The Spirit of Hatha-Yoga

Anyone-believer or nonbeliever-can practice Hatha-yoga successfully, for it is not a religion, and it neither demands nor presupposes adherence to any specific philosophy, church, or faith. It may be looked upon as a psychosomatic discipline-no more-unique of its kind, unparalleled in its beneficial effects. Since it is essentially a combination of techniques, it is, by definition, a material philosophy, but we would be quite wrong to consider it merely on this technical plane, and thereby ignore the spirit in which it was conceived by the great Sages and Rishis from ancient
India-the spirit that gives it its evident quality.

The Shakta [a yogic sect in India] doctrine does not favor an “ascetic regimen” except by “ascetic” we understand a self-controlled and ordered life. Says the Kulanarva-Tantra, Fools are deceived by the false hope to attain liberation by eating one meal a day, by fasting and other acts which emaciate the body. What liberation can such ignorant ones get by torture of the body? In Kuala-Dharma (doing one’s own duty) enjoyment and suffering is converted into yoga and the world is made the seat of liberation)

The yoga fcels universal life becomes manifest through his or her own body, and therefore keeps it healthy, clean, and well-fed. The yogi feels that he or she does not live a personal private life, but that life is living him (her). His or her needs are life’s needs. joys are life’s joys. He or she sees-in everything-the one universal life-of which he (or she) is a part.

We do not have to accept this doctrine in order to practice Hatha-yoga, but, as well as revealing the state of mind of the true Hatha-yogi, it also dispels certain prejudices widespread in the West, whereby the asanas, for example, are looked upon as stupid acrobatics-useless, even dangerous-and the belief is held that yogis adopt certain painful-looking postures with a view to self-mortification. They may look painful to the uninitiated, but for the trained adept they never induce pain-on the contrary!

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