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Frequently Asked Questions About Hatha-Yoga: Georg Feuerstein

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  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    From: http://www.traditionalyogastudies.com/faq_hatha-yoga.html Frequently Asked Questions About Hatha-Yoga Georg Feuerstein 1. Is Hatha-Yoga the only kind of
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 9, 2008

      Frequently Asked Questions About Hatha-Yoga
      Georg Feuerstein

      1. Is Hatha-Yoga the only kind of Yoga there is?

      Far from it. The Yoga tradition comprises many distinct approaches,
      notably Râja-Yoga (the "royal" path of meditation), Jnâna-Yoga (the
      path of discernment and wisdom), Karma-Yoga (the path of
      self-transcending action), Bhakti-Yoga (the path of devotion), and
      Tantra (the integrative path developed in the medieval era). See our
      FAQ about Yoga in general.

      2. What is the difference between contemporary Hatha-Yoga and
      traditional Hatha-Yoga?

      Traditional Hatha-Yoga is a pronouncedly spiritual tradition, that is,
      it is concerned primarily with the goal of liberation, or
      enlightenment. The various physical practices all serve to create a
      healthy, vital body that can withstand the rigors of an ascetical
      approach to life involving the awakening of the "serpent power"
      (kundalinî-shakti). The contemporary schools of Western Hatha-Yoga, by
      contrast, are mostly geared toward physical fitness, strength,
      flexibility, or beauty. They tend to ignore traditional Yoga's
      spiritual orientation nor its ethical foundations. The distinct
      feature of traditional Hatha-Yoga is its attempt to create a
      transubstantiated immortal body of energy through the mastery over the
      five material elements.

      3. How old is traditional Hatha-Yoga?

      Probably, yogins and yoginis discovered the health benefits of certain
      yogic practices (notably breath control) early on, though their focus
      was always on the spiritual benefit gained from consistently engaging
      those practices. It was not, however, until around 1000 A.D. that,
      under the body-positive tradition of Tantra, practitioners of Yoga
      formulated the tenets of Hatha-Yoga and also developed the postures
      and breathing techniques into psychosomatic devices for
      self-transformation. Previously, postures (âsana) were used
      exclusively for the purpose of stabilizing the body during meditation,
      and breath control (prânâyâma) was used in order to deepen the
      meditative process.

      4. Who invented traditional Hatha-Yoga?

      Traditional authorities associate Hatha-Yoga with Goraksha Nâtha,
      whose teacher is said to have been Matsyendra, even though the latter
      appears to have lived many centuries earlier. Goraksha, the founder of
      the Kânphata ("Split-Ear") sect, lived in the 10th to 11th century.
      The texts attributed to him do not show the elaborate postural
      technology of subsequent schools of Hatha-Yoga. Rather, he focused on
      breath control as a major transformative tool.

      5. Can contemporary Hatha-Yoga be considered authentic?

      This is a difficult question to answer. It all depends on the school
      or style. To the degree that a school or style honors and preserves
      Yoga's general spiritual and ethical orientation, it is likely to be
      authentic. In its best manifestations, contemporary Hatha-Yoga can be
      viewed as a modern adaptation of traditional Hatha-Yoga. But then
      there are also schools and approaches that have very little in common
      with traditional Hatha-Yoga. Caveat emptor!

      6. Is contemporary (Western) Hatha-Yoga as potent as traditional

      The answer to this question again depends on which school or style one
      is talking about. But contemporary Western Hatha-Yoga does not (yet)
      appear to have given rise to great adepts like Matsyendra or Goraksha,
      which does not mean that this could not happen in the future. Even
      accomplished Hatha-Yoga masters like B. K. S. Iyengar, who does not
      consider himself a realized adept (siddha), have so far not emerged in
      the West.

      7. Is it useful to practice contemporary Hatha-Yoga?

      Of course. Just be very clear on what sort of Hatha-Yoga you are
      practicing and what its inherent limitations are. If you are looking
      for health, fitness, or strength, the contemporary styles of
      Hatha-Yoga will not disappoint. If you are looking for spiritual
      fulfillment, you must look more closely at a system and its teacher(s).
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