Hatha yoga is an important science. In ancient times it was practised for many years as a preparation for higher states of consciousness. Now, however, the real purpose of this great science is being forgotten altogether. The hatha yoga practices that were designed by the rishis and sages of old for the evolution of humankind are now understood and utilised in a limited sense. Often we hear people say: ‘Oh, I don’t practise meditation, I only practise physical yoga, hatha yoga.’ But now the time has come to correct this viewpoint.
Ida and Pingala
Hatha yoga concerns two important and vital systems in the physical body – the solar and lunar forces. In tantra and in hatha yoga these are known as ida and pingala. Ida represents the mental force, and pingala the pranic force. In the body these pranic and mental forces interact with each other, respectively controlling, guiding and directing the senses of action and of knowledge. Due to them we live, move, think and know.
Pranic and mental force are conducted through ida and pingala nadis within the framework of the spinal passage. From each chakra they branch off via the network of nadis into all the respective organs and parts of the body. The scriptures and tantric texts state that in this physical body there is a complex of 72,000 nadis. I believe this is a conservative estimate. Nadi does not mean nerve. It means a flow, just as electricity, a radio wave or a laser beam is a flow. There are 72,000 channels or flows that carry these two interacting energies of ida and pingala from pore to pore of the human body. There is not one point in this body where you do not have the interaction of these two forces.
In the practices of hatha yoga we are concerned with the balance of ida and pingala; these two interacting forces of prana and mind. When the pranic force predominates and the mental force becomes subservient, there are physical imbalances due to excess prana in the system. On the other hand, if the mental force is predominant and pranic force subservient, there are diseases related to the mind. This is the definition of somo-psychic and psychosomatic diseases. Diseases do not originate only in the mind; they also originate in the body. Body is part of the mind, and mind is part of the body. Mind and body are not two separate realities. At different stages of manifestation we know them as body and mind, but in essence they are one.
Science of Purification
In order to purify the mind it is necessary for the body as a whole to undergo a process of absolute purification. Hatha yoga is also known as the science of purification, not one type of purification, but six types. If you take an enema, this is one type of purification; shankhaprakshalana is another. Purification of the whole nervous system is also a part of hatha yoga. Besides purifying the physical body, we have to purify the nadis. The body has to be cleansed in six different ways for six different impurities. When you clear the body of these impurities, the nadis function and the energy blocks are released. Then the energies move like wave frequencies along the physical structure of the channel, and they go right up to the brain.
Therefore, we consider hatha yoga as the preliminary practice of tantra, kundalini yoga and kriya yoga. When the rishis discovered the science of hatha yoga they did not have yoga therapy in mind. Although yoga has proved to be effective in the treatment of many impossible and incurable diseases, I consider the therapeutic effect of yoga as a byproduct and incidental. The main objective of hatha yoga is to create an absolute balance of the interacting activities and processes of the pranic and mental force. When this balance is created, the impulses generated give a call of awakening to sushumna nadi â€” the central force responsible for illumining the higher centres of human consciousness. So the real purpose of hatha yoga is not to build the body or improve the health, but to energize and awaken the higher centres responsible for the evolution of human consciousness. If hatha yoga is not used for this purpose then its true objective is lost.