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Home > Origin of Hatha Yoga
Origin of Hatha Yoga
Yoga and Vedic Philosphy.. Yoga in Upanishads Myth of Aryan Invasion..
The earliest classical work on yoga is unanimously considered as "Yoga sutra of Patanjali." This treatise laid the foundation for all the manifestations of Yoga formed thereafter. Hatha has developed following this very groundwork.

Owing to the fact that Indian studies have been really ancient, the lack of accurate chronological evidence leads to vagueness concerning dates. Even if we happen to decide on the exact date the treatise was written on, the fact remains that the knowledge has been passed from centuries before in oral form.The conclusion remains that the ideas themselves could derive from the intangible time of pre-history.

Many scholars locate hatha-yoga`s formative years somewhere between the ninth and tenth centuries C.E. It is in this time period that the estimated flourishing of the great siddhas (adepts) Matsyendra and Goraksa, and other researchers and practitioners of yoga took place simultaneously.

It is believed that Matsyendra lived at the beginning of the tenth century A.D. Goraksa`s existence is traced much farther back in time. Some expert view the existence of hatha-yoga to be a tradition whose roots extend back at least several thousand years, with its earliest known authentic text being the Yoga-Karunta. This work took its shape in Varanasi. "Krishnamacharya" claims to have come across a 1,500-year-old manuscript of this text. `The style of language [being] derived from an oral tradition predating classical Sanskrit, and possibly going back as far as 5,000 years back.

To put it factually, Hatha yoga known today has originated and evolved through generations to generations with no fixed measure of time. Its best-known treatises such as the Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika, Gheranda-Samhita and Siva-Samhita fall within a particular Indian literary category known as Tantra. It is for this reason that hatha-yoga is sometimes referred to as a variety of `Tantrism`. However,Tantras constitute a very broad category indeed, and thus being designated as Tantric tells us little about the content of a work.

The verbal root of tantra is "Tan" which literally means `to extend, spread, to put forth, manifest, display or augment`. The word Tantra itself has various meanings; mainly referring to that of web or warp. Finally "Tantra" came gradually to stand for an uninterrupted series, orderly rituals, the doctrinal theory or system itself.

Many doctrines of tantra still incorporate philosophies in which the Absolute is personified as the deity Siva. Tantra or `Tantrism` has come to be most closely connected with the Saiva (Ardent followers of Shiva) traditions. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to assume that hatha-yoga is exclusively Saiva, for the ardent follower ship of Vishnu, Ram and Krishna also exist. Still, one of the most fervent yogis of this branch have been non-sectarian, and believers in supreme self within themselves.

Hatha-yoga has been frowned upon by supposedly `orthodox` Brahmins and even by practitioners of more predominantly `mental` forms of yoga. The reason being that Hatha is significantly a body-affirmative approach. However, its basic metaphysical tenets are continuous with those the Vedas and Upanisads. Although, the underlying doctrine of the identity of "Jivatman" (living self) and "Paramatman" (supreme Self) is the same, difference lies in the greater emphasis given to postural and breathing techniques therein. Such techniques did not receive systematic literary attention until the tantrika period. Still enough references to similar methods appear in certain of the early major Upanishads to suggest that hatha practice, as well as its theoretical basis, is Vedic in origin.

However, as every branch of ancient Indian knowledge is said to be inspired by a deity and weaved in mythology, so is the case with Hath yoga. This form of Yoga has following myth behind it:

Origin of Hath YogaOne day Parvati, the consort of Siva, looked down on her children, human beings, and seeing them in such a bad way, asked her divine husband: " My Lord isn`t there anything that can be done to ease the suffering of our children? " Siva closed his eyes, entered into a state of deep meditation and started to teach the science of Hatha Yoga. Divine knowledge was pouring out of his lips as naturally and effortlessly as the Ganges flows to the sea.

When he had finished, he opened his eyes and discovered that Parvati had fallen asleep. As he had been teaching from this deep state of meditation, he could not remember what he had said. "What a waste!" said Siva to himself. Fortunately, in a pond nearby, there was a very special fish who had listened with great attention to the whole discourse. He said to Siva: "Please, do not worry my Lord, I remember everything!" Siva was so happy that he instantly liberated this great soul who had been the first recipient of this knowledge. He became Matsyendranath. Matsyendranath handed it over to his disciple Goraknath, and this started a lineage of siddhas, perfected beings.


This story underlines the fact that Hatha Yoga is a divine gift traditionally transmitted from Guru to disciple. In this lineage, the first Guru was Shiva himself. Far from being frozen knowledge and codified instructions, it is a science kept alive by the yogis who have mastered it and who in turn transmit their knowledge to their deserving students. Sampoorna Hatha Yoga is a continuing expression of this tradition. That is why it is so effective for evolution of Ardent practitioners.

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