What I started to realize recently after studying many books on yoga is: There is nothing like good old yoga. No original or traditional way how to practice it. It’s constantly changing and adapting to human needs. Here are two interesting “secrets” which will support my opinion and possibly change the way you look at the subject forever. As a matter of fact, it’s always better not to set up unrealistic expectations about your own yoga practice.
The roots of hatha yoga are in tantric tradition
Hatha yoga as we call today the postural yoga refers itself to Patanjali, who authored Yoga Sutras in 400 CE. But in fact, the “founding document of hatha yoga” doesn’t describe any specific posture – asana. A millennium later sometimes around 1400 CE another text, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, as the first literary work in history describes fifteen postures. The question is, where did these ideas come from? Why did yogis start to practice asanas in the first place?
A short answer is the tantrism.
Tantrists worship female deities and focus on sexual energy. Tantrism or tantric religion emerged in India around 500 CE and gradually developed techniques to use sexual energy as a mean to spiritual journey and fulfillment. Can you tell where do these aphorisms come from?
In order, therefore, to awaken this goddess, who is sleeping at the entrance of Brahma Dwâra (the great door), mudrâs should be practiced well.
As the chief of the snakes is the support of the earth with all the mountains and forests on it, so all the Tantras (Yoga practices) rest on the Kundalinî. (The Vertebral column)
When the sleeping Kundalinî awakens by favor of a guru, then all the lotuses (in the six chakras or centers) and all the knots are pierced through.
If you’ve guessed Hatha Yoga Pradipika, you’re right. Exactly, so yogis in India at the certain point in history started to embrace tantric terminology and methods to make samadhi (the goal of yoga, liberation, unity with the universe) happen by manipulation of sexual energy. The sleeping Kundalini, the great libido, “the bliss of Shiva and Shakti” from then moved yogis into postural practice rather than into contemplation. Hatha yoga became what we regard it to be in modern days.
Yogis in India often performed their “magical” powers for money
Chroniclers report many “miracles” showcased by yogis such as burial feats for a good commission. Very material ones like pearl necklaces, gold jewels and similar. Even when yogis dedicated their lives to achieving moksha (liberation), they were like circus attraction for “secular population”, covering their bodies with ash. Part of them smoked marihuana ate opium and begged for food.
Yoga had a very different image in the first millennium CE, it was more about miracles, magic powers and vague spirituality. Let’s learn again from Hatha Pradipika. It describes supernatural powers of an advanced yogi as follows:
becoming small like an atom.
becoming great, like âkâs, by drawing in atoms of Prakriti light things, like cotton
becoming very heavy like mountain coming within easy reach of everything;
as touching the moon with the little finger, while standing on the earth
nonresistance to the desires,
as entering the earth like water
mastery over matter and objects made of it
controlling the animate and inanimate objects
Yoga would have zero success in the-19th-century Europe in case it wouldn’t transform itself. Fortunately, it focused on health and wellbeing, redirected practitioners to physical aspects of life and became in many ways secular.