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Home > Effects of Hatha Yoga
Effects of Hatha Yoga
Scientific ground for Ha..
Effects of Hatha YogaIn the internationally famous "Autobiography of a yogi", by Paramhansa Yogananda, remarkable feats of yogis are explained with anecdotal account and metaphysical analysis. Apart from this book, which has aroused much curiosity regarding the limitless possibilities acquired through yoga, Indian traditional texts and traditional lores are rich with such narrations.

The claims made on behalf of hatha-yoga are as extensive as they are remarkable. Techniques like Asanas, Kumbhaka and Mudras are often accompanied by the claims of immense effects such as "immortality" and even attainment of Moksha.

All these claims seem to be exaggeration as to how can particular postures of body lead us to such seemingly grand achievements. The answer lies in the fact that, techniques alone do not stand much if not allied with the holistic experience of Hatha yoga. They will surely seem exaggeration unto themselves if claims like "Sitting spinal twist known as Matsyendrasana (posture of Matsyendra) is a weapon that destroys the whole sphere of terrible afflictions" persist to continue.

However, if such claims are considered with regard to each technique`s proper place in the discipline as a whole i.e. as concerning the technique`s effect in combination with a full range of asanas, Mudras, Kumbhaka and intense mental concentration then they become a little more feasible.

Hatha-yogis don`t go out of their way to seek `objective` verification of the abilities they acquire. The so called objective abilities emcompass physiological processes, which are regarded by yogi as very superficial and hardly worthy of any verification. The most significant changes are those that occur at a subjective level, that involves the transformations of perception, self-knowledge and One`s notion of self-identity. Theses are the achievement for any yogis, which are unfortunately impossible to submit these for external scrutinisation.

The only evidence required to demonstrate the effects of hatha- yoga is that gained through personal experience. Nothing else is considered either necessary or sufficient. However, There have been a number of scientific studies carried out on hatha-yogis and the effects of hatha techniques. The research is still on:

Apart from the present day modern scientific analysis, the discoveries that have been coming from generations before are pivotal to any Hatha Yogi. The display of effects oh Hatha yoga has called in for several textual mentions, anecdotes and folklore.These effects are said to be evidenced in several `special powers`, acquired by the yogi through prolonged and assiduous practice, and commonly termed siddhis.

"Sidh" is the verbal root behind the coining of word Siddhi. It is the weak form of "sadh", meaning `to perfect, attain, succeed and accomplish`. From the same root come such terms as Sadhana (that which leads to the goal), Sadhaka (someone who is dedicated in accomplishing that goal), Sadhu (a title for a holy person), and Siddha (one who has achieved the goal).

On the similar lines, In yogic context the term Siddhi has two meanings. Firstly it denotes the `absolute success` or `perfection` achieved by the yogi who has realised his or her true identity as Brahman. Secondly it refers to the sense of a more physical, but comparatively minor `accomplishment` or `special power` acquired on the way to ultimate success. Such accomplishments were more visible, but they only indicated that the Sadhaka is moving in the right direction, rather than being the goals themselves.

According to the Yoga-Sutra, Siddhis are said to be attained with the sustained practice of sanyama, which consists in the combined inner disciplines of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. This is also defind in terms of vibhuti pada. Vibhuti meaning `signal blessing`, `gift` or `power` and thus is virtual synonym of siddhi. Much of the Vibhuti-pada is devoted to outlining the numerous siddhis accrued by one`s performing Sanyama on specific objects.

According to the Yoga Sutra:

Conducting sanyama on the gross and subtle elements; on their essential nature, correlations and purpose, leads to the mastery over them. From that comes attainment of anima [diminution] and other Siddhis, bodily perfection and the non-obstruction of bodily functions by the influence of the elements.

Eight Siddhis are held to be most important amongst all. These eight, generally referred to as the Maha (`great` or `major`) Siddhis, with their literal meanings are as follows:

1. Animan - It is the ability to perceive the nature of an atom.
2. Laghiman --lightness of weight, implying the ability to levitate.
3. Mahiman -- Its the ability to expand infinitely.
4. Prapti -- The power to reach everywhere.
5. Prakamya -- Freedom of will.
6. Vasitva--dominion over the universe.
7. lsitrtva --the power to create;
8 kilmuvasayitva -- The gift of wish fulfillment.

Vyasa in Yoga bhasya have described these eight Siddhis selectively. But it is not made explicit whether those that involve a transformation of bodily state are associated with the Sthula-Sharira, or with the sukshma-sharira alone. Experts supports the `subtle` interpretation of the Siddhis, stating that, with regard to the Siddha tradition of south India, powers such as `travel through the air, passing unobstructed through walls, touching sun and moon, etc.` should be understood as referring, not to `the body of purely physical or material matter, but a mind-made or mind-formed body which is produced from the physical body like a sword from the sheath, pith from a reed, a snake from a basket.

However, Many textual works and eyewitness accounts dispel the notion that Siddhis obtain solely, or primarily, upon a `subtle` plane. For example, in the the popular autobiography of Paramahansa Yogananda (mentioned at the start), the author provides numerous anecdotal accounts of `miraculous powers` being exhibited by yogis. These powers include examples such as bodily bilocation, levitation (of physical body), and Materialization of physical objects.

The explanation given for such abilities is that the yogi in mention tend to gain extensive control over `Pranic force` or `lifetrons` during his intense Yoga sadhna. These pranic forces regulate the `vibratory variations in electron and protons`. Yogananda reserves the most spectacular descriptions of supranormal abilities for his guru twice removed, the immortal mahavatara (maha-avatara: `great descended one`) Babaji, who, among other things, is reported to have dematerialised and rematerialised his physical body, resuscitated a corpse, and materialised a palace in the high Himalayas.

Thre is an attitude of detachment as far as yogi themselves are concerned. This detachment is all the more necessary for attaining the higher goals. For the attained sidhi may act as a reason for corruption in sadhaka who are not morally strengthened by yams and niyams. Hence it is often warned that that one should be wary of their potentially distracting influence. For siddhis may harbour seeds of pride and the corrupting temptation to misuse such powers for selfish ends. Owing to such strong possibilities, Patanjali warns that the siddhis `are extraneous obstacles (upasarga) to samadhi`. Although he beleives they are useful in worldly activities. Regarded as indications of a yogin`s progress towards the highest goal, they are to be welcomed. But the display of Such sidhis take a notion of irrelevance for true yogi. The following anecdote concerning Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh illustrates the nonchalance with which the siddhis are regarded by some gurus:

A pupil once asked him how she could attain levitation. His answer was: `Leave it alone, it only awakens curiosity in people and you would be likely to bang your head against the ceiling. Choose the middle way, that of Meditation, of control over your breath, of being motionless, of prayer, of love, of humility and of Self-realisation.`

The bottom line being that Siddhis should not become the exclusive aim of yoga Sadhana. The great Rishi Aurobindo remarks, "We need not shun the Siddhis and cannot shun them; for these things are the natural action of the consciousness to which the yogi is rising, just as mental activity and physical motion are the natural action of man`s ordinary life."

According to Yoga-Sutra, the Siddhis are acquired through sanyama, which involves the factors of control and intense mental concentration. In hatha-yoga, the emphasis is placed more firmly upon the techniques of prana retention, Kumbhaka and mudra. It is stated that the instructions in mudra were delivered by Adinatha (Siva) and that their practise gives rise to `the eight sovereign powers` or `qualities of the Lord` beloved by `All Siddhas`.

The Siva-Samhita on the other hand, enumerates different manifestation of nine alternative Siddhis, namely:

1. Vak-siddhi -- perfection in speech, speaking the truth.
2. Kamachari -- moving to where one desires, teleportation.
3. Duradrishti -- far-seeing, clairvoyance.
4. Durashruti`far-- hearing, clairaudience.
5. Sukshma-drishti -- subtle seeing, i.e. perceiving subtle phenomena.
6. Parakayapravesana -- entering another`s body.
7. vin-mutra-lepane svarnama-drsya-karana -- turning objects to gold by smearing them with one`s feces and urine.
8. Bhavantyetani sarvani -- becoming completely invisible.
9. Khechara -- moving in space.

The prerequisite to attaining these abilities according to the Siva-Samhita is that of increasingly prolonging the duration of kumbhaka up to "Three ghatikas" (one ghatika = 24 minutes). Only then the yogi is liable to permanently attain the siddhis`. According to last Hast Yoga Pradipika, in Khechara Siddhi the power is said to arise as a consequence of `binding Vayu`, i.e. retaining prana within sushumna-nadi and, focusing it in the Ajna Chakra between the eyebrows.

In some versions or descriptions, khechara is rendered as `rising in the air` or some form of bodily levitation or flight. According to a more literal meaning the Siddhi is indeed `moving in akasa`, i.e. having one`s being in, or identifying with, the most refined of the Mahabhutas. Khechara may be regarded as a particular meditative state as opposed to a mere bodily power.

The seventh siddhi of turning objects to gold by smearing them with excrement is especially hard to take literally. Although it can be figuratively understood as the yogi`s waste products become "pure" enough to yield purity anywhere.

These are some literal, some symbolic interpretations of various accounts of Siddhi given in textual works. Textual accounts and firm beliefs in some physical manifestations cannot be ignored entirely. With various biomedical analysis being researched and explored, we can have a little basis or grounds for acknowledging hatha-yoga`s capacity to enhance human performance on many levels.
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