hatha yoga
   Hatha yoga is an amalgam of yogic practices that may have emerged separately and were later com-bined. Its origins are obscure, but it is likely that the system began to develop in the early centuries of the Common Era.
   Hatha yoga includes basic practices that can be found in ASHTANGA YOGA, which relies on the YOGA SUTRA of PATANJALI. It includes different arrays of postures (ASANAS), joined to various TANTRA prac-tices. The term hatha originally meant “violent,” and it is possible that this style of YOGA originated in certain types of severe yoga that were later soft-ened for protection of the body.
   Some types of hatha yoga include or even focus on KUNDALINI practice. Here the focus of breath control is on the “serpent” or “Goddess Energy” at the base of the spine, which must be awakened and forced upward to pierce the psychic centers or chakras that run parallel to the spine. The NADIS, or subtle bodily channels, are used to guide breath into the central spinal channel to help the raising of the kundalini through the centers. Finally, the kundalini meets SHIVA at a point above the head called SAHASRARA CHAKRA. This meeting provokes absolute enlightenment.
   Traditionally, hatha yoga has encompassed a wide range of practices including those of such sects as the NAT H YOGIS, who sought bodily immortality through the ingestion (and transfor-mation) of poisons such as oxides of mercury and practiced a physical alchemy. Today, in the West, hatha yoga is typically confined to postures and a simple focus on the breath; more advanced prac-titioners may begin to focus on the kundalini and the channeling of the breath in the nadis.
   Further reading: Elsy Becherer, trans., and Hans-Ulrich Rieker, commentary, The Yoga of Light: Hatha Yoga Pra-dipika, India’s Classical Handbook (New York: Herder & Herder, 1971); B. K. S. Iyengar, The Concise Light on Yoga: Yoga Dipika (New York: Schocken Books, 1982).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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