The Science of Hatha Yoga
Sadhguru looks at how Hatha Yoga is not a physical exercise but a powerful means to prepare the body for higher possibilities. He looks at the importance of a Guru in the tradition and why Hatha Yoga can come alive only when "life is breathed into it."
Sadhguru: Unfortunately in the western part of the world, if you utter the word “yoga,” people think you must twist yourself out like rubber bands or stand on your head. Yoga is not an exercise form. The word “yoga” means union. Today, modern science has proved that the whole existence is just one energy. So if all this is one energy, why is it that you are not experiencing it that way? If you can break the limitations of the illusion that you are separate, and begin to experience the oneness of the existence, that is yoga. The religions of the world have always been talking about God being everywhere. Whether you say God is everywhere or everything is one energy, is it any different? It is the same reality. When it is mathematically deduced, we call it science. If you believe it, we call it religion. When you find a method to get there, we call it yoga. So what is yoga, what is not yoga? There is no such thing.
To lead you towards the experience of yoga – of union and boundlessness – we manipulate the energy and move the system in a certain way. Physical postures are one aspect of this. Understanding the mechanics of the body, creating a certain atmosphere, and then using the body or body postures to drive your energy in specific directions is what Hatha Yoga or yogasanas are about. Hatha yoga is not exercise. Asana means a posture. If I sit in one way, it is one asana. If I sit in another way, it is another asana. So innumerable asanas are possible. Out of these innumerable postures that the body can take, eighty-four fundamental postures have been identified as yogasanas.
Hatha yoga is a preparatory process of yoga. The word “ha” means sun, “ta” means moon. “Hatha” means the yoga to bring balance between the sun and the moon in you, or the Pingala and Ida in you. You can explore Hatha yoga in ways that take you beyond certain limitations, but fundamentally, it is a physical preparation – preparing the body for a higher possibility.
There are other dimensions to this, but to put it simply, just by observing the way somebody is sitting, you almost know what is happening with them. If you have observed yourself, if you are angry, you will sit one way; if you are happy, you sit another way; if you are depressed, you sit yet another way. For every different level of consciousness or mental and emotional situation that you go through, your body naturally tends to take certain postures. The converse of this is the science of asanas. If you consciously get your body into different postures, you can also elevate your consciousness.
The practice as you see it currently in most places – the mechanics of it – is simply of the body.
After twenty years of yoga entering the West and becoming popular, despite it being taught sometimes in ways that leave much to be desired, still, the health benefits of it are undeniable, wherever you live and whatever you do. Right now the number of people practicing yoga is growing in a big way. This could be simply because the scientific community is slowly beginning to recognize the depth and dimension of what this is. But if improper, distorted kind of yoga spreads, in fifteen years’ time, scientific studies will clearly come out and tell you in how many ways it is harmful to human beings, and that will be the downfall.
So it is important that we bring back classical yoga as it was. If it is taught in a proper atmosphere with a certain sense of humility and inclusiveness about the whole process, it is a really fantastic process of shaping your system into a fantastic vessel, a fabulous device to receive the Divine.
It is a very powerful way of living. Power, not over somebody else; it’s all about power to access life.
Editor’s Note: Isha Hatha Yoga programs are an extensive exploration of classical hatha yoga, which revive various dimensions of this ancient science that are largely absent in the world today. These programs offer an unparalleled opportunity to explore Upa-yoga, Angamardana, Surya Kriya, Surya Shakti, Yogasanas and Bhuta Shuddhi, among other potent yogic practices.