Hatha yoga poses

By on May 8, 2015
hatha

Hatha Yoga

WHAT IS HATHA YOGA AND ITS IMPORTANCE TO GENERAL HEALTH?
The Sanskrit word hatha originates from the combination of two bija mantras (basic or root sounds) ha and tha. These are the two opposing currents or forces in the universe, the positive and negative currents which manifest in A human being as the mental force in ida nadi and the pranic force associated with physical dynamism in pingala nadi.

The bija mantra ha represents the solar flow in pingala and tha signifies the lunar flow in ida nadi.

The sole purpose of Hatha yoga is to bring about perfect harmony between these two pranic flows. When they are perfectly balanced, prana will begin to flow in sushumna, the most important nadi in the psychic body. In this way the person’s consciousness will expand and he will start to tread the path of spiritual enlightenment. Actually, this is the ultimate purpose of all the branches of yoga but hatha yoga is unique.

According to the ancient yogic text the Gherand Samhita, there are seven steps which every spiritual aspirant must tread to eventually qualify for the attainment of self realization. These are:

  1. Shodhnam- Purification of the body through hatha yoga.
  2. Dridhata- A steady body/mind through asanas.
  3. Sthairyam- A calm body/mind through mudras and bandhas.
  4. Dhairyam- Patience and perseverance through pratyahara, disassociation of the sense organs with the external objects.
  5. Laghawam- Lightness of the body through pranayama pactice.
  6. Pratyaksham (Dhyan and Dharna)- Direct perception of the object of meditation through concentration and meditation.
  7. Samadhi- Detachment from sensual experiences through union with the self.

The first step on the path of self actualization is purification of the gross body since without first eliminating toxins and impurities from the body, it is very difficult to practise the higher yoga techniques.

Six scientific yogic techniques known as shatkarmas have been developed by the ancient yogis for body purification. These six shatkarmas, nothing else, constitute the branch of yoga called hatha yoga:

  • NETI
    A process of cleansing and thereby purifying the nasal passages.
  • DHAUTI
    A series of techniques for cleaning the whole alimentary canal from the mouth to the anus. It also includes simple methods of cleaning the eyes, ears, teeth, tongue and scalp.
  • NAULI
    A very powerful method of massaging and strengthening the abdominal organs.
  • BASTI
    Techniques for washing and toning the large intestine.
  • KAPALBHATI
    A simple series of three techniques for purifying the frontal portion of the brain.
  • TRATKA
    The practice of intense gazing at an object. This develops the powers of concentration and dormant psychic faculties which we all possess.

ONLY THE SIMPLER FORMS OF THESE 6 TECHNIQUES HAVE BEEN DESCRIBED.

JALA NETI
jala

Jala neti (nasal cleansing with water)
Equipment

  • For this practice a special vessel called a neti lota is used (see diagram). If not available, use a teapot.
  • Fill the vessel with pure lukewarm water, neither too hot nor too cold, but at blood temperature, suitable for pouring into the nose.
  • Add about one teaspoon of salt per half liter of water, making sure it is completely dissolved.

Technique-

  • Insert the spout gently into the left nostril.
  • Slowly tilt the head to the right, so that water runs into the left nostril.
  • The mouth should be open so that you can breathe through the mouth instead of the nose.
  • The water should flow in through the left nostril and out through the right nostril. This will happen automati­cally, providing the position of the Iota and the angle of the head are correct and the respiration is through the open mouth.
  • Allow the water to flow freely through the nostrils for about 20 seconds.
  • Then remove the Iota and clean the nose by blowing with vigor as in bhastrika pranayama.
  • Do not blow so hard that injury results.
  • Repeat the, same process but tilt the head to the left and pour water into the right nostril.

Drying the nose-
The nose must be completely cleaned and dried in the following manner:

  • Stand erect with feet together.
  • Clasp the hands behind the back.
  • Bend forward from the waist until the head is upside down. Remain in this position for 30 seconds. This will allow all the water to drain from the nose.
  • While in this position, blow vigorously through the nose 5 times.
  • Then stand erect again.
  • Close one of the nostrils by gently pressing the side.
  • Breathe in and out vigorously 30 times in quick succession, emphasizing the exhalation to expel the maximum amount of moisture.
  • Repeat the same process with the other nostril. Then with both nostrils open.
  • If water still remains, repeat the drying process until the nose is completely dry.

General advice-
At the first attempt a slight burning sensation may be felt when the water passes through the nostrils This is only due to the mucus membranes being unaccustomed to contact with water. After performing jala neti a few times this sensation will not occur The eyes may also become a little red at first but this will not occur after a short time.

Frequency-
Daily in the mornings, or more often for a cold.

Precautions-

  • The water should only pass through the nose.
  • If any water enters the throat or mouth, it is an indication that the position of the head is incorrect. Adjust the head until the water flows only through the nose.
  • Make sure the nose is properly dried after doing jala neti, otherwise the nasal passages may become irritated and manifest the symptoms of a cold.
  • Do not blow the nose too hard.

Limitations-
Persons suffering from chronic hemorrhage in the nose should not do jala neti without expert advice.

Benefits-

  • Removes all the dirt and bacteria-filled mucus from the nasal passages.
  • Aids in relieving colds and sinusitis, together with various disorders of the ears, eyes and throat, such as myopia, certain types of deafness, tonsillitis, in­flammation of the adenoids and mucus membranes.
  • Has a cooling and soothing influence on the brain and is beneficial for hysteria, epilepsy, temper tantrums, migraine and depression.
  • Gives a general feeling of lightness and freshness in the head and removes drowsiness.
  • Helps in stimulating the olfactory bulb above the sinuses.

Seekthe guidance of a yoga teacher for more details.

WHAT IS BODY CLEANSING PROCEDURE THROUGH DHAUTI?

Dhauti refers to the general techniques for cleansing different body parts and there different types of dhauti for different parts. These techniques are:

Danta Dhauti: it relates to cleaning the body parts above the neck region. It involves cleaning the teeth; Jihwa Dhauti for cleaning the toungue; Karna Dhauti for cleaning the ears; Kapalrandhra Dhauti for cleaning the head and scalp and Chaksua Dhauti for cleaning the eyes.
Vatsara Dhauti: it is the process of rejuvenating the stomach by swallowing or drinking air through the mouth. The air is circulated for some time and then expelled slowly by belching. This eliminates many stomach ailments.

Only some dhauti techniques that can be performed without expert supervision have been listed here.

SHANKHAPRAKSHALANA

vardah

Varisara dhauti or shankhaprakshalana

The word shankha means ‘conch’ and the word prakshalana means ‘to wash completely’. The tech­nique is called shankhaprakshalana as it washes the conch-shaped intestines.

It is a systematic and gentle method of completely washing the entire alimentary canal from the mouth to the anus. The process is rather long and it is advisable to initially learn the practice under the guidance of a yoga teacher.

Preparation-

  • On the day of performing shankhaprakshalana, no food, tea, coffee, etc. should be consumed prior to commencement of the technique.
  • A clean bucket or similar container should be filled with lukewarm water.
  • Salt must be added (2 teaspoons per liter) so that the water tastes salty.
  • Wear light and comfortable clothes for you will be doing exercises.
  • This technique should be performed amidst an atmosphere of happiness and relaxation.
  • There should be no tension or trepidation. For this reason it is best done with a group.

Technique-

  • Drink 2 glasses of salty water as quickly as possible.
  • Perform the following 5 asanas 8 times each
    (i)Tadasana (Exercise-61)
    (ii)Tiryaka tadasana (Exercise-62)
    (iii)Kati chakrasana (Exercise-60, variation 2).
    (iv)Tiryaka bhujangasana (Exercise-70). v) Udarakarshan asana (Exercise-28).
  • There are a number of sphincters or valves in the alimentary canal between the stomach and the anus which open and close to allow the controller passage of food during the digestive process. The five asanas practised during shankhaprakshalana relax the muscles of these valves and allow the salty water to pass freely and quickly to the anus for discharge.
  • After repeating all 5 asanas 8 times each, drink 2 more glasses of salty water and again perform the 5 asanas 8 times.
  • Repeat this procedure once more.
  • Now go to the toilet and try to evacuate the bowels.
  • Do not strain under any circumstances, just relax and after a minute or so in the toilet, come out.
  • Drink 2 more glasses and perform the 5 asanas times again.
  • Then go to the toilet, but do not force.
  • Continue this process, eventually a motion will occur.
  • Do not compare yourself with others. Do not worry if you take a longer time to evacuate or have to drink more water than others.
  • At first solid stool will be evacuated and then probably water and stool mixed.
  • Carry on drinking 2 glasses of water, doing the asanas and going to the toilet.
  • Eventually only clean water will be evacuated.
  • 0n an average between 16 and 25 glasses of salty water must be consumed before clean
  • water is evacuated. Some will need less and some more.

At this stage shankhaprakshalana is completed.

Additional practices-
Kunjal Kriya- Additional water in the stomach is vomited out through induced vomiting.

Jala neti- The process of cleansing the nostrils should be done immediately after completing shankhaprakshalana.

Kunjal cleans the region from the stomach to the mouth and also removes any remaining salty water from the stomach. jala neti cleans the nasal passages.

Rest-

After completing shankhaprakshalana rest is essential.
Lie down or sit quietly for 45 minutes.
Do not sleep. During this period the whole digestive system is having the best rest possible.

Special food-
45 minutes after shankhaprakshalana a special prepa­ration of rice, pulse (mung dal) or lentils, cooked with ghee (clarified butter) must be taken. This prepa­ration is necessary to activate and lubricate the di­gestive tract in a gentle manner. Remember, shankhaprakshalana has not only removed all the waste matter from the alimentary canal, but also all the natural and necessary protective layers from the walls of the digestive tract, leaving them bare. The ghee is essential to provide a temporary protective coating until the body provides a new layer

It is not normal for to intestines to be completely empty, especially for long periods of time without any protective coating. Therefore, while the ghee provides the wall coating, the rice supplies an easily digestible “packing” material and the lentils or dal supply a high protein food. It supplements the car­bohydrate from the rice and the fat from the ghee for an all-round nutritious meal.

Food restrictions

  • For at least one week or longer, all chemically processed, acidic, rich and non-vegetarian foods should be strictly avoided.
  • Milk, buttermilk and acidic fruits such as lemons, grapefruit, oranges, etc. are also restricted.
  • Alcohol, cigarettes, tea, coffee, betel nut preparations such as paan should not be taken for at least one week.
  • The diet should be as pure, simple and neutral (not too acidic) as possible. Remember the whole digestive system has been cleaned. A sudden induction of toxic and poisonous foods might produce bad reactions such as fever, indigestion, constipation and so on.

Frequency-
Every six months, or more often under special circumstances.

General advice
The rules are extensive but each one has a valid reason for being carried out. Disregarding any rule can cause problems. Though we have given the technique here, it should only be done under expert guidance.

VARIATION-Laghoo shankhaprakshalana (short stomach wash)

Early in the morning, before eating or drinking anything, prepare water in the same way as for shankhaprakshalana.
Drink two glasses, practice the same five asanas, eight times each as already de­scribed.
Then drink two more glasses of salty water and repeat the asanas.
Drink two more glasses of water and again repeat the asanas.
Now go to the toilet.
Usually after the practice there is a very clear bowel movement plus a large quantity of urine.

Time and sequence

  • This practice should be done early in the morning or on an empty stomach.
  • For therapeutic purposes it may be practiced daily without harm.
  • Otherwise once or twice a week is sufficient.

This practice is for people who are unable to practise the full course of shankhaprakshalana due to lack of guidance or for any other reasons.

Precautions-

Wait at least half an hour after completing laghoo shankhaprakshalana before eating anything.
For this practice there are no dietary restrictions.

Limitations-

Persons suffering from stomach or duodenal ulcers should attempt this only under expert supervision.
High blood pressure patients may practice it, but they should use plain water without salt.

Benefits
Many ailments occur because of accumulated toxic matter in the intestines which tends to make the bloodstream impure. This has repercussions on the whole body.

  • A complete cleaning of the digestive tract purifies the blood and manifests in a noticeable improvement in the health of the entire body.
  • Most diseases that are associated with the digestive system are relieved. These include diabetes, hyperacidity, chronic dysentery, constipation and conditions arising from toxic blood.

It gives a feeling of lightness, a clear mind, cheerfulness and a general exhilaration with life.

  • It is essential for spiritual aspirants to perform this practice prior to the commencement of any higher sadhana.
  • This is a highly recommended practice for sufferers of chronic constipation, gas, acidity, indigestion and other digestive upsets.
  • It is also good for the kidneys and urinary system as it helps to prevent urinary infections and the formation of kidney stones.

TRATAKA

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Trataka (concentrated gazing)
This powerful technique can be defined as fixed gazing at one point (the workd trataka means “to look, or to gaze”). If practiced regularly it develops the power of concentration to an almost unlimited degree.

From this comes the awakening of latent faculties that are in all of us.

Although there are numerous different techniques, the easiest and most common is listed here.

Technique-

  • Sit in a comfortable position, preferably a meditative asana, in a dark room.
  • Place a lighted candle level with the eyes, at a distance of 1 to 2 feet from the face.
  • Straighten the spine, relax the body and close the eyes. Be aware of the physical body only.
  • Let the body become still, like a statue. Once you are comfortable try not to move the body in any way or for any reason throughout the whole practice.
  • When you are prepared, open the eyes and gaze intently at the brightest spot of the flame just above the end of the wick or the steady red tip of the wick.
  • With practice you should be able to gaze for a few minutes at the flame without move­ment of the eyeballs or blinking.
  • Continue to gaze at the flame with total concentration. The whole of your consciousness must become centered in the eyes to the extent that awareness of the rest of the body is lost.
  • The gaze should be absolutely fixed on one point.
  • As soon as the eyes become tired (perhaps after a few minutes) or if they begin to water, close them and relax.
  • Do not move the body, but be aware of the after-image of the flame in front of the closed eyes. Everyone has looked into the sun or a bright light and seen, on closing the eyes for a few minutes, the clear impression of that light on the retina of the eye. Likewise, the after-image of the candle flame will be clearly visible.
  • You should practice trataka on this image, holding it directly in front or a little above the eyebrow center.
  • As soon as it begins to fade, open the eyes again and continue to concentrate on the external candle flame.

Variations-

  • Trataka can be practised on a small dot, the full moon, a shadow, a crystal ball, the nosetip, water, darkness, the void, a shining object that is not excessively bright, and so many other things.
  • Those who have a personal deity or guru can practise trataka on photographs of his face, while trying to feel his spiritual presence and grace.
  • Trataka can also be practised on the rising sun, one’s own image in a mirror or the eyes of another per­son. These should, however, be done under the guidance of a guru, as there are certain risks involved.

Duration-

  • For general purposes 15 to 20 minutes is sufficient.
  • For spiritual purposes, or to rectify eye defects, the duration should be extended for any length of time.
  • Sufferers of insomnia and mental tension should do this technique for 15 minutes before sleeping at night.

Time and sequence-
The best time for trataka is between 4 and 6 a.m. after asanas and pranayama. It can also be practised at virtually any time. The stomach should be empty so that concentration is more intense.

Precautions
There is no danger in the simple form of trataka outlined here (on the candle flame), but one should avoid undue strain in the beginning. The ability to keep the eyes open without blinking will be developed gradually with practice.

Benefits-

  • Physically- trataka corrects weakness and certain defects of the eyes, such as short-sightedness.
  • Mentally- it increases nervous stability, removes insomnia and relaxes even the most troubled mind.
  • It develops concentration.

About Sharat S.

To keep my friends and readers Healthy, I love to write and share articles on Fruits, Vegetables, Yoga Exercise and more. Importantly, I always promote natural remedies to keep your body healthy.

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