Throughout the centuries many types of yoga have been developed, but they all aim at
kaivalya or liberation, by different paths. Here are some:
Bhakti yoga : reaching the divinity through devotion and offerings
Karma yoga: reaching liberation through good deeds
Jnana yoga: reaching liberation through study and knowledge (compare gnosis in Greek)
Kundalini or Tantric yoga: reaching liberation through the awakening of the serpent power in the lower abdomen
Hatha yoga: purification of the physical body (tapas)
Raja yoga; the path of meditation
Personally I consider all these as the different colours of the rainbow of yoga.
Good deeds (karma yoga ) and knowledge( jnana yoga) without love can easily turn into arrogance , kundalini yoga without the control of hatha yoga and pranayama can lead to dangerous outcomes, hatha yoga without wisdom can lead to excessive physical emphasis.
Some classical texts:
Hatha yoga or physical exercises (Hatha yoga Pradipika, Gheranda samhita end Shiva samhita
Pranayama or breathing exercises (Kuvalainanda kaivalyadhamma of Lonavla)
Kundalini, ( “The Serpent Power”’ by Arthur Avalon,
For Raja yoga or meditation practices there are many different text books
THE AIM OF YOGA
It was – and still is - believed in many cultures that the human being, in its travels through incarnation after incarnation, accumulates many toxins, karma, good and bad. So yoga became a means of ending this travelling through life after life by resolving karma and entering into a state of liberation, Kaivalya, bliss, Samadhi, or Nirvana.
The whole practice of classical yoga is based on that and consists of four sequential parts:
I will deal here with the first three.
Hatha yoga or physical exercises
Pranayama or breathing exercises
Raja yoga or meditation practice
As Shiva was the god of fire and destruction, so hatha yoga is the practice of destroying, or burning, the impurities of the physical body. This purification is also called tapas.
Tapas means fire. With the physical exercises the impurities, the toxins of the physical body are ‘burned’, and the body is made into a better, stronger and purer vehicle for the breathing and meditation techniques which come afterwards.
Thus the first part of the practice of mindful yoga is called Hatha Yoga and consists of physical exercises.
Hatha Yoga practiced now is mainly based on writers/yogis like Patanjali, and books like Hatha yoga Pradipika, Gheranda samhita and Shiva samhita.
They all refer back to Matsyendra and Goraksa Natha as the original yogis and were written many centuries ago. They are all available from the internet .
I. The word Hatha means sun and moon. Ha is the sun and Tha is the moon.
The practice of Hatha Yoga is not only to purify the physical body, but also to bring the sun energy and the moon energy of the body in balance.
This sun and moon can be interpreted in various ways:
The sun energy is hot, the moon energy is cold, so the hot and cold energies of the body are brought into balance.
With some exercises the body gets hot (for example back bendings and head balance), and with others the body gets cold (for example forward bendings and shoulder balance).
In modern terms one can say that the hot energy of the body is adrenaline, while the cold energy is dopamine, both produced by the body itself. Dopamine is a type of morphine.
Adrenaline is produced in extreme situations of life threatening danger, producing accelerated heart beat, sweating, panting, in other words heat. It usually wears off after a couple of hours.
Dopamine, being a morphine, is produced by the body in extreme situations of pain. It dulls the sensations of pain so that the body and mind can concentrate on the healing process. Usually it wears off after one or two days. It can also be produced by the use of drugs, and certain irresponsible meditation techniques.
These two energies have to be brought into balance for the body to be well; too much of one or the other is not good and can lead to physical and mental problems.
Too much adrenaline produces in the long run a chronic state of hyper activity, of too much cortisol hormone, while too much dopamine can lead to severe depression.
However, it is a good practice to end your daily mindful yoga practice with a dopamine posture, like paschimottanasana, in order to cool the body off and relax it after working.
2. Another way of interpreting the sun and the moon is:
The sun is the right side of the body, and the moon is the left side of the body.
How many of us are only right handed or only left handed. Unless one is aware of this, and corrects it as much as possible, both in the practice as well as in daily life, this can lead in the long run to problems in our daily life and in our practice of yoga, problems like scoliosis, shoulder pains, knee pains, and other problems.
To start with you can simply observe yourself in daily life (being mindful), and for a change, whatever you do with the right hand, and that includes writing, do it sometime with the left hand, and vice versa. This is already a very good start, and will help you greatly when you come to the actual yoga practice.
3. Yet another way of interpreting the sun and the moon is:
We all know that just underneath the thoracic diaphragm is the solar plexus, which, as the name says, burns. This the area in the body where negative energies like anger, depression etc. are stored.
Interesting to note that the Greek word melancholic means black bile, as it was though that the liver excreted black bile under certain circumstances.
On the top of the head is the so-called pineal gland, which is a light sensitive gland. According to yoga tradition this is the moon. It excretes a liquid called ‘amrita’, which means ‘immortality’, (a = not and mrta = muerte, death) which, however, due to gravity drips down into the solar plexus where it gets burnt. This is why people get old according to yoga tradition.
The yogis invented sirsasana or head stand to counteract that waste and, by standing on the head, preserved the liquid amrita in the gland and therefore slowed down the aging process.
It is interesting to note that the pineal gland is not only light-sensitive, but is also interacting with the Schumann Resonance. More about that later on. Suffice to say that the Schumann Resonance is going higher lately, which means that the earth and us are changing frequencies as we go into the era of Aquarius. I think that specially as yogis we need to be aware of that and integrate that into our practice. More about that later.
II. THE AIM OF PRANAYAMA
Once the practitioner or sadhaka has reached a certain level in the practice of Hatha yoga, physically and mentally, then comes the practice of Pranayama or breathing techniques.
The path of yoga is long and slow, and it is advisable to not practice pranayama too soon, as it puts great pressure on the lungs and the heart, and without the previous preparations with the exercises of Hatha yoga can also be dangerous.
Pranayama is the practice of breathing in a certain controlled way. This breathing is a way to strengthen and fill the energy body, called the pranayama kosha, or the body made of prana. The Light Body.
There are many classical breathing techniques, or pranayama techniques. I myself have added various simple and preliminary ones in the course of my teaching, and also ways how to access them through the different ways of using the eyes.
Many books have been written on what is exactly this prana, but if we keep to the tradition, both occidental and oriental, we can see many figures of ‘saints’ surrounded by a halo of light.
Personally I would say that prana is not air, not oxygen, not energy, but is the basic material of the universe, which is LIGHT, photons.
Thus the pranamaya kosha is made of photons. It is a Light body, or Body made of Light.
Thus with pranayama, we inhale air, oxygen, but in the first place we inhale LIGHT.
Therefore pranayama, fills the pranamaya kosha or Light Body with light, strengthens it and makes it shine.
Thus eventually, through the practice of yoga, the sadhaka or practitioner, becomes HOMO LUMINOUS
In the next article I will go into a short description of the various bodies or layers that the human being is composed of, so that later we learn to practice yoga not like common gymnastics or acrobatics or aerobics, but as a mindful meditation, doing the asanas from the Light Body, not from the gross muscles. I like to compare this to Tai Chi, and more even to Shao-lin.