Integral Yoga is made up of six branches of Yoga: Hatha, Raja, Jnana, Karma, Bhakti, and Japa. As part of Global Garland, we will focus on one branch each month. January’s focus is Hatha. Here are some words from Sri Swami Satchidananda on Hatha Yoga:
“The human body is a temple. Keep it strong and supple. Treat it gently. The codes of living, Yama and Niyama, are the first two limbs of the eight branches of Yoga. The third is asana–Yoga postures that purify the physical body. Never ignore the body since it is the most important instrument. Whatever you do, you need a body. That’s why the ancient Yoga teachings always emphasized taking good care of the body. In almost all the great religious traditions this is indirectly said, but not as openly or with such emphasis as in Yoga.
“To purify the body we practice the disciplines of Hatha Yoga, the asanas (or postures) and pranayama (or the breathing techniques), which take care of the health of the physical body. This carries over into diet too. Avoid anything that contains toxins or that unnecessarily stimulates your body; try to eliminate alcohol and tobacco. Without purity of the body it’s very difficult to purify the mind.
“Learn to live a natural life. First be physically at ease; mental peace will automatically follow. Live in a way that makes your body light, healthy, and more supple. Then when you sit in meditation you won’t feel aches and pains, and spend all your time meditating on them. Meditation needs all these aids. You can’t just eat anything you want, then go sit and meditate. The body will say, ‘No, I won’t allow it.’ You need cooperation between the body and the mind. That’s why you train the body in doing all kinds of Hatha postures and breathing practices. Then, when the time for meditation comes, you can meditate on whatever you like with ease. Physical ease is maintained through proper food, proper exercise, and proper air. The physical postures bring ease to the body. Tension is released and toxins are eliminated.”