Chapter One — Asana
Continuing from Hatha Yoga Pradipika — Restraints and Observances.
The first translation and the Titles are from Swami Kripalu’s, Revealing the Secret, a commentary on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika [HYP].
The second translation is from the Pancham Sinh edition.
Anything in (parentheses) is from the edition concerned.
As always, my own input amidst verses is in [brackets], in color when commenting.
The numbering of the verses is different in the two translations after verse 16 so I am not using numbers, only Kripalu’s titles. If you are following these blogs on the HYP using other editions, in this blog we are taking up at 17 in the Kripalu translation, which is 19 in the Sinh translation.
In this entry, I am only giving one verse in order to include Kripalu’s entire commentary so that those of my initiates who are arriving at a turning point in their sadhana can derive useful information in Kripalu’s words.
The first limb of the sun-moon teaching is posture (position, stance), so it is mentioned first. By means of its continued practice, the practitioner acquires stability, freedom from disease, and lightness of limbs.
Being the first accessory of Hatha Yoga, asana is described first. It should be practiced for gaining steady posture, health and lightness of body.
Kripalu Commentary — Revealing the Secret
In the Gheranda Samhita, Great-Seer Sage Gheranda (Confining the Egg), says, “In the world there are as many postures as there are living beings (living souls and lower life forms). In the beginning, Lord Eternal Kind Dissolver set forth 8,400,000 postures.” Through natural [sahaja] yoga [Surrender Meditation], countless postures are manifested. In The Shandilya Upanishad, Great-Seer Sage Shandilya (Milk Curds) says, “He who is victorious in posture is victorious in all the three worlds.” Through the continued practice of posture, the passionate condition and the dark condition cease to exist.
You may think of the “three worlds” as Brahma Loka, Vishnu Loka and Rudra Loka (see Intensive book); body (physical), feelings (emotional, astral, or subtle body) and mind (mental, etheric, or subtler body); humankind, ancestors and gods; etc.
The “passionate condition” is rajas, and the “dark condition” is tamas in its negative aspect which causes lethargy (see Intensive book).
Posture first occurs in the very beginning of yoga, but its special characteristic is that it is present up to the state of equanimity [samadhi]. That is to say, it holds first place in the center of any systematic practice.
Don’t miss this one: Hatha Yoga isn’t over until samadhi is reached, even though samadhi is associated with Raja Yoga which involves concentration (dharana) and the meditative state (dhyana).
Ordinarily, along with the arousal of the life energy [pranotthana], postures, suspensions of the life energy, energy seals, etcetera, begin of their own accord; nevertheless, the expert teachers of yoga consider posture to be the first limb (stage); this is quite correct. Great-Seer Sage Patañjali (Flying-Up-Anointing), says that there are eight limbs of yoga: restraint [yama], observance [niyama], posture [asana], the suspension of the life energy [pranayama], the withdrawal of the senses [pratyahara] (the withdrawal of the organs of sense/knowledge gained through the objects of sense perception: sound, tactility, visibility, savor and odor), concentration [dharana] (focusing the attention), meditation [dhyana] (keeping the attention focused), and equanimity [samadhi] (divine union).
Sun-moon yoga is not different from eight-limbed yoga, but different points of view make them appear different. In sun-moon yoga, apart from restraint [yama] and observance [niyama], there are four limbs: posture [asana], the suspension of the life energy [pranayama], energy seal [mudra] (locking in the life energy), and divine-sound uniting [samadhi] (reaching divine union through the divine vibration, or the music of God). Concentration, meditation, and equanimity are included in divine sound (uniting). It can be said that “sun-moon yoga” consists of posture, the suspension of the life energy, energy seal, and the withdrawal of the senses, and “royal yoga” consists of divine sound uniting – concentration, meditation, and equanimity [refer to Intensive book].
There are many levels of yoga. Among them are three main levels: beginning, middle, and last. In the beginning level, the fourteen main energy channels [nadis], nine energy centers [chakras], and three plexuses [granthis] are still totally unpurified, that is, darkness (lethargy) (the dark condition) is predominant in them. In the middle level, passion is predominant, and in the last level, tranquil power is predominant in the beginning and is being destroyed in the middle, and in the end the yogi is beyond the three conditions of nature. The power of a given posture does not remain the same in each level; it increases step by step. (When the word ‘level’ is used, it usually refers to one of these three levels. The word ‘stage’ is used more generally; it usually means ‘the state of a stage’, and is sometimes translated as ‘state’.)
Level 1: Lethargy is predominant
Level 2: Passion is predominant
Level 3: Tranquil power is predominant
Note that Level Three, the “last” level, has three levels:
Level 3.1: Tranquil power is predominant
Level 3.2: Tranquil power is being destroyed
Level 3.3: One is beyond the influence of the 3 gunas (see Intensive notes), trigunatita.
When all the energy channels become free of impurity, the body, becoming stable (firm) of its own accord, becomes whole (homogeneous, in perfect equilibrium). Along with this, the head and the neck also become rigid and unwavering. Because of purity of the energy channels, the aspirant also attains freedom from disease. Through the destruction of corpulence, the body becomes quick and lean. The inner heart is filled with bliss. This is the extent of with-seed [sabija] equanimity [samadhi]. In it, the dark condition and the passionate condition fade away, and the tranquil powerful condition thrives.
Consider that kundalini said to be coiled three and a half times at the base of the spine (eight, according to Goraksha) which indicates more than one go-round, that She doesn’t just wake up, hit the bell at the top and it’s all over, you’re enlightened, brimming with wisdom and have completed your sadhana. There is definitely MORE to come.
♦ ♦ ♦
In presenting you with verses of sacred texts, I tend to either write several in one entry without much in the way of comments, write a summary of several, or write one to three verses and include commentaries of others as well as my own as in this entry. I would be interested to know which you prefer and find most useful. Please “Reply” to let me know.