Updated: Sep 2
All Hatha Yoga is Kundalini Yoga ......but you may have to be actively raising kundalini daily to understand why.
There is so much ambiguity regarding the Sanskrit words. Most of the time the person using the word is using it how they’ve been told to use it rather than how they have individually learned, experienced and studied how to use it.
Fortunately, we all have the option of second guessing vague things we have accepted in the past - to seek out better, fuller answers.
First of all, hatha yoga is never just asana, much less just certain asana or a certain method of asana.
We find out what Hatha Yoga is from The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, recorded by the yogi Swatmarama and not from anywhere else. Whatever we hear from anyone regarding hatha yoga must be verified by putting it up against what we read in the text. Otherwise, we are just making it up.
These are the six limbs of Hatha Yoga:
1. Mystic Exercises (Asana)
2. Breath Infusion (Pranayama)
3. Retraction of Attention (Pratyahara)
4. Effortful focus (Dharana)
5. Spontaneous meditation (Dhyana)
6. Complete Insight (Samadhi)
Note that these are the six highest limbs of Patanjali’s eight limbs. The first two limbs, yamas and niyamas are not included in Swatmarama’s Hatha Yoga because the student using this instruction will be moved away from society and large and will no longer have a need to curb his/her social dealing.
Since this article is about how Hatha Yoga is Kundalini Yoga, I will begin by defining the words. Sanskrit words are not just words; each word is more like an entire file - one that is not always easy to open. Most explanations on Sanskrit words in Yoga culture, even those offered by high caste Indians, are mostly vague and redundant. Personally, I won’t remain stuck with depthless hit or miss explanations on Yoga I’ve been given in the past from very reputable institutions and swamis. And even though I am not into whimsical discussions that lack proper textual mention, if you genuinely feel my definitions are inaccurate, please cite the referential evidence from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
Here are the definitions - then I will continue my point.
Hatha: Literal translation, ‘sun moon’. Understood as, ‘manipulation’ and also ‘something difficult to do’. On the most practical level of our yoga practice, hatha means ‘manipulation’.
All 6 steps Swatmarama identifies are considered manipulations. During yogic exercises the body, mind, breathing and attention are manipulated for the purposes of psychological clean out. Energy channels, physical and psychic organs and the many tubes and pumps that circulate the energy of this universal system through the psyche are cleaned. Each mind is a psychic machine operated by natural forces, hatha yoga is the method by which the passenger (atma) or core-self, becomes aware of itself and takes conscious control of the vehicle by applying a disciplined process of purification for spiritual (self/atma) liberation. Remember, the 3 highest stages, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi are also included in this Hatha Yoga as they are the manipulation of the attention energies to higher concentration forces, leading to the acquisition of complete insight and the beginnings of spiritual life, the goal of the practice.
Yoga: Literal translation, ‘yoke’ or ‘restraint’. A system of austerity for self-purification and ultimate liberation from material creation/samsara. Holy source texts include: The Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali Yoga Sutras and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. We find the standardization of yoga in the Yoga Sutras in which Patanjali explains the 8 fold (ashtanga) process. Without this text yoga would remain extremely mysterious and difficult to collect much less grasp. Bhagavad Gita gives us the philosophical/spiritual/deeply theological knowledge and the Pradipika gives us the practical/ instructional/kriya knowledge. These 3 texts embody the canon of Yoga instruction.
Kundalini: Literal translation, ‘coiled she-serpent’. In the body and mind it is running everything. It runs the whole universe too. It is the electrical box of your psyche (psychological house) located in the geographic center of the subtle body near the base of the spine close to the reproductive organs. The epicenter of instinct and all mental-physical functions, it is the energy vortex where the mind does its most potent work throughout intricate bodily and psychological functions
Kundalini energy is NOT spiritual energy - it is psychological and elemental energy, shifty and evolving. It is a separate entity from spiritual energy. Within the kundalini life force, inside the subtle body container, living up in the head space is the spiritual person, the atma, or core-self.
So why do I say that all hatha (manipulation) Yoga is kundalini Yoga? Why do I say that essentially all serious yogic exercise should be understood as kundalini yoga?
Because kundalini is the target of all Hatha Yoga practice.
The cleaning AND the transcendental raising of the kundalini light force from the base of the body into the head of the body.
This is an experience like no other and is special to Yoga, and is the sole purpose of mystic asana and pranayama.
Yoga targets nature. The kundalini life force intelligence within the individual body is that nature. The Yoga process acts to reform the nature suit you keep being born into, subjected to, through continuous cycles of birth and death. As yogins, we find this traumatic and desire existence in a spiritual realm. We take seriously our hatha yoga practice to get us there.
We manipulate it so that we can manipulate the mind into a condition ripe for meditation wherein the core-self can sit alone with itself, with naad sound and with higher concentration sources and forces. These are the higher stages and experiences of Yogic meditation.
The concentration of kundalini life force in the base of the spine is a form of light. As the asana and pranayama open things up and release energies, that light becomes cleaner, brighter, movable and willing, for the moment, to move out of its primary residence in the groin. By physical and subtle internal manipulations, locks (bandhas), we are able to guide kundalini light through the central spine and into the head, where the self experiences a transcendental state of consciousness known as a kundalini rise.
It is about taking control of the electrical box in the body you live in, instead of it controlling you.
Hatha Yoga is about mastering the habits and tendencies of that electrical box and the whole system it operates. A yogin is an electrician of sorts.
It requires a lot of study, practice and introspection. Electrical systems can be intimidating and tricky. Elexctricity demands respect and true understanding of how electricity really works is often know only to the professionals due to the complexities and dangers. Those practicing kundalini Yoga become professional subtle body electricians.
Yoga is about restraining the kundalini and then mastering its potential, something it can never do on its own - exclusively for the purpose of spiritual freedom from the whole thing.
This material creation is not the only world.
The spiritual world exists too and yoga shows us how to make our best attempt to achieve it.
In terms of yoga, our ability to perform this manipulation is the whole point of bothering to evolve into a human form to begin with.
This level of control mastery is quite exclusive to Yoga. I’ve not found this echelon of command over the self in any other single disciple.
Gymnastic Yoga is not Yoga. It doesn’t matter what Swami’s name is attached to it or how many worshipful followers he has. It’s gymnastics, calisthenics. If someone offers hatha
Yoga in a list of a bunch of other ‘types’ of Yoga, you will know that they don’t understand the words they are using.
All these Yogas;
Iyengar, Vinyasa, Bikram, Yin, Sivananda, Ashtanga, restorative - add any name or word to the list….if they are not incorporating the asana with the pranayama with the pratyahara with the 3 highest meditation stages of insight, it is NOT Yoga and you should not allow yourself to be short changed:
Don’t be cheated or cheat yourself.
Yoga is when you are following Gita, Sutras and Pradipika.
It is 8 steps if you are still living in the society.
It is 6 steps if you are not.
Either way, there you are.
Get to the kundalini, study it, clean it with aggressive breathing, internalize all your attention, and then sit to meditate without allowing the mind to be active.
Read the Kundalini Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Michael Beloved and then you will have truly discovered the meaning of Hatha Yoga.