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Home > Hatha Yoga & Raja Yoga
Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga
The goal of yoga Degrees of samadhi
Yoga in itself is rich and intricate to embody a vast array of various disciplines.
Bhagavad Gita itself asserts many major manifestations such as :
  • Hatha Yoga and Raja YogaJnana-yoga (yoga of wisdom, knowledge and truth).

  • Bhakti-yoga (yoga of devotion).

  • Karma-yoga (yoga of action).

  • Dhyana-yoga (yoga of meditation).

  • Samkhya-yoga (yoga of enumeration of metaphysical Principles).

  • The other various mentionable yogas include:
  • Mantra-yoga (yoga of sound vibration).

  • Laya-yoga (yoga of dissolution).

  • Kundalini-yoga (yoga of elevating Kundalini-Shakti).

  • Raja-yoga (Royal or kingly yoga).

  • Hatha-yoga.


  • Even hatha-yoga in itself is a broad study to involve certain multifarious `schools`, `styles` or `traditions`. Different interpretations by different teachers of Hatha Yoga are usually responsible for this branching up.

    For example, many Shivananda Yoga Vedanta centres around the world are based on the teachings of Swami Shivananda Saraswati of Rishikesh and his foremost disciple, Swami Vishnudevananda. Like this, there are several other internationally known schools and lineages, apart from the lesser known but equally or more adept teachers.

    Each and every school of Yoga is integral in propounding yogic science.

    Yoga is a term which is far more deep and rich in its meaning.
    Yoga`s significance is, essentially, twofold:

    On the one hand it refers to the goal of spiritual practice.
    On the other to the path or technical system for achieving that goal.

    The variable branches have equally various definitions of the final state, however defining a single goal. The goal is of identification and union of personal self (Jivatman) with that of Supreme self (Paramatman).

    Still, the confusion is created by the commentators who are largely unfamiliar with yoga as a practical discipline having identified `this` and `that` kind of yoga as distinct, and perhaps even as antagonistic in their beliefs. As a matter of fact, all the variations are simply neighboring facets of a single, though complex, enterprise. In this process of separating the facets, the interrelations have been thoroughly ignored. Thus arises the often foolish discrimination of labeling the branches as superior and inferior.

    For example, when in Bhagavad-Gita Lord Krishna speaks of Jnana-, bhakti- and karma-yoga, he is not talking about three entirely separate ways of carrying out one`s spiritual practice, but, rather, about three aspects of the ideal life. The choice to be made by Arjuna is actually the choice making procedure for us all. The choice is not between acting and seeking revelatory knowledge (jnana); or acting or following Brahman. The choice exist between acting out of wisdom or acting out of ignorance. What is required, ultimately, is action (karma) that accords with one`s own true nature (svadharma), performed with insight (jnana) and an attitude of worshipful devotion (bhakti) to Brahman; in other words, a combination of all three `yogas`.

    On the similar lines, Hatha-yoga is interrelated and even interwoven with Mantra, Laya and raja yoga. As a matter of fact, these different Yogas are suggested for different Yoga Aspirants in the famous work of Shiva Samhita.

    For example, Mantra yoga befits a soft, weak or gentle aspirant; Laya is usually suggested for an average aspirant; Hatha for the above measure or above average; and Raja yoga is best suited for aspirant with potential that`s above average or excellent.

    The very best (Shreshta) aspirant is able to `transcend the world of phenomenal existence.

    Although, the qualities of aspiring Yogis are well differentiated, the actual difference between forms of yoga is but blur. However, a distinction can be made on different forms regarding their take on Pranayama:

    `Pranayama he writes is recognized as one of the "limbs" of all the (Ashtanga) forms of Yoga. The difference being that while it is used in Mantra, Laya and RajaYoga as an auxiliary, the Hatha-yogi as such regards this regulation and Yoga of breath as the key aspect to achieve the goal.

    Also, mantra understood the force of sound activating the vital points, whereas the significance is given to the "inner sound" or Nadanusandhan in Hatha Yoga.

    Similarly, Laya meaning `dissolution` or `absorption` is precisely what is said to take place in the advanced sages of hatha-yoga, as the `mind becomes increasingly `absorbed` in the nada, which is itself the auditory manifestation of Shakti.

    In the above stated ways, Hatha Yoga can be interrelated to the Mantra and laya yoga. Similarly, Raja-yoga need not be seen as an alternative system to that of hatha. Rather it is the very culmination of hatha practice,

    In short, mantra and laya may rightly be viewed as continuous with hatha, and raja-yoga is the pinnacle of all three.

    Raja-yoga
    Considering the root base of the term Raja, it means both `to shine` and `to govern`. Hence raja-yoga is aptly translated as `kingly`, `ruling`, `regal` or `radiant` yoga.

    Yoga sutra does not even mentions the term, but in Yogic context, the term defines he following meaning:
  • The whole system of ashtanga-yoga outlined by Patanjali.

  • The final three limbs` of that system, the combined performance of which is also known as sanyama (roughly `restraining` or `holding together`, fixing one`s attention upon a single object).


  • The three component of samyama namely dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (identification) are termed as the antaranga (`inner limbs`) . This is in opposition to the so-called `outer limbs` (bahiranga) of yama through sacrifice.

    Samyama is more explicitly concerned with mental training. Therefore, this aspect is commonly utilised to distinguish hatha-from raja-yoga. The claim being that hatha is concerned only with `external` aspects, while raja constitutes `the real practice of Yoga namely, the understanding and complete mastery over the mind.

    According to hatha philosophy, hatha-yoga is considered as a necessary foundation for raja-yoga. The term Raja yoga is used principally as a synonym for the highest state of samadhi, the pinnacle or `crowning glory` of yogaa nd not to denote any process extrinsic to hatha itself. Hatha is a complete system, whose ultimate goal known as raja is achieved.

    To make this point, pronouncements in Hatha Yoga Pradipika such as the following are often referred to:

    "Hatha-yoga-vidya.-.is, as it were, a ladder to climb to the lofty heights of raja-yoga.

    By mastery of kevala-kumbhaka (absolute retention), vayu (vital breath) is held still, and also, without doubt, the state of raja-yoga is attained.

    At the culmination of prana-retention, the mind (chitta) should be without any perceptual object; verily, by practise of this yoga is the state of raja-yoga arrived at. "

    All the practices of hatha and laya are for the attainment of raja-yoga; one who ascends the peak of raja-yoga avoids kala. (lit. `time`, i.e. death).

    The underline of all theses statements being that, Practitioners who do not seek and embody the knowledge of raja in Hatha yoga bear incomplete fruits lacking the final attainment.

    Hatha Yoga Pradipika went to the extent of stating that there can be `no success in raja-yoga without hatha, nor in hatha without raja-yoga; therefore the practise of both brings completion (nispatti)."

    Although the staement potrays the mutually reflexive nature of both the discipline, its clear that the goal known as raja-yoga cannot be achieved without the practice of hatha, and the practice of hatha remains incomplete until raja-yoga is attained. In short the emphasis is that its hatha which leads to raja-yoga, and not vice versa or that the one assists the other. Therefore it is highly unfair to present hatha as `inferior` to raja-yoga, as though the two represented a lesser` and a `greater` form of yoga respectively.

    Some gurus may lay greater stress upon mental concentration, and others upon the cleansing of the gross and subtle bodies. Consequently, the former may tend to label their system raja yoga, and the latter refer to their`s as hatha-yoga. But in the true final analysis,both bodily purity and mental acuity are paid attention in Hatha system. A skilled teacher knows how to emphasise different aspects according to a students requirement and abilities.

    Commenting upon the spiritual methodology of Goraksha, one of the legendary founders of hatha-yoga, Sampurnanano makes some pertinent remarks regarding the reasons for hathas bodily emphasis:

    "It was not that he [Goraksa] believed that the practice of bodily contortions or the control of bodily functions was the final goal of Yoga. Nor was he under the delusion that such control of the body would, in and by itself, produce Samadhi and self-realisation. What he did quite rightly emphasize was the irrevocable necessity of going through the lower stages, which are apt to be neglected and ignored because they seem so difficult. Also they are considered so unnecessary by a process of wishful thinking."

    The extensive description of information about advanced postural and breathing techniques in Hatha manuals, has led some commentators to assume that this is all hatha consists of. It is but inevitable that theoreticians who are unfamiliar with yoga praxis will seek to find neat pigeonholes for the various aspects of yoga. But in the final and truthful assessment the holistic nature of hatha with the final summit of Raja Yoga has to be acknowledged.

    The Ultimate relationship between Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga can be summed up by the opening Shloka of Hatha Yoga Pradipika:

    "Praise be to Sri Adinath (Shiva) who has taught the hatha-yoga-vidya, which is a ladder for those whose will is to ascend to the heights of raja-yoga."
    Hath Yoga Pradipika.

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