Hatha yoga is the science of purification and energy channelization in body. Hatha yoga harmonazises the body, prana and mind, leading to the higher practices of Raja Yoga. Hatha yoga is a powerful tool of self-transformation. Through purification of body, prana, and mind transmutation of the physical elements of the body into non-physical elements takes place. Thus, Hatha yoga is all about preparing the body for higher possibilities. Let us have a look at the systematic steps for a successful Hatha yoga journey.
1. Purification (Shodhana)
Purification and detoxification of body is the first and the basic requirement of Hatha Yoga. Here purification means the cleansing of body internally. There are six cleansing practices according to Hatha Yoga Pradipika by which we can cleanse the internal passages and cavities of the body. The six cleansing techniques or shatkarma removes the excess mucus from the body and balances the Tridosha or the three energetic principles (wind, bile and phlegm) in the body. With the purification of body we automatically get relief and feel lighter, happier and stronger.
2. Diet Modification (Ahara)
There are many recommendations and opinion about diet that one should take. One simple way is to eat according to your work. If someone is a sportsman or military personnel than one should have high calorie diet, on the other hand for people with sedentary work, a low calorie balanced diet is more helpful. Based on this understanding a yoga practitioner can modify the diet according to the type of yoga one practices. The diet pattern for Raja yogi, Karma yogi, Hatha yogi, Bhakti yogi etc will differ from each other. In case of Hatha yoga, where one has to practice some cleansing techniques and regular asana and pranayama, an easily digestible moderate calorie diet will be beneficial.
3. Postural Modification (Asana)
After purifying the body and adjusting our diet suiting the Hatha yoga requirements we move on to the practice of asana. Asana is a conscious adoption of various postures to elevate our consciousness. Asana also brings stability in body. Hatha yoga is the way through body and hence a stable and healthy body is a prerequisite towards refining the Hatha practice by subsequent methods of pranayama and bandha. In Hatha yoga one should practice asana by striking a balance between effort and relaxation.
4. Breath Modification (Pranayama)
Next we come to the breath modification or pranayama. After achieving the stability in the body with the help of asana, a Hatha yoga practitioner then aim for achieving the stability of the mind. Pranayama activates, purifies and distributes the prana equally throughout the body. A regular practice of pranayama balances and slow down the flow of breath in the right and left nostril. When the pranic channels are balanced, it has a great calming effect on mind and modifies the thinking process.
5. Relaxation (Vihara)
Here relaxation not only means relaxing in Shavasana after asana practice, but also to relax in general. When we are physically and mentally relax at all times there is an experience of inner wellbeing. There are many ways one can relax oneself like reading a book, going for a walk or spending time with one’s favorite hobby etc. Another way to relax totally is by ‘action in relaxation’ or Karma Yoga. Purification, balance and experience of lightness are the three aims of Hatha Yoga and Karma Yoga can be a very effective complementary tool to understand and appreciate these three aims of Hath Yoga. For Karma Yoga we don’t need separate time. Any action can be performed with the spirit of Karma Yoga for inner relaxation.
7. Concentration (Dharana)
Having systematically practiced purification, asana, pranayama and consolidating the three aims of Hatha yoga, we come to the stage of concentration. Finding a point of concentration with us and able to focus on that without distraction is the first sign of spiritual growth.
8. Meditation (Dhyana)
Concentration itself turns into meditation. When concentration is effortless that is termed as meditation. Till concentration it is all practice or sadhana. We make an effort to achieve something or become something. At the level of meditation all effort is dropped. We no longer try to achieve or become something. Therefore, meditation is not a stage or achievement, but a state of being. It is a consequence of what we have done so far. It is our natural expression.