Sanskrit words like padmasana and siddhasana identify seated yoga poses.
5-22. We can have new ideas about yoga. It’s okay. Dr. White has some new ideas and he’s clearly right about the ancient sculptural seals not showing people in any hathayogic pose. They weren’t doing padmasana; they were just sitting cross-legged. If hatha yogis added the first three limbs of the yogic path, then hatha yoga, the newest and last form, obviously matches with the newest practice (Pranayama); the middle three forms—bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, and karma yoga—match with the next middle three limbs (Pratyahara, Darana, and Dyana); and, raja yoga, the first yogic form, matches with the oldest practice (Samadhi).
5-23. The Yamas, Niyamas, and Asana were hathayogic developments. There’s no evidence to the contrary, and since yoga evolved toward easier, more accessible Limbs, it follows that the first three Limbs were preparatory practices added into the mix to help Pranayama happen. Yogic breathing (Pranayama) is easier than sense-withdrawal (Pratyahara), which is easier than concentration (Darana), which is easier than meditation (Dyana), which is easier than bliss (Samadhi).
5-24. Doing a Yama creates a Niyama (and vice versa). It’s impossible to do one thing without at the same time doing another thing, whether that other thing is recognized and consciously experienced or not. So the other thing or non-thing consists of everything that the first thing causes but can’t contain, whose exclusion defines the first thing—what wanted to be part of the first thing, but wasn’t able to be included. With breathing, one energetic action creates a second action. Inhales create exhales (and vice-versa), so that inhaling consists of everything exhaling causes but can’t contain (and vice-versa). Likewise, Yama-Niyama combo practices teaches us how Non-Violence creates Cleanliness (and vice-versa), and how Yamas consists of everything Niyamas cause by can’t contain (and vice-versa). Non-greediness creates Surrender to the First Teacher (and vice-versa)
5-25. The preparatory hathayogic practices can be advanced pranayama. While the Yamas, Niyamas, and Asanas can make pranayama doable by anyone, they can also become what Gandhi made of them: a world-changing expression of Pranayama itself. Every time Gandhi improved his saucha, his ahimsa became more powerful and vice-versa. Not wearing western clothes began his saucha practice. Once he was making his own clothes and not exploiting workers, that personal observance helped create a communal non-violence movement. Energetic cleanliness and non-violence worked together, looping back and forth to express a pranayama that changed the world. As Pranayama itself, the Yamas and Niyamas can do us.
5-26. Even transpersonal pranayama relates separate actions to each other. It’s still dualistic. We can say that Shiva still relates to Shakti and vice versa. So doing pranayama transcendently still involves inhales and exhales and life and death. Duality will always exist. Like Formlessness, Form is eternal, but Shiva and Shakti are not really separate.
5-27. Hathayogic pranayama heightens awareness of the trans-personal energy all around us. It is creative Energy itself being expressed most obviously. Pranayama lets us see how actions open and close like gates to other opening and closing gates.
5-28. Universal prana breathes everything into existence. It is, therefore, Energy itself (with a capital E). When yoga does us the way Energy itself does us, it’s not just hatha yoga, it’s Hatha Yoga.
5-29. As a para-energetic First Teacher structure, Hatha Yoga is the yoga of Pranayama. Thanks to It, we know what Energy itself is. Comparing hatha yoga to Hatha Yoga, we can know what they both are.
5-30. The breath-oriented Energy loving of hatha yoga is Hathayogically supported. That compares to internal, Presence supported, karmayogic love, to concentrative, Knowledge supported, jnanayogic love, to meditative, God supported, bhaktiyogic love, and to blissful, Absolute supported, rajayogic love. Even though The Absolute is more encompassing than Energy, and samadhi is more pervasive than pranayama, and the love of hatha yoga is the most democratic love, and even though we can and should know the forms according to their differences, all of the yogic forms are equal and Yogically supported.
5-31. Hathayogic transcendent pranayama expresses the creative union (love) between life and its cause. So the highest achievement of hatha yoga is to experience the connection between our energetic existence and the trans-energetic Cause of our existence. Nothing is rejected, which is why Ashtanga master and author Richard Freeman describes the love-oriented interconnected awareness as a “Matrix.” At the same time, hatha yoga “strips away” everything that isn’t Spirit (Creativity).
Chapter 6: Karma Yoga Is(n’t) Hatha Yoga
6-1. Karma yoga came right before hatha yoga. Widely popular from around 200 BCE to 800 CE, karma yoga was the yoga of that 1,000-year period. Back then, yogic teachings emphasized service and helped people realize union with what’s identifiable as Presence. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna teaches yoga as “sacrifice” and “actionless-action.” Those two ideas define karma yoga. Buddha’s “compassion” and “inner stillness” ideas in the Dhammapada and Christ’s “golden rule” and “no man’s life is increased by a single unit through effort” ideas in his Sermon on the Mount are also service and present-moment-oriented.
6-2. Hatha yoga should be compared most to karma yoga. Coming into existence in the order that they did, the two yogic forms are closely related and comparing them leads to understanding. Karma yoga was service-oriented, while hatha yoga seems to be oriented toward the practitioner’s personal experience, but that difference may be exaggerated.
6-3. Karma yoga is known for being the yoga of philanthropy. It’s service-oriented. As yogic expressions, however, the karma yogis’ good-deeds are a byproduct of practice. They flow naturally through the unattached karma yogi who always remains “present.” So karma yoga is about Presence. That compares to hatha yoga being about Energy.
6-4. Karma yoga is “now yoga.” It calls for a surrendering to the moment—to what is called “The Eternal Now.” That makes it more difficult than hatha yoga. Matched with a pratyahara sense-withdrawal practice that is more advanced than pranayama, and connected to an energetic goodness greater than pleasure, karma yoga is less accessible than hatha yoga. If a karma yogi isn’t “present” enough to experience the Truth of Being as goodness, the philanthropy associated with his or her practice will not flow from Grace or Compassion and will turn sour.
6-5. The historically realized difference between hatha yoga and karma yoga is curious. Given their evolutionary connection, there had to have been a lot of initial crossover, so why are they so different? Maybe they’re not. Things are changing now. Hatha yoga teachers are starting to emphasize “the power of Now,” and the energetic strength of philanthropy. Presence itself and Energy itself are different, and yet the same.
6-6. An outside influence shifted hatha yogis toward personal experiencing. That influence was tantra, and to some degree the hathayogic emphasis on personal level energy experiencing comes from it. While tantrics were discovering the chakras and kundalini, yogis (along with so-called tantric Tibetan Buddhists who did not follow the “left-handed” path) were practicing yamas they called paramitas that “benefit all beings.” Tantrics did influence the practice of hatha yoga, but the wrongdoings of certain notorious contemporary teachers who hathayogically optimize the way sexual and financial energy plays out in their lives cannot be blamed on tantra. Hatha yogis who exploit the lowest energies are responsible for the result, even if those energies are a part of what Energy makes manifest.
6-7. Tantric scholars have established the historical perspective on hatha yoga. They popularized the idea that hatha yoga is “an offshoot of tantra.” In particular, Georg Feuerstein has made that claim, but he is a tantric scholar, not to be taken as an objective enough observer. On the other hand, the positive influences of tantrics like Robert Svoboda have supplied an important counterpoint to the superficiality promoted in so-called yoga magazines. Tantrics employing the healing art of Ayurveda can be as ensconced in “benefiting all beings” as any yogis ever were, and the “Bodhisatva vow” taken by tantric Tibetan Buddhists is as karmayogic as it gets.
6-8. The first hatha yogis were philanthropists. As converted karma yogis, they had to have been service-oriented. We know for certain they were yogis. If they hadn’t been yogis and they started doing tantric energy experiencing, they just would have been doing tantra. Since they didn’t become tantrics they had to have been yogis in the first place and they had to have been karma yogis since karma yoga was the yoga happening at the time. So the last karma yogis became the first hatha yogis because hatha yoga was even more lovingly inclusive and more sharable. Yoga that everyone understands can be universally shared. Hatha yoga developed away from karma yoga during its first 1,000 years, but it’s looping back toward that philanthropic-orientation now, at the start of what might be another hathayogic 1,000-year era.
6-9. Karma yoga and three other yogic forms preceded hatha yoga. Before karma yoga, there was jnana yoga, and before that there was bhakti yoga, and before that there was the original yoga. Since only an elite group of adepts could do the first yoga, and now everyone should be able to do hatha yoga, it’s obvious that yoga evolved toward more people being able to do it. That happened in 5 stages. The last karma yogis may have been the first yogis to be consciously aware of the progression, which we can now all recognize.
6-10. Hatha yoga was going to happen when it happened because the timing was right. Karma yoga had been around for about 1,000 years when hatha yoga first happened, and that specific number of years has been a significant length of time throughout yoga’s entire history. The first yoga had been around for that long when bhakti yoga was born; bhakti yoga had been around for that long when jnana yoga first happened; jnana yoga had been around for that long when karma yoga was born; and, yoga’s 5,000 year cycle was complete after hatha yoga’s first 1,000 years. Hatha yoga is still the yoga of our time, so the cycle has started over in reverse and may follow the same timing as the last 5,000-year cycle.
6-11. It was known how yoga would evolve. What’s known as the Preternatural Pentad explains how the energy of Being evolves down from spirit-level consciousness in five stages. The idea has been around since yoga’s inception and will be discussed in detail later on. The point here is that yogis recognized how things evolve downward from spirit to mind (and Samadhi to Pranayama) in five stages. Yogis like Tapas-meditation master Shivabalayogi, have also said that yoga happens in 5,000 year cycles. Taking the ideas together, then, we recognize a new explanation for how yoga evolved. Yoga evolved in five 1,000-year stages, from spirit-yoga to mind-yoga. The “Classical Yoga” idea (which imagines a bell-shaped rise and fall of yogic philosophical perception) conflicts with both the historical facts and yogic knowledge.
6-12. Yoga may be evolving back toward another Karmayogic Age. If another 5,000-year Yogic cycle has begun, then this new Hatha Yoga era will last 900 more years before giving way to Karma Yoga. If the evolution is accelerated, karma yoga will be back sooner, perhaps heralded by the second coming of Krishna and Jesus. They could help us all be each others’ teachers this round, in connection with what Buddhists call Maytreya—the time when (thanks to what Tibetan Buddhists call Chenrezig) we can all be Buddhas. At that point, the love from Chenrezig (Ishvara) would be working through us all effortlessly. All we have to do is let Ishvara do the teaching.
6-13. In the Sutras, the First Teacher is described as a “special Purusha.” Regular Purushas are wholly observation-oriented expressions of Pure Consciousness. So what makes Ishvara special? Being the First Teacher, obviously what makes it special is its ability to teach. That makes Ishvara really special because Purushas are not purposive. Teaching is clearly an action with a purpose. Ishvara is the First Teacher, and as Yoga itself, Ishvara, in accordance with evolution, has been The First Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Hatha Yoga.
6-14. We can allow Ishvara to teach yoga for us. If we just love ygoa, the teaching happens because we’re letting the First Teacher do what It’s here to do. Yoga’s compassionate expressions flow through truly open-hearted humans, regardless of their religious affiliation, and while people’s institutional connections to Krishna’s, Buddha’s, and Christ’s teachings are rarely yogic, some do become lovingly philanthropic karmayogic expressions of hatha yoga, even more lovingly studious jnana yogic expressions of hatha yoga, even more lovingly devotional bhaktiyogic expressions of hatha yoga, or even more lovingly focused rajayogic expressions of hatha yoga.
Chapter 7: Hatha Yoga Is Mind-level Yoga
7-1. Hatha yoga soothes the mind. It is for the mind—what in Sanskrit is called “manas.” That should be commonly recognized since all the teachers most responsible for yoga’s world-wide popularity referred to their teachings as something that “gives people peace of mind.” Without a doubt, hatha yoga is the manas-level form of yoga. More specifically, it is capable of soothing the “brain chatter” part of our consciousness, which is the lowest, most challenged level of Being. Hatha yoga can help us right where we all need and can accept the most help.
7-2. All mind-oriented yoga is hathayogic. No matter what else it may be called, the yoga specifically meant for the mind is hatha yoga. So things got very confused when the men most responsible for hatha yoga’s worldwide popularity initially identified what they were teaching as something other than hatha yoga. Paramahansa Yogananda, Vishnu-devananda, Yogi Bhajan, Iyengar, and Pattabhi Jois all taught mind-oriented yoga and said as much, but because hatha yoga had the reputation of being “merely physical,” all those teachers initially claimed to be teaching something other than hatha yoga. Even though Yogananda taught new meditation techniques that physically tuned student’s sensory apparatus, he claimed not to be teaching hatha yoga because he was “giving relief to mental struggle”; even though Vishnu-devananda taught Sivananda’s ideas about relaxing deeply between sets of poses, he claimed not to be teaching hatha yoga because he was giving people “peace of mind”; even though Yogi Bhajan taught very physical exercises, he claimed not to be teaching hatha yoga because “Kundalini Yoga is science of the mind”; even though Iyengar taught mental focus during bodily posture practice, he claimed not to be teaching hatha yoga because “Iyengar Yoga affects and changes the mind”; and, even though Jois taught six whole set sequences of asanas, he didn’t call it hatha yoga because he said, “Ashtanga Yoga is mind medicine.” So they all clearly taught hatha yoga and none of their styles were ever understood either to constitute or to belong to some other yogic form. The mind can’t truly soothe itself, so to really help the mind, yoga must be working from a level above it—at least on an ego-level the way karma yoga does.
7-3. Hatha yoga disciplines the mind. Ashtanga Yoga, and Iyengar Yoga are discipline-oriented hathayogic practices. They focus the mind in connection with heat—the niyama orientation called “tapas.” The best way to discipline the mind is to make it feel free (unfenced).
7-4. Hatha yoga promotes mind-level self-study. Viniyoga, and Yin Yoga are self-study-oriented hathayogic practices. They settle the mind with insight—the niyama orientation called “svadyaya.” Yogis studying the self must disregard the self.
7-5. Hatha yoga connects the mind to the First Teacher. Kriya Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, and Kundalini Yoga are regular hatha yogic styles that emphasize surrender to a primordially pervasive field recognizable as the Divine—the niyama orientation called Ishvara-pranidhana. Surrendering to the First Teacher (less accurately referred to as “God”) requires that the yogi get out of the way of the teaching.
7-6. Mind-level yoga depends on discipline, self-study, and surrender to the First Teacher. The Sutras suggest those 3 niyamas be grouped together. It’s better to pair them with the yamas non-stealing, sexual-continence, and non-acquisitiveness.
7-7. Hatha yoga is now mostly being taught in connection with the first two niyamas: cleanliness (saucha) and contentment (santosha). Focused on “health,” these are the most basic, most hygienic, most fitness-oriented hathayogic practices of all. They should be judged on their ability to help people with stressful mind-level challenges. Since there are so many minds in desperate need of soothing now, it’s timely that we have so many hatha yoga styles available, and so many loving instructors teaching all those styles. Unless a health-oriented style of practice soothes minds, it is not truly hathayogic.
7-8. “Manas” refers to the first level of consciousness, which is the mind. It’s part of the Levels of Being category. We can compare it to the four other levels: ahamkara (ego), buddhi (intellect), prakriti (soul), and purusha (spirit). As levels of Being, all 5 things relate to consciousness, with spirit being the highest level. Due to Ultimate Paradox (the split condition of Reality that makes for an Ultimate, more real Reality and a relative, less real, but at the same time just as real reality) there is Ultimate Spirit in everything, including relative mind and even the body.
7-9. Manas is the lowest level of consciousness. As far as expressions of human thinking are concerned, it’s the least expansive. “Brain chatter” describes it well enough. Since we can hear and understand the chatter, we know there’s another level of intelligence (doing the hearing and understanding). That next level, ahamkara, is the “I” maker. We can’t hear it talking to itself like manas, but we can sense its existence. In a non-verbalized kind of way, the ahamkara talks down to the mind, trying to reason with it. Manas itself is radiantly expressive.
7-10. Our ego and intellect are bigger than our minds. The words “ahamkara” and “buddhi” translate into familiar concepts, but they mean something different from what we usually think of as “ego” and “intellect.” Both of those English words are problematic. The word ego is trouble if we associate it with Freud, and the word intellect is trouble if we associate it with academic eggheadedness. As levels of Being, ego and intellect are both personal and collective. As collective structures, they relate to Consciousness itself. According to the Preternatural Pentad, Spirit became Soul, Soul became Intellect, Intellect became Ego, and Ego became Mind. So it explains creation. The word preternatural means supernatural, or beyond natural. However, only one of the five things in the Pentad is beyond nature. Purusha is beyond nature. Hierarchically speaking, it’s the highest one. Prakriti is the second highest one and it is soul. The word “prakriti” is usually translated as nature, while the word “atman” is used in reference to soul, but there is justification for thinking of prakriti as meaning “soul” in this context.
7-11. Mind is an energetic structure. Even though there is no real size involved, each level of consciousness, including mind, has a relative expansiveness to it and that applies both to personal mind and transpersonal (collective) mind structures. Manas is the smallest level of Being and purusha is the biggest. The way some people picture it, then, is in comparison to a Russian doll set. The biggest doll is purusha. All the other dolls are inside it and the mind doll is the smallest one. But the mind doll is also the most relatable. Not everyone relates to reality on a spirit (purusha) level, on a soul (prakriti) level, on an intellect (buddhi) level, or even an ego (ahamkara) level. Everyone has to relate to reality on at least a mind level. Otherwise, they can’t relate to reality at all. It’s the bottom level. Everyone relates to Spirit.
7-12. Hatha yoga can help everyone in connection with mind-level awareness. Being a mind-soother makes hatha yoga universally effective. Everyone suffers in connection with brain-chatter, so everyone can appreciate its ability to soothe that structure. Mind-level yoga depends on ego-level yogic practice, which is an idea supported by what Einstein said about “problems not being solvable on the same level of consciousness that they occur.”
7-13. Hathayogic mind tools not only soothe, but train the mind. That’s how, in Desikachar’s words, “hatha yoga prepares the mind-body field for correct knowledge.” Really, the mind is already trained; it just needs to get out of its own way. Ego-level awareness makes that possible.
7-14. Mind-level yoga is not just a preparatory form. Doing hatha yoga doesn’t just prepare us for correct knowledge, it allows correct knowledge to happen for us. It’s the same thing as letting God reveal the truth. Energy worshipping scientists allowed correct knowledge to happen when they came up with the idea that “energy is the constant quantity in life.” Because matter makes up only .001% of Nature, energy is really all there is. Nothing is really physical. Our minds make it seem that way according to the laws of quantum mechanics and that’s why the so-called “physical level of Being” (recognized by people like Ken Wilber) is not a real level. We can call the lowest level of Being the physical-mind level.
7-15. Mind-level yoga is the lowest form possible. Yoga can’t be wholly physical. So if hatha yoga didn’t relate to the mind—if it weren’t the mind-level, mind-oriented form of yoga—it wouldn’t be yoga at all. Spirit-level (raja) yoga came first; soul-level (bhakti) yoga came second; intellect-level (jnana) yoga came third; ego-level (karma) yoga came fourth; and, mind-level (hatha) yoga came last. Each of those yogas can express on a higher level than the one they soothe, and mind-level yoga soothes the body, including the brain and its physical-chemical functioning.
7-16. Because it’s mind-oriented, hatha yoga is the most universal yogic form. Mind is the lowest yogically relatable level of Consciousness. Yoga evolved toward mind-level yoga, down from spirit-level yoga, because everyone needs the most help with their minds. Hatha yoga can help everyone (even enlightened beings) unify spirit and body.
7-17. Yoga’s evolution moved in the direction of increased universality. Once yoga became doable on a mind (manas) level, it had evolved as far as it could. Yoga started on a spirit-level, as something almost no one could do and ended on a mind-level, as something everyone should be able to do. It’s inclusiveness, along with it’s ability to unify spirit and body, made hatha yoga the crowning achievement of yogic evolution. Coming from Shiva (the Non-Manifest), yoga started on a trans-spiritual, trans-creative level, but then expressed as spirit so it could evolve universally on all levels of Consciousness and even create a spirit-body unification.
7-18. Completely universal, hatha yoga can soothe anyone’s mind. It is the yogic form that is for everyone because its hallmark practice, pranayama, is “mind-medicine.” A soothed mind allows the physicality that houses it to be unified with spirit.
Chapter 8: Yoga Isn’t Tantra
8-1. Yoga and tantra are different things. Yoga helps at least one level of our Being realize a spiritual union, while tantra radically hastens religious attainments. Many yoga practitioners are as religious as tantrics, but strictly yogic religiosity is not cultural.
8-2. Tantra is a commonly misunderstood form of energy-oriented religious experiencing. (Non-Buddhist) tantrics relate everything in life to Shakti, whom they call “Ma.” As the Divine Mother’s children, they love her consort, Shiva, and they expect that love to give them personal power. Tantra and hatha yoga have been taught together because of the mutual benefits to energy experiencing. Yoga transcends tantra and tantra transcends yoga, but some things are beyond the scope of yoga, while nothing spiritual is outside the “fast-path” scope of tantra.
8-3. Tantrics did not need hatha yoga to be energetically sensitive. Before there was hatha yoga, tantrics were already sensitive enough to recognize the way energy structures itself in relation to our physicality. They called it the “subtle body” since it formlessly matches the shape of our physical body. The human subtle body takes shape according to a structure that is invisible and yet common to us all, which is why it responds to our awareness of it as a radiant human non-form with specific parts.
8-4. Tantrics may have given hatha yoga its name. Just as Muslims gave “Hindus” their name, tantrics may have named hatha yoga, and since they probably discovered the “ha” and “tha” energy channels, they had the knowledge needed to do the naming. Once hatha yogis were using the word “hatha,” it also just referred to energy in general.
8-5. Tantrics discovered the chakra system. Chakras are energy vortices located along the central axis of the subtle body. Although some tantrics and yogis attempt to “open” the chakras and free the energy localized within what they see as “blockages,” most contemporary yoga practitioners simply use the chakras as points of meditation that feel good to experience. Suppressing the pleasure of enhanced energetic experiences increased tantrics’ sensitivity to the point that they could discover the chakras.
8-6. Tantrics discovered kundalini. The word kundalini translates literally as “The Coiled One.” It’s the trapped storehouse of energy at the bottom of the subtle body’s central axis. It can release up the spine. Tantrics believe that kundalini can be released safely straight up the spine if a love of Shiva establishes Him as a lightning rod for the released energy. (Note: The style of practice called Kundalini Yoga done in yoga studios is completely hathayogic. It doesn’t promote Yogi Bhajan’s version of Sikhism and doesn’t advocate tantric sex. It’s also not really related to kundalini. The energy involved is normal pranic and apanic movement up and down the central energy channel, and that’s a good thing.) Every ancient yogic text, including the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, warns about the danger of releasing kundalini. The chances of it happening are extremely remote (as explained in texts written by Robert Svoboda, Dr. Motayama, and Gopi Krishna), but the fact is that in all the main ancient texts we are warned not to teach beginners how to release kundalini. It’s a risk worth taking.
8-7. Maybe tantrics discovered the Om. One of the Yoga Sutras does state that drugs can inspire yoga, and the first yogis may have taken a mushroom drink called soma. Even so, it’s more likely that drugged tantrics discovered the Om and then turned the first yogis on to their great spiritual revelation. Given tantrics’ religious orientation, it’s also probable that the bhaktiyogic Shiva-Shakti concept came from them. Maybe tantrics helped each form of yoga be born.
8-8. It’s possible that tantra pre-dates yoga. If a tantric did discover the Om, then tantra definitely came first and that would explain why tantra is never considered “an offshoot” of yoga. In any case, tantra remained tantra and yoga remained yoga. Tanta and yoga have remained distinct for 5,000 years.
8-9. Tantra doesn’t depend on Om the way yoga does. Tantrics may have discovered Om, but they focus more on Shiva or Chenrezig for spiritual support. On the other hand, Om is the ultimate yogic teaching tool. Before its existence, it was not possible to teach yoga. As a primordial formula for everything that does and does not exist—for Energy itself and Non-Energy, for Shakti and Shiva, for the Manifest and the Non-Manifest—Om represents The Absolute. As a formula, it explains The Absolute and its relationship to God. It also represents God. It contains all Knowledge. It expresses Presence. Like E=mcô, it explains Energy. So all five forms of yoga can be taught with Om.
8-10. Tantrics may have taught hatha yogis to use Om in connection with energy. Because Om contains knowledge of Non-Energy, it transcends hatha yoga’s unification interest (Energy itself), but the physical chanting of Om is very tangible—very hathayogic. Hathayogically, it’s about regular energy always being a pleasurable thing to experience. The way Om is chanted hathayogically is for everyone.
8-11. Tantra and hatha yoga focus on energy in opposite ways. Both practices emphasize the conscious experiencing of energy, and both practices focus on certain personal-level energy structures, but even if some of the practices are the same, they are done for completely different reasons. Yoga unites us impersonally with Energy itself. Tantra releases personal kundalini so that the practitioner can have a personal relationship with Shakti. Tantra and yoga both focus on Energy itself and benefit each other.
8-12. Tantrics do unyogic things. As part of their “left-handed path,” tantrics act in conflict with the yamas and niyamas. Even tantrics who are not conmen or charlatans have been known to purposefully harm people, be extremely unclean, practice the art of lying, see virtue in stealing, and flaunt their sexual incontinence. That behavior can connect with a trans-rational kind of spiritual realization known as “crazy wisdom.”
8-13. Real tantrics try not to experience pleasure while doing very pleasurable things. Hatha yogis accentuate the pleasure of energy experiencing; real tantrics use sex and drugs without giving into enjoyment. Hatha yogis increase sensitization in order to feel connected to Energy itself; tantrics do extremely sensitizing things, but suppress the feelings in hopes that it will cause a trapped personal-level energy-structure to unleash up their spine. Yoga is for everyone; tantra is for the hugely courageous.
8-14. Tantra’s goal is beyond most people. While hatha yoga can help almost anyone experience their life-force, most so-called tantric masters fail to release their kundalini. Robert Svoboda’s tantric mentor said, “life isn’t really life until kundalini has been released,” but he also knew it as a rare achievement, no matter how much tantra someone practices.
8-15. Hatha yoga and tantra have very different goals. They always have and it’s really just their long-term social connection that confuses the issue. There’s been a lot of crossover between the two spiritual things, but yoga’s goal is union and tantra’s goal is power. Yoga evolves directionally, according to its forms, while tantra evolves eccentrically, in (perhaps positive energetic) opposition to yoga.
8-16. Tantra didn’t cause hatha yoga. Tantric discoveries were probably used in the first hathayogic practice in history, but even if the first hatha yogis focused on chakra awareness, or something else they borrowed from the tantrics, hatha yoga was not a tantric discovery. If tantrics had made up hatha yoga it would have been just part of tantra. Yogis did hatha yoga for the first time, not tantrics, and hatha yoga is doable now without anything the tantrics discovered. As an evolutionary expression of Yoga itself, Hatha Yoga itself caused hatha yoga.
8-17. Tantra is meant to be a separate thing. We can tell that from its name. The root Sanskrit word of “tan” actually means to extend or stretch, and tantra extends and stretches spiritual practice beyond yoga’s scope. It always has, and that’s because tantra is what yoga can’t contain. Tantrics teaching hatha yoga separately and calling it by a separate name should have helped yogis know what hatha yoga is through effective comparison and contrast.
8-18. Tantrics became interested in doing and teaching hatha yoga. At some point tantrics began doing and teaching hatha yoga. Conversely, hatha yogis do not teach tantra. People who teach tantra are tantrics. Tantra is too dangerous to do unless a master teacher guides the whole process one on one.
8-19. Hatha yogis have taught yoga in connection with tantric ideas. Many of the ideas in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika come from tantra. Mistakenly, Svatmarama believed that hatha yoga was a preparatory form that included kundalini release and led to “raja yoga.” By raja yoga, he meant Patajalian Yoga—what’s taught in the Yoga Sutra as it is extant today. The term “raja yoga” is being used in this text to mean the original yogic form, related to the Non-Energy Absolute side of Om—Shivaraja.
8-20. Tantric ideas can help us understand what’s really going on with reality. Tantric Buddhists refer to the two extremes that extend past the bounds of truth as “nothingness and realism.” Seeing things only according to the “facts” is flawed because realism can’t include an awareness of nothingness, and seeing things only according to “nothingness” is flawed because the resultant nihilism can’t include an awareness of causal reality. In terms of yoga’s history and evolution, the so-called yoga world has been living in fantasy on the side of nothingness and now it may be moving into ignorance on the side of realism. Yoga historians sticking to the realistic facts will never realize the truth. “Yoga people” will never realize the truth sticking to nothingness. So if we want to know the truth about yoga’s relatively recent history, we can find it somewhere between nothingness and realism.
8-21. Tantrics may have explained yoga’s origin in two important ways. Tantrics love myths more than yogis. They also love Shiva, so it’s probable that tantrics came up with the story about Shiva giving yoga to humankind. They also may have created the yogic science fiction about yoga being brought to Earth by “celestial beings.” Historians will never explain Yoga’s origins as well because the facts can’t explain how yoga came into existence in a perfected state. But a new, semi-religious science orientation might, and one possibility for that would have “field scientists” recognizing Shiva as the Non-Manifest, and recognizing all yogic knowledge as what they already refer to as “realized potential.”
8-22. Tantrics helped yogis recognize the science of religious understanding. Contrary to popular belief, strictly speaking, yoga is a religion. So is the science of the “science world,” because it has a belief system. All thought is connected to belief and the dictionary definition of religion is that it relates to our “belief in things with superhuman power.” Since we believe in gravity without really understanding what it is, and since gravity has superhuman powers, we’re all in the gravity religion. We could, therefore, call hatha yoga the yogic gravity religion. Hatha yoga is too democratic and accessible to be as religious as tantra and since yoga has been popularized as a non-religion it’s important to keep tantra and yoga separate.
8-23. Knowledge itself is pre-existent and can be spontaneously accessed. Buddhist tantrics understand how “Revealed Knowledge” happens in connection with a Field of Compassion, Chenrezig. There is no mention of Revealed Knowledge in the Yoga Sutra, but true jnana yogis have recognized how Intelligence is revealed through the spontaneous “accessing” of Ishvara’s Knowledge. Tantrics may have taught yogis to know Ishvara as the First Guru who compassionately reveals Knowledge.
8-24. Tantric perspectives help us realize how yoga evolved. If we look at Yoga itself the way Tibetan Buddhists look at Chenrezig—as a First Teacher type Compassionate energetic structure—the way yoga evolved becomes clear. Moving lovingly toward greater accessibility and inclusiveness, Yoga changed every 1,000 years from the Original (Raja) Yoga into Bhakti Yoga into Jnana Yoga into Karma Yoga into Hatha Yoga. Each Yoga gave birth to the next Yoga, so even though tantrics may have played the role of mid-wife every time, they were not responsible for the births because each Yoga caused a new yoga to be born, including hatha yoga. Being as lovingly accessible as yoga can be, hatha yoga is the ultimate expression of First Teacher Compassion and the culmination of Yoga’s evolutionary movement toward inclusiveness.
8-25. Knowledge can come directly from Hatha Yoga itself. In Health, Healing, and Beyond, the way Krishnamacharya received the hathayogic teachings of the Yoga Rahasya is described as a spontaneous transmission of revealed knowledge. Yoga itself was birthed (already perfected) the same way originally, and it’s also the way the yogic mythological, science-fictional, philosophical, religious, and scientific explanations for what yoga is all arrived as revelation.
Chapter 9: Tantra Is(n’t) Hatha Yoga
9-1. Self-described tantrics who teach hatha yoga are hatha yogis. Anyone teaching anything more than hatha yoga does so one on one, not in groups. To claim otherwise is false advertising at best. It should be understood that the “kundalini” experiencing taught in hatha yoga classes refers to regular prana being moved effectively and pleasurably. Tantrics continue to push the bounds of hatha yoga, revisiting old practices and coming up with new ones.
9-2. Motivated by self-interest, tantrics started doing hatha yoga. Tantrics wanted to “build an adamantine body” that could protect them from the ravages of a sudden release of kundalini up their spines, so at some point they started practicing hatha yoga. Tantrics who teach hatha yoga do so with unabashed enthusiasm about its physical benefits.
9-3. Tantrics changed hatha yoga. Tantric influence on hatha yoga was the main historic fork in the road, because once tantrics started doing it, the “hatha yoga is the physical form of yoga” idea spread. We can assume that tantrics popularized the idea because it was the way tantrics viewed hatha yoga. Tantrics also added hugely to the amount of hathayogic knowledge.
9-4. Tantrics got more out of practicing hatha yoga than mere physical strength. Even hatha yoga’s most physical aspects are not just calisthenics. They have positive energetic effects beyond exercise, and that’s why tantrics were right to use them in connection with their religious practices. Doing hatha yoga made tantrics strong in just the right way.
9-5. Teaching hatha yoga is good business. We all want to feel good and since hatha yoga helps with that, it’s good business and it became an even better business once tantrics began teaching it with profit in mind. So-called tantrics downplayed the real “left-handedness” of tantra in order to focus on healing and making hatha yoga instruction more profitable.
9-6. Tantrics made hatha yoga about health. People in physical pain now come to hatha yoga teachers for help, and tantrics were the first people to institute hathayogic-healing practices. With their interest in healing coming from truly ancient roots, tantrics added to the physical benefits of hatha yoga.
9-7. Since tantrics see hatha yoga as physical, they can explain it that way. Hatha yoga is not their spiritual practice, so tantrics have never had any qualms about selling it as health-oriented and the resultant diminishment doesn’t bother them. It’s hard for hatha yoga teachers to explain what hatha yoga is.
9-8. What happened in the U.S. had already happened in India. Hatha yoga was popularized as “the physical yoga” in India and then the same thing played out in the United States, beginning in 1889, when an American named Perry Baker began studying with a traveling Indian tantric. Their unlikely coming together is described in the following passage from Robert Love’s book The Great Oom:
It is a maxim among spiritual seekers that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And so, as if plucked from a candlelit cave in the foothills of the Himalayas and materialized on the muddy streets of the frontier town of Lincoln, this dapper Asian émergé stood before a skinny, wide-eyed kid from Iowa. The odds against this meeting are not just long, they are nigh impossible; fewer than eight hundred Indians in total immigrated to the United States between 1820 and 1900.
So it began in Lincoln, Nebraska, of all places. There, a young American was taught how to practice tantra and hatha yoga. After fifteen years of study, Baker changed his name to Pierre Bernard and took his show on the road. It played well, especially in New York, where Bernard’s tantric theatrics—sticking needles into his lips and tongue without bleeding—caused a stir. The exhibitions grew large crowds and Bernard became a notorious public figure, parlaying his fame into a very successful hatha yoga teaching career, and promoting the idea all over the U.S. that “hatha yoga is the physical form of yoga.” When and where yoga is meant to happen is when and where it does happen.
9-9. Popularizing hatha yoga as exercise worked fairly well in the U.S. Americans were fine with the idea that hatha yoga was health-oriented. It reduced fear. Hygiene isn’t sacrilegious, so hatha yoga was okay, but the idea continued to spread ignorance—the sort of ignorance Indian statues depict (which is why Shiva’s “teaching” arm is like an elephant trunk clearing a path in the jungle, giving us space to learn, while at the same time, his right foot holds us down in “dwarfed” state of mind). Both things—knowledge and ignorance—happen eternally and simultaneously, because they are generated by the same causal energy.
9-10. Promoting hatha yoga as the physical yoga was limiting even in respect to business. It helped Pierre Bernard get things started in the U.S., but the trend lost momentum. Things didn’t get better until the ’60s, when hippies and then new-agers started looking for non-institutionalized spiritual connections. Hippie yoga was earthy and retro, while New-Age yoga was spacey and progressive.
9-11. Hatha yoga became popular when it was taught as a spiritual practice. Yoga took off in the ’90s, when teachers finally “came out” as spiritualists and that was seen as a sign of yogic authenticity. Studio classes remained physically oriented, but the practice’s spiritual nature was no longer downplayed. On the contrary, it was championed. People of all faiths can enjoy hatha yoga’s spiritual expressions.
9-12. The “physical form of yoga” idea helps people recognize yoga as a yogic form. It’s important knowledge, because to know what hatha yoga is in a common way, we must compare and contrast it to other things in its category and, obviously, recognizing the “form” idea is the first step. Because of “Ultimate Paradox”—because Spirit is in everything, including physical things—there’s nothing “less-than” about the physical level of Being.
9-13. As “the physical yoga form,” hatha yoga is separated from the other forms. If forks didn’t help us eat, then forks wouldn’t be utensils. They would be outside of the utensil category. If hatha yoga didn’t soothe the mind (just as other forms soothe the ego, intellect, soul, and spirit), and unify us with Energy, (just as other forms unifies us with Presence, Knowledge, God, and the Absolute) then it wouldn’t be in the forms of yoga category. Since it does both of those things, we can compare hatha yoga to the other forms of yoga and get a good, common-level sense of what it is even without really understanding yoga. That’s obvious because we do the same thing on a more practical level with the bandhas. We’re told that bandhas “bind energy.” Including mulabandha, uddianabandha, and jalandharabandha, all the different things in the bandha category bind energy. Because we have a common idea about what bandhas do and because we understand the bandha category, it’s not a huge problem that we don’t really understand what bandhas are. Like yoga, they’re mysterious. Like hatha yoga, they’re relatively tangible but still mysterious things. But we at least know what they are in a common, ordinary, albeit sub-yogic way. Hatha yoga’s physical nature does make it different from the other forms.
9-14. Temporarily, it worked for tantrics to promote hatha yoga as a preparatory practice. Tantrics intrigued people with demonstrations of strange feats, and established themselves as real spiritual adepts who could help anyone do hatha yoga until they progressed on to something more spiritual. But in India and then in the U.S., the preparation usually ended up being the only thing tantrics taught. Otherwise, they’d lose their students, either because their students became adepts too or because things got too weird for them. The ordinary truth “will out.”
9-15. Teachers who don’t know what hatha yoga is can still teach it. Even tantrics have taught hatha yoga effectively. In fact, some so-called tantrics have been among the best, most renown, most influential teachers of hatha yoga. Again, the first westerner to teach hatha yoga was a tantric, having been taught yoga one-on-one for 15 years, to the point where he was capable of magician-like real life feats of derring-do. The fact that some very “bad” people have been extremely effective yoga teachers is confounding.
9-16. Western spiritual drug use and sexual esotericism is neither tantric nor hathayogic. Dr. White writes:
The very use of the term ‘Tantra” is deceptive. Imagine an analogous scenario in which an Indian entrepreneur began running “Christian sex” workshops in South Asia, claiming that they drew on the secret practices of Jesus and Mary Magdalene as transmitted through the Albigensians, or some other such invented nonsense.
So Tantra is best left to the Indians. It’s a religion (much more so than hatha yoga), and no one should “commercialize another culture’s spiritual beliefs.” Dr. White’s Sinister Yogis illustrates how the mixing of tantra and yoga created a complex history.
9-17. “Westernized” yoga is really for everyone. The modern idea that hatha yoga is not a religion eased peoples’ fears, but Pierre Bernard drew students even when the media was portraying it as anti-Christian. Many of Bernard’s students became devoted life-long hatha yoga students, and a century later, thousands of teachers truly dedicated to its highest spiritual expressions are instructing hatha yoga everywhere. The media sells hatha yoga as an elitist activity, but it’s democratic.
9-18. Hatha yoga can be taught effectively to large groups of people within a classroom structure. People love practicing hatha yoga together. As it was done in India, Bernard was taught yoga one on one, but he came to teach it communally, in a class structure. He might have been the first to do so, and though Bernard was morally compromised, what he started back in 1905 in connection with his so-called “Tantrik Order of America” can be looked at as the beginning of Hatha Yoga’s new era because from 1905 until its closing, instead of developing tantrics, Bernard always enlisted his advancing students to teach more and more hatha yoga classes. Hatha yoga is less democratic when it’s taught privately.
9-19. The first people teaching large hatha yoga classes became “celebrities.” First, Bernard became famous, and after Paramahansa Yogananda visited Bernard’s order and started teaching large classes, he became famous. Paramahansa Yogananda claimed not to be interested in hatha yoga, but he taught large yoga classes directed toward the physical aspects of meditation. It was much more effective to give people living in a yoga wasteland “preliminary physical” instruction in groups than it would’ve been to try and teach straight meditation one student at a time. It was better business too, even back in India, where in 1930, a dynamic teacher named Krishnamacharya started teaching his top students to instruct large classes. He had taught Iyengar, Jois, and Desikachar one on one, but they all started teaching large classes, as did a long-time female student named Indra Devi. She brought the classroom teaching structure to Los Angeles in 1947.
Especially in L.A., Bernard’s “teacher-stable” business model is alive and well, having been taken to the next level in the late ’60s by Ganga White—the first person to conduct yoga teacher training programs. Bikram Choudhury, Anna Forrest, Alan Finger, and Erich Schiffman followed suit, and it was also in L.A. where Paramahansa Yogananada’s Self-Realization Centers, Vishnu-devananda’s Sivananda Vedanta Centers, Yogi Bhajan’s 3HO institutes, B.K.S. Iyengar’s Iyengar Institute were all established. And even with all that going on, it really wasn’t until the early ’90s when a bunch of younger “Yoga Works” teachers birthed “the L.A. yoga scene.” Doing yoga in Santa Monica in the ’90s was like painting in New York in the ’50s, or writing in Paris in the ’20s. And given Los Angeles’ media oriented influence on the world, it’s no surprise that what first became trendy in Los Angeles then became popular all over the world. What happened in the ’60s with The Beatles, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Ram Dass, and others “turned the world on” to yoga.
9-20. Charismatic teachers created hatha yoga’s styles. People like John Friend, Gary Kraftsow, and Beryl Bender Birch spun off Iyengar Yoga, Desikachar Yoga, and Ashtanga Yoga to create Anusara Yoga, Viniyoga, and Power Yoga, respectively. Yoga history may not be as “personality driven” as it seems.
9-21. The existence of so many different styles is democratic. There’s a hathayogic style for everyone, and since we can compare the energetic effects of each style in respect to vitalization, relaxation, and sensitization, we can have a good relative sense of what each style does. All kinds of surprising things about yoga may be developing and coming out (including what’s in this book) because Yoga itself is trying desperately now to help a world in danger.
9-22. Hatha yoga subsumed tantra to become just what the world needs. It’s now that yoga “for a world in danger” intimated in the practices of the first great popularizing gurus (2-15). Starting with Pierre Bernard’s classes, what’s been happening with hatha yoga should be recognized as a new, more democratic era of hatha yoga. It may also be the start of a great coming together of yogas at an amazingly accelerated rate. It may be the only thing that allows humanity to survive. After all, the cultural settings in which yoga originally arose were much less interconnected than the contemporary world. Shouldn’t 1 billion yogis impact the entire field of yoga on planet Earth more richly than a relative handful of adepts in relative isolation even from their own culture? Maybe we’re approaching a time of critical mass—which happens with nuclear energy—or a yoga singularity, to use the more contemporary physics metaphor. If so, all the yogas will come together in a super yoga capable of bringing us back from the brink of self-destruction. Energy-oriented yoga that is both scientific and religious could, within this same 1,000 year period or even in less time, connect with the full and active First Teacher expressions of Presence, Knowledge, God, and Absolute Yogas to create a Yogic singularity.
9-22. Hatha yoga is expressing more dynamically. To spread yoga, leading teachers presented hatha yoga in a conservative way for several decades. Some tantrics have contested the conservativeness but they can relax. The way Krishnamacharya accessed the Yoga Rahasya exemplifies hathayogic dynamism.
Chapter 10: What Are(n’t) the Forms of Yoga?
10-1. Hatha yoga can only be known as one of the forms of yoga. Trying to know what hatha yoga is without contrasting it to the other things in its category is basically impossible. The few categorizations involved in knowing what hatha yoga is may be confused beyond hope.
10-2. Knowing what hatha yoga is must happen anew. Things have to be reworked, and we can start with what Desikachar wrote in his book The Heart of Yoga. In it he lists the following nine forms of yoga: jnana yoga, bhakti yoga, mantra yoga, raja yoga, karma yoga, kriya yoga, hatha yoga, kundalini yoga, and tantra yoga. Interestingly, he groups the last three—hatha, kundalini, and tantra—together because “the fundamental concept shared by all three of them is kundalini.” But Desikachar’s teacher never taught anyone about kundalini. Jois and Iyengar never taught anyone about kundalini. In fact, Iyengar is quoted in a widely published interview as saying that he has “slapped people” for claiming to have had a kundalini experience, and contrary to what’s written in his book, Desikachar himself never mentions kundalini in class. Kundalini is a tantric concern.
10-3. We know what yoga is in relation to its five forms. Despite what some renowned teachers have claimed, and consistent with what some other renowned teachers have stated, there are really only five yogic forms. We can use Desikachar’s flawed list to explain why that is. Along with the five actual forms of yoga, he included tantra, kundalini, mantra, and kriya yoga. There are unimpeachable reasons why those four things are not yogic forms. Yoga confounds common-level reasoning.
10-4. Tantra is not yoga, (or if it is, it’s hatha yoga). Tantra is hugely important to yoga, because all of yoga can be compared and contrasted to tantra. What yoga can’t contain is tantric. And even if yoga can contain tantra, then hatha yoga is what contains it and there are still only five yogic forms. At this point, with all the integration, tantrics who teach hatha yoga must be considered hatha yogis.
10-5. Kundalini is not yoga. As already explained, kundalini is part of tantra. It’s something yoga can’t contain because it connects with extreme religiosity. Typical of that, some tantrics see the image of Christ on the cross with the two thieves as symbolic of the kundalini experience, with the two thieves representing the ida and the pingala energies running on either side of kundalini, which, as the coiled one, twists around Christ’s body similar to way Christ’s twisted body is depicted in many paintings. If kundalini is part of yoga, it’s part of tantric yoga and at this point, tantra is hatha yoga.
10-6. Kriya Yoga is not a separate form of yoga. In the Sutras, Kriya Yoga is referred to as “The Threefold Path.” It’s made up of the last 3 niyamas: discipline, self-study, and surrender to the First Teacher. As mentioned previously, even though the niyamas are included in the Sutras, it’s likely that hatha yogis added them no more than a thousand years ago. So the 3 Kriya Yoga practices are part of hatha yoga, and since the only other use of the word kriya refers to “exercises” like the ones in Kundalini Yoga and SRF classes, there’s nothing more clearly hathayogic than “kriyas.” Paramahansa Yogananda’s Kriya Yoga meditation techniques are physical mind-soothers.
10-7. Mantra is not a separate yogic form. All the forms of yoga use Sanskrit chants, or mantras, especially in respect to Om, so mantra yoga can’t be considered separate from any of them. It’s especially not separate from hatha yoga, since mantra means “mind tool,” or “mind protector,” and hatha yoga is mind-level yoga. Om-chanting as a mind-tool is hathayogic; Om-chanting as an ego-tool is karmayogic; Om-chanting as an intellect-tool is jnanayogic; Om-chanting as a soul-tool is bhaktiyogic; and, Om-chanting as a spirit-tool is rajayogic.
10-8. Om is yoga. Even if tantrics discovered the Om, they were less interested in it than more religious matters. Yogis, on the other hand, are completely dependent on it. Connected to all five forms of yoga, Om expresses as a hathayogic energetic vibration, a karmayogic remover of pride, a jnanayogic vessel of all knowledge, a bhaktiyogic mantra of ultimate devotion, and a rajayogic Absolute Truth. The first yogic form (raja yoga) could be called “Om yoga” since it came into existence with the Om revelation, or “layla yoga” because it was spirit-oriented.
10-9. Yoga has only five forms. What we’re calling raja yoga is in the yogic form category because it unites us with The Absolute; bhakti yoga is in the category because it unites us with God; jnana yoga is in the category because it unites us with Knowledge; karma yoga is in the category because it unites us with Presence; and, hatha yoga is in the category because it unites us with Energy. Yogic forms unite us to things with which we are already, always connected.
10-10. We know what hatha yoga is in contrast to karma yoga, jnana yoga, bhakti yoga, and raja yoga. On a common-level, it’s the only way we can know it, and the clearest contrast between the five yogas has to do with accessibility. The first yogic form was the most inaccessible because it could only be practiced perfectly. Now, after bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, and karma yoga provided the necessary evolutionary steps, everyone can do hatha yoga because no matter how imperfectly it’s practiced there can still be some success. Despite what spiritual materialists tells us, since real love, art, and yoga can’t be connected to success, they’re all connected to a compassion-oriented expression of failure.
Chapter 11: Yoga Is(n’t) Union
11-1. The word “yoga” means union. It’s derived from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which translates most literally as “the act of yoking.” Prior to yoga’s worldwide popularity, it was common for Indians to use the term “yogi” derisively, in reference to rascals.
11-2. The most common idea about yoga used to be that it creates “union with God.” Define union was seen as the real goal of yoga. Any other view was criticized for being a “westernized” perspective.
11-3. Yoga’s accessibility led to more folksy ideas about what it does. At the end of last century, ideas like “yoga unites us with the breath,” and “yoga yokes us to the present moment” were popularized. With so-called “Classical Yoga” the ultimate goal of yoga is eternal separation (kaivalya).
11-4. Now we can recognize yoga’s 5 unification interests in relation to its forms. Each of yoga’s 5 forms has a specific unification interest. Associated with raja yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, karma yoga, and hatha yoga, in that order, they are The Absolute, God, Knowledge, Presence, and Energy. A hatha yogi can’t be separated from Energy itself anymore than a bhakti can be separated from God.
11-5. Energy itself, Presence, and Knowledge are as inseparable and eternal as God. All of yoga’s unification interests are basically the same thing. They are all universal, eternal and pervasive. Plato, helping jnana yoga along, recognized our relationship to a universal, primordial field of Knowledge itself. It’s basically Ishvara. But so is Presence. Connecting to The First Guru, Buddha, with his Dharmapada, and Jesus with his Sermon on the Mount, and most obviously Krishna with his non-action action concept, all expressed karmayogic realizations of Presence. Modern “non-dualists” who realize Presence as their unification interest try to avoid “concepts.”
11-6. Yoga reduces the illusion of separateness. Each yogic form connects to a practice that reduces the illusory sense of being disconnected from things with which we are already always united. Even the five yogic practices are inseparable things. We can’t be separated from samadhi because the Truth of Being is Bliss. We can’t even be separated from pranayama because energy experiencing is something all living creatures are always already doing. So the first yogis were always already connected to samadhi and The Absolute. We’re always already connected to pranayama and Energy itself. The same goes for the other three kinds of yogis and their respective practices and unification interests. Because we’re not separate, Yoga itself doesn’t do anything—it just is.
11-7. No thing in the Universe is separate from energy. Everything is made up of energy. It’s the one thing that can’t be separated from any other thing. But as a causal expression—as the thing that causes all other things to exist—we can see it as separate in the same way that we see God as separate. It’s illusory, but in a sensible way. There’s no yogic union, change, hierarchy or evolution because there is spirit in everything and that makes all the yogas spirit-yoga.
11-8. Pranayama (hatha yoga) is the best way to experience Truth in connection with Energy. Clearly expressive of Energy itself, pranayama ultimately reveals as the Truth of Being, Satchitananda. It is what being is all about. What we experience from hathayogic practice (pranayama) is what Life itself is all about. It is Life itself. That’s the yogic truth. Satchitananda. The Truth of Being is Bliss itself. Pranayama connects us with Bliss itself, and, because it is hathayogically expressed, it does that in a relative, democratic way. Thanks to hatha yoga, we don’t have to be experiencing Bliss to connect with the Truth. We can do it in degrees. We can call the hathayogic degree Pleasure itself. It’s not as elevated as Bliss, but it’s more democratic. It’s available to us all. Like all Yogic forms, Hatha Yoga relates to the Ultimate Truth of Being as Bliss itself.
Chapter 12: (Not) Knowing the Yogic Truth
12-1. Hatha yoga creates favorable conditions for truthfulness and self-study. It’s a two way street. Truthfulness (satya) and self-study (svadyaya) make hathayogic pranayama easier to do, and pranayama helps those observances elevate above narcissistic self-identification. Hathayogic pleasure helps us realize what consciousness is.
12-2. No amount of truthful self-study can make hatha yoga happen. The real issue is whether a person can sense his or her life-force. That’s really all it takes because experiencing our life-force is pleasurable, and the real key to hatha yoga is recognizing that we are pleasurably alive. It’s impossible to be separated from prana.
12-3. Hathayogic pleasure elevates consciousness. Doing pranayama establishes favorable conditions for relatively blissful yogic experiencing that separates from self-gratification and expresses as the yama of truthfulness. Trying to do yoga for selfish reasons always backfires eventually.
12-4. Hathayogic truthfulness happens easily. For raja yoga to happen, there had to be unconditioned bliss. For bhakti yoga to happen, there had to be unconditioned joy. For jnana yoga to happen, there had to be unconditioned happiness. For karma yoga to happen, there had to be unconditioned goodness. For hatha yoga to happen all there has to be is unconditioned pleasure. So hatha yoga happens easiest. Hathayogic truth can happen for everyone.
12-5. Yoga’s forms came into existence in connection with truthful ideas. Raja yoga came into being with the Om revelation (circa 3000 BCE); bhakti yoga came into being with the Shiva-Shakti model (circa 2000 BCE); jnana yoga came into being with the original Yoga Sutra poem authored by Gonika (circa 1100 BCE); karma yoga came into being with the Bhagavad Gita (circa 200 BCE); and hatha yoga came into being with the “yoga is for everyone” idea (circa 800 CE). Five increasingly accessible yogic truths have come into existence in connection with five increasingly inclusive yogic forms.
12-6. Yoga was explained through myth, science fiction, philosophy, religion, and science. Rajayogic mythology about Absolute-Shiva (circa 2800 BCE) explained how yoga was born; bhaktiyogic devotional science fiction about “celestial beings” (circa 1800 BCE) explained how yoga came to Earth in a perfected state; jnanayogic philosophy about consciousness (circa 800 BCE) explained what yoga is; karmayogic religion (circa 200 BCE) explained what yoga can be; and, hathayogic science about energy (circa 1200 CE) explained what yoga does. Om explains all the yogas.
12-7. “The Truth of Being is Bliss.” Satchitananada. Samadhi can be equated to bliss. So the Truth of Being can be known through samadhi, and a relative degree of Truth can be known through yoga’s other practices: dyana, darana, pratyahara, and pranayama. The ultimate yogic expression is Bliss itself, but yoga does not cause it, since Bliss itself (as Truth) is pre-existent.
12-8. A hathayogic degree of Truth is available to everyone. In connection with Pleasure itself, it’s possible for everyone to create favorable conditions for a realization of some degree of Truth. Even if it means fewer people fully realizing Satchitananda, hatha yoga is here to help us realize what we can of the Truth. Pleasure itself and Bliss itself are the same.
12-9. There’s Spirit itself in hatha yoga. Spirit, as Creativity, is in everything, and since it’s causal, the Spirit in hatha yoga creates life. Furthermore, raja yoga—the yoga of Spirit—is in all yogas. There’s definitely Om experiencing in all yogas. Hatha yogis can connect with philanthropic goodness, scholarly happiness, devotional joy, and concentrated bliss.
12-10. Unifying spirit and body, hatha yoga corrects an historical error. The first yogis may have understood that because Spirit itself is in everything, including the human body, a physical form of yoga would be as good—as spiritual—as any yogic form. But there has been great resistance to hatha yoga, and the resistance connects to an emotional fracturing typical of yogic fundamentalism, and justified in certain non-yogic yoga texts. Since yogis started thinking of separation (kaivalya) as yoga’s ultimate goal, it was critical for a yoga to exist that is ultimately yogic—ultimately unifying.
12-11. Mind-level yogic pleasure is yoga’s most democratic expression. Spirit-yoga is bliss, soul-yoga is joy, intellect-yoga is happiness, ego-yoga is goodness, and mind-yoga is pleasure. Everyone should be able to soothe their mind with the pleasure of doing hatha yoga. Rajayogic bliss is expressive of the whole Truth.
12-12. Hathayogic pranayama can be elevated. As previously stated (see 4-25), even hatha yoga’s preparatory practices can be expressive of yoga’s highest realizations. In fact, the yamas and niyamas aren’t just things we can do. Expressive of Ishvara’s agency, and suggestive of what some western mystics have described as “Archangels,” the Yamas and Niyamas are energetic structures that can do us.
12-13. The 5 yogic Limbs relate to Truth itself. Pranayama (energy experiencing) relates to Truth pleasurably, Pratyahara (sense withdrawal) relates to Truth gladly, Darana (concentration) relates to Truth happily, Dyana (meditation) relates to Truth joyfully, and Samadhi (evened out bliss) relates to Truth blissfully. If Yoga itself wasn’t democratically motivated, there would only be Bliss-oriented yoga.
12-14. Hatha yoga equals pleasurable Truth. It is a degree of Truth, compared to the full rajayogic Truth. Svatmarama made a similar comparative point in The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, but now things can be explained better. What Svatmarama thought of as raja yoga was really jnana yoga: the yoga related to the Yoga Sutra. It’s an elevated, intellect-level yoga (See 10-11) that also requires more elevation than hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is pranayama. Jnana yoga is darana (concentration). What we’re calling raja yoga requires samadhi (bliss). Obviously, that’s a higher practice than concentration. Unfortunately, raja yoga has been known as the yoga of concentration. That’s part of the confusion. We can clarify things by always recognizing Yoga Sutra-oriented intellect-level concentration as jnana yoga. The name “raja yoga” was first used by hatha yogis, not raja yogis.
12-15. Truth is already being expressed. Hatha yoga establishes favorable conditions for a realization of pleasurable Truth, while raja yoga establishes favorable conditions for a realization of blissful Truth, but the whole Truth is being expressed at all times. Like Bliss itself, Pleasure itself cannot be forced into existence because it’s already, always here.
12-16. The highest expressions of hatha yoga can’t be coerced and don’t occur as practical progressions. Christians would call it Grace. Real yoga has to happen spontaneously. All we can really do is set things up well. We create favorable conditions and then allow yoga’s expressions to happen as they will. Hatha yoga’s highest expressions do most often occur and are most often maintained in pranayama-inspired favorable conditions.
12-17. Hathayoga expresses everything yogic. What hatha yogis do sometimes manifests as things outside the perceived scope of hatha yoga. For example, Sivananda attained enlightenment as a hatha yogi, while he was developing a style of hatha yoga later named after him. When he became enlightened through deep concentration on the breath, even though he and his main student, Vishnu-devananda, referred to that level of concentration as raja yoga, it was hatha yoga. Unconditionally blissful enough to pull it off, Sivananda just allowed a hathayogic expression of spiritual enlightenment to manifest. Likewise, when Swami Svatmarama authored The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, he allowed a hathayogic expression of study to become manifest. He was connected to unconditional joy well enough to pull it off. Even so, the level of his achievement didn’t make him a jnana yogi. It didn’t make him a jnana yogi any more than giving millions of dollars to his hometown in India made B.K.S. Iyengar a karma yoga. Iyengar will always be recognized as one of the greatest hatha yogis in history. That would be the case even if he had given every cent of his money to charity. And the same goes for Yogi Bhajan. He expressed hatha yoga karmayogically when he helped the hippies back in the 60’s. He wanted people to recognize his style of yoga as being outside the normal scope of hatha yoga. But it just wasn’t. His “white tantra” works within the present day yoga studio model because it’s based on postures, pranayama, and chanting. It’s hatha yoga through and through since it teaches people how to sensitize themselves to pleasurable energetic experiences and it should be called Prana Yoga, not Kundalini Yoga. Even though some yogic things are more hathayogic than others, and even though some things are actually outside of its scope, hatha yoga has the widest scope of all yogic forms.
12-18. Hatha yoga teachers—really all teachers, including Krishna, Buddha, and Jesus—respond to present circumstances. Love dictates that yoga teachers love their students in relation to present conditions. Jesus tried to help his disciples in relation to their political oppression, Buddha tried to help his devotees in relation to social conditions in India, and Krishna tried to help people understand yoga metaphorically in the context of dramatic topical events they already understood. Yogic truths transcend the time and place when they are first expressed.
12-19. Hatha yoga is extremely powerful regarding people’s desires. Because hathayogic pleasure creates favorable conditions for extremely effective positive thinking, hatha yoga has the potential to help anyone manifest their energetic desires, whatever they might be. That makes the yamas and niyamas critically important. They can help us avoid what Tibetan Buddhist master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called “spiritual materialism.” Since everything is energy, and energy can only be what it is—an expression of Truth—everything should be considered sacred.
Chapter 13: What Isn’t Hatha Yoga?
13-1. Today’s yoga applies to everything in life. Including hathayogic expressions of all the yogic forms, it’s the most universal yoga. So it’s impossible to tell if things are still progressing normally (at the start of another 5-stage 5,000-year cycle), or if a yoga singularity is happening.
13-2. Yoga is yoga. Whether a yoga singularity is happening or not, we don’t have to call the yoga of today hatha yoga. Since hatha yoga is now ultimately inclusive, we can just call it yoga. Yoga is yoga, either as a natural evolutionary continuance of what yoga became at the end of its last cycle, or as the beginning of an elevated Yogic universality.
13-3. With yoga we know what energy is. Right now, what matters most is our connection to the universal, eternal, and pervasive thing that causes life and connects us to a Matrix of creativity. Yes, that is very hathayogic. It’s the coming together of hathayogic science and hathayogic religion. Physicists tell us energy is “the constant quantity in life.” Adding a bit of religion to the equation, and making it more yogic, we know energy as the constant inseparable quantity in life. With yoga we know what energy is.
13-4. Everyone believes in energy. We all recognize the energy-forces at work in life. We experience heat. Gravity hugs us to the planet. So there’s universal belief that energy exists. Now, yoga can be seen as the yoga of energy, so everyone can easily believe in what yoga does on an actual yogic level. Because everyone believes in energy, it’s possible for everyone to love something eternal, inseparable, universal and pervasive in a yogic way.
13-5. Loving life is the key to yogic science and religion. Every great discovery has come through someone’s love of something. Edison and Einstein loved energy and discovered all kinds of things about it. Neither man was considered a genius early on in life. Their later genius can be credited to love. The same goes for Newton. As we all know, he loved gravity. No one, not even Einstein, has ever known what gravity really is. We all just believe in it as a force. That belief is religious (6-22). Since we’re all in the gravity religion, since gravity is a loving expression of energy that makes life possible, since believing in energy doesn’t cause people to go to war, and since yoga can help us worship life and the energy that creates it, loving energy religiously is a good idea. Religion is not the problem, fundamentalism is.
13-6. Yoga is completely universal now on an accessible level. Yoga is for everyone and it can do what everyone needs because we can all believe in it. But Yoga itself is hardly known at all yet, and on that level—on a level of how a yoga singularity could happen with Yoga itself—things could get much more elevated. Our belief in Yoga itself could have us experiencing a yogic singularity as all the Yogas merge to create a Super Yoga. Accessibility is inaccessible.
13-7. Right when it’s possible for the first time for us to know what hatha yoga is, we can also recognize that yoga is yoga. We can finally know very clearly what the forms of yoga are. We understand why yogic forms are yogic forms. We know what the yogic form category is. We understand that knowing what any yogic form is requires us to contrast and compare it to the other forms in the yogic forms category. So we know that hatha yoga depends on karma yoga, which depends on jnana yoga, which depends on bhakti yoga, which depends on raja yoga, which now depends on hatha yoga. But now, more than ever, yoga is yoga. It’s yogically perfect that right when we finally know something that has always eluded us, a new reality trumps the theorizing.
13-8. We should know what hatha yoga is. We can know what hatha yoga is now and we should do it. Yoga is yoga, but there’s no harm in appreciating that hatha yoga is finally knowable, especially since it can increase our faith in how much Yoga itself loves us.
13-9. The yogas may be coming together to save humankind. Today’s yoga may be gentle enough and inclusive enough and at the same time powerful enough to unite us in love during a time when politics, religion and science have created such overwhelming division and alienation. A yoga singularity might be bringing everything Yogic together to create a single elevated Yoga that can counter modern culture’s death-wish through super unifying Love.
13-10. Yoga calls us to join together. Even people who think they don’t do yoga are experiencing yoga now. It’s in everyone’s lives. As a result, for better or worse, anyone can suddenly express some yogic understanding. However, that sometimes backfires, and it always backfires (at least temporarily) when the added knowledge makes someone feel too vulnerable. Truth is destabilizing, so people try to get back to not knowing it just the way they used to—an oppositional intent that pulls people apart and ends many relationships. Vulnerability pushes us into seeking separation and self-protection. The love most clearly expressed through karmayogic hatha yoga can help us do the opposite. It can be religious, scientific and political in ways that don’t divide us, with the capacity to include all the teachings of love that have been expressed on this planet . Yoga is risky because it has to be destabilizing in order for it to set up the possibility of things coming back together in connection with real unifying love.
13-11. Yoga is our best chance. Expressing all the yogas, today’s yoga is unified enough itself to help us all come together in love. Since it can bring us all together despite our ideological differences, we can let yoga really get into our hearts deep enough and actively enough to change things for everyone right now.
13-12. Yoga is now for everyone. Having evolved into Hatha Yoga, it can help anyone experience their life-force; it can soothe anyone’s mind; it can unify anyone’s body and soul; and it can help anyone experience Samadhi. No matter how else it evolves, Yoga will now always be for everyone eternally.
|YogicEra||≈ Time Period||Limb of Yoga||Level of Being||Truth of Being||UnifyingInterest|
|YogicEra||≈ Time Period||How Yoga was Explained||Hallmark Practice|
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About the Author
It has been Scott Miller’s good fortune to study with many of the world’s most distinguished yoga teachers. Scott’s profoundly beholden to them, but no human outside authority need be mentioned here. In other words, he’s a free agent.
Scott has written two other yoga books: A Prelude to Radical Yogic Discourse, and Yogic Love. As the director of Western Yoga College and as a member of a Southern California kirtan band called Yoga Das, Scott travels where he’s invited to conduct teacher-training programs and play music.