Hatha Yoga Pradipika 10 – Asana

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.

Posture [Asana]

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.

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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.

Durga Ma

Fulfillment – Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in a Nutshell

“Fulfillment” is the word I have chosen to represent the Sanskrit word, samadhi, which is also the title of the first chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. There is no word in English that can be used as a synonym, and no phrase or sentence that adequately supplies a valid description or a satisfactory definition. The word “fulfillment” is the closest I could come.

The following is from an intro to a little book called, Fulfillment – Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in a Nutshell, my own translation of the first chapter of the Yoga Sutras.

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My intention in sharing my own translations of ancient mystical writings for the Nutshell series is to make these works accessible to everyone and to make them more useful to more people regardless of the specific spiritual path of any one individual.

In my early years as a teacher of music, I discovered the necessity and the means of taking the learning process back to fundamental concepts, and how to keep things simple. Making things simple and basic was a surprisingly difficult undertaking. Leaving things as they were would have been easier for me by far, yet for my students it was a boon. By teaching them in this way, I did most of the work for them and all they had to do was play the music.

By presenting music in this manner, assumptions relating to the knowledge of my students, or the lack of it, did not lead to misunderstandings and cause hours of useless effort; corrections, which are more difficult that initial learning, were avoided. They learned how to learn, and they learned about music, not just how to play the piece. And they did it their way, not mine. It is in this spirit that I offer these writings to you.

It has been my experience that few people are interested in the deeper study of writings such as these, but if you are one of the few, let me offer some suggestions:

Get as many translations as you can of a given work (such as this one, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras) and read them all, skipping the commentaries at first. Compare them. Contemplate them. If you don’t understand something, read on; the meaning may become clear later on.

If you are very serious, learn some Sanskrit so that you can read them in the original language.

If you don’t have a Spiritual Master who can help you, get one and follow that person’s lead until you get results in your own practice so that you can gain experience. Your experience will be necessary for understanding these writings, and your understanding will in turn accelerate your progress.

To succeed in reaching an understanding of any spiritual writing, you will need (1) the written text, (2) your own experience, and (3) someone to talk things over with who also has some experience — a friend and/or a spiritual teacher or Spiritual Master. Ultimately, these three should agree.

In order to keep the flow moving and to present a friendly ambiance, I have not included the numbering of the sutras (aphorisms). In the event that you are someone who has an interest in studying any of the writings from the Nutshell series and would like to know the number of a sutra or verse or have a question about one, you may write me … and I’ll do my best to get back to you with what you need.

Durga Ma,
Phoenix, Arizona
June 20, 2002
The above entry consists of excerpts from the introductory pages of the book, Fulfillment, © Copyright 2002, Durga Ma, Beverly Hills, California 90211, a translation of the first chapter of the sage Patanjali’s, Yoga Sutras.

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Fulfillment, is available through electronic download at http://www.durgama.com/books.html under the heading, Ancient Mystical Writings. The contents of the book are as follows:

The Truth About Yoga    

What Yoga Really Is

The Mind in Action    

Types of Mental Activity

Accurate Perception or Knowledge

Inaccurate Perception or Knowledge

Thinking, Imagining and Fantasizing

Sleep and Dreams

Memory and Remembering

The Peaceful Mind    

The Yoga of Fearlessness

The Real Meaning of Dispassion

The Payoff

The First Stages of Fulfillment

The Master Within     

The Simplest Way to Attain Fulfillment

The Manifestation of the Divine Other

Obstacles and Antidotes    

Eight Obstacles to Fulfillment

The Side Effects of the Obstacles

The Cure for the Obstacles

How to Obtain the Cure


The Scope of Mastery

Sleuthing Scripture – Part 4 OM

The sound of OM is heard, the light is seen, the divine touch is felt. It happens spontaneously in Surrender Meditation. The following verse from the Goraksha Shataka speaks of the essential elements of OM:

That supreme light, OM, is that whose elements are the bhur, bhavah. and svah. lokas; and in whom the divinities moon, sun and fire exist.
Goraksha Shakata, 84

Word for Word Translation

bhuur bhavah. svarimelokaah. somasuuryaagnidevataah |
yasyaa maatraasu tishth.anti tat paramjyotir om. iti ||

Earth, Sky, Heaven worlds; Soma, Surya, Agni divinities |
Abide, properties-of-matter and elements [etc.], dwelling [in], that-beyond-light, Om, in-such-a-way ||

Translating the Translation

Earth, Sky and Heaven: Each has a deva—a deity, a divinity—associated with it. These divinities are Agni (the fire, or energy, of earth and living, evolving beings, kunadlini), Surya (ancestors and the energy of the Sun in the sky; prana), and Soma (the moon of Heaven and the nectar of immortality of the gods; shakti). All have their existence in OM. Thinking in the other direction, it is OM, the divine sound beyond light, that generates all this—particles, waves, matter, energy, worlds, bodies, and so on.

As It Pertains to You

As this pertains to you and your sadhana, you are simultaneously “in” all three worlds; Earth, below the diaphragm, Sky, from the diaphragm to the eyebrow center, and Heaven, above the eyebrow center. The evolutionary force (kundalini) rises through the central channel in this order. Looked at in another way: Your physical body is associated with Earth, your emotional/energy body (astral) is associated with Sky, and your mental/causal body (etheric) is associated with Heaven.

One simple verse can say a lot. What does this verse tell you? How does this verse relate to the previous verse, and how do you understand this? Do you have another take on what this verse is saying? Reply and share. Draw from your experience whenever possible; mental theorizing is fun, but experience is more useful.

Durga Ma