Hatha yoga

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Hatha yoga (Sanskrit: हठयोग haṭhayoga, About this sound listen  IPA: [ɦəʈʰəˈjoːɡə]), is a kind of yoga. The word hathạ (lit. force) denotes a system of physical techniques supplementary to a broad conception of yoga.[1]

Earliest References[edit]

Some of its techniques can be traced back to the epics and the Pali canon.[1] The Pali canon contains three passages in which the Buddha describes pressing the tongue against the palate for the purposes of controlling hunger or the mind, depending on the passage.[2] However there is no mention of the tongue being inserted into the nasopharynx as in true khecarī mudrā. The Buddha used a posture where pressure is put on the perineum with the heel, similar to even modern postures used to stimulate Kundalini.[3] Hatha yoga has some important principles and practices that are shared with other methods of yoga, such as subtle physiology, dhāraṇā (fixation of the elements), and nādānusandhāna (concentration on the internal sound).[1] In its earliest formulations, hathạ was used to raise and conserve the physical essence of life, identified in men as bindu (semen), which is otherwise constantly dripping downward from a store in the head and being expended.[1] The female equivalent, mentioned only occasionally in our sources, is rajas, menstrual fluid.[1] The preservation and sublimation of semen was associated with tapas (asceticism) from at least the time of the epics, and some of the techniques of early Hatha Yoga are likely to have developed as part of ascetic practice. [1] The techniques of early Hatha Yoga work in two ways: mechanically, in practices such as viparītakaraṇī, “the reverser,” in which by standing on one’s head one uses gravity to keep bindu in the head; or by making the breath enter the central channel of the body, which runs from the base of the spine to the top of the head, thereby forcing bindu upward.[1]

In later formulations of Hatha Yoga, the Kaula system of the visualization of the serpent goddess Kuṇḍalini rising as kuṇḍalinī energy through a system of cakras, usually six or seven, is overlaid onto the bindu-oriented system.[1] The same techniques, together with some specifically kuṇḍalinī-oriented ones, are said to effect kuṇḍalinī’s rise up the central channel (which is called the susumnạ̄ in these traditions) to a store of amṛta (the nectar of immortality) situated in the head, with which kuṇḍalinī then floods the body, rejuvenating it and rendering it immortal.[1] The aims and results of Hatha Yoga are the same as those of other varieties of yoga practice: siddhis (both mundane benefits and magical powers) and moksha, the latter often understood as being attained in a body immortalized by Hatha Yoga practices.[1] In keeping with the physical orientation of Hatha Yoga practices, its siddhis are predominantly physical, ranging from the loss of wrinkles and grey hair to divine sight or the ability to levitate.[1] In common with earlier formulations of yoga, in particular Kaula ones, the techniques of Hatha Yoga can be used to effect kālavañcana (cheating death), utkrānti (yogic suicide), or parakāyapraveśa (entering another’s body).[1] As in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, siddhis are usually said to be a hindrance to or distraction from Hatha Yoga’s ultimate aim – liberation – but in some Kaula-influenced texts, the pursuit of specific siddhis through specific techniques is taught.[4]


The practices of the Amṛtasiddhi and Dattātreyayogaśāstra are used to raise bindu or prevent it from falling.[1] The mudrās of the Vivekamārtaṇḍa work on bindu, not kuṇḍalinī, even though raising it is an important part of the yoga it teaches.[1] The mudras of the Goraksaśatakạ and Khecarīvidyā are used to raise kuṇḍalinī (they mention bindu only in passing).[1]

The only other texts older than the Hathapradīpikạ̄ to teach Hatha Yoga ̣ mudrās are the Shiva Samhita, Yogabīja, Amaraughaprabodha, and Śārṅgadharapaddhati.[1] The ̣Śārṅgadharapaddhati is an anthology of verses on a wide range of subjects compiled in 1363 CE, which in its description of Hatha Yoga includes ̣ the Dattātreyayogaśāstra’s teachings on five mudrās.

Classical Hatha Yoga[edit]


The Hathapradīpikạ was composed by Svātmārāma in the 15th century CE as a compilation of the earlier hatha yoga texts.[1]

Post-Hathapradīpikạ̄ Texts[edit]

Post-Hathaprakipika texts include Hathasaṃ̣ ketacandrikā, the Yogacintāmaṇi, the Hathatattvakaumudị̄, the Yogabīja anthologies, the Yoga Upanisads, and ̣ Brahmānanda’s Jyotsnā commentary on the Hathapradīpikạ̄', the Amaraughaśāsana, the Hatharatnāvalī, the Bṛhatkhecarīprakāśa, the Hathapradīpikạ̄ Siddhāntamuktāvalī, the Gorakhbāṇī, the Gheranda Samhita and the Jogpradīpakā.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z James Mallinson, Hatha Yoga (accessed 6 January 2014)
  2. ^ Mallinson, James. 2007. The Khecarīvidyā of Adinathā. London: Routledge. pg.17-19.
  3. ^ James Mallinson, "Sāktism and Hathayoga," 6 March 2012. <URL> [accessed 10 June 2012] pgs. 20-21 "The Buddha himself is said to have tried both pressing his tongue to the back of his mouth, in a manner similar to that of the hathayogic khecarīmudrā, and ukkutikappadhāna, a squatting posture which may be related to hathayogic techniques such as mahāmudrā, mahābandha, mahāvedha, mūlabandha, and vajrāsana in which pressure is put on the perineum with the heel, in order to force upwards the breath or Kundalinī."
  4. ^ Mallinson, J., “Siddhi and Mahāsiddhi in Early Hathayoga,” in: K.A. Jacobsen, ed., Yoga Powers, Leiden, 2011a, 327–344.