Hatha yoga

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Hatha yoga (Skt. haṭha-yoga; Tib. དྲག་ཤུལ་སྦྱོར་བ་ or བཙན་ཐབས་ཀྱི་རྣལ་འབྱོར་,[1] Wyl.drag shul sbyor ba or btsan thabs kyi rnal 'byor)—a system of physical exercises and breathing control used in yoga.[2]

The scholar James Mallinson has traced the origin of hatha yoga back to a text called the Amritasiddhi, which he asserts, contrary to earlier beliefs, to have been written in a Buddhist milieu. He then asserts that we can trace the origin of hatha yoga further back to sexual yogas found in the buddhist tantras. One of the earliest instances of the word hatha yoga can be found in the Guhyasamaja Tantra. James Mallinson quotes the Vimalaprabha to provide a definition of hatha yoga:

"Now haṭhayoga is explained. In this system, when the undying moment does not arise because the breath is unrestrained [even] when the image is seen by means of withdrawal (pratyāhāra) and the other [auxiliaries of yoga, i.e. dhyāna, prāņāyāma, dhāraṇā, anusmṛti and samādhi), then, having forcefully (haṭhena) made the breath flow in the central channel through the practice of nāda, which is about to be explained, [the yogi) should attain the undying moment by non-vibration through restraining the drops of bodhicitta [i.e. semen] in the vajra [i.e. penis] when it is in the lotus of wisdom [i.e. vagina). That is haṭhayoga.”[3]

Alternative Translations

  • Fierce yoga
  • Forceful yoga

Notes

  1. These two Tibetan translations of the term haṭha-yoga both reflect the literal meaning of the Sanskrit word haṭha, meaning fierce or forceful. They can be found in the 18th chapter of the Guhyasamāja-tantra (found separately in the Tibetan canon as The Supplementary Tantra (*uttara-tantra, rgyud phyi ma)) and the Vimalaprabhā, a commentary on the Kalachakra Tantra.
  2. Oxford dictionary
  3. James Mallinson, talk for the British Museum 'Hatha yoga and its links to Tantra'. Skt. idānīṃ haṭhayoga ucyate | iha yadā pratyāhārādibhir bimbe dṛṣṭe saty akṣarakṣaṇaṃ notpadyate ayantritaprāṇatayā tadā nādābhyāsād vakșyamāṇād haṭhena prāṇaṃ madhyamāyām vāhayitvā prajñābjagatakuliśamaṇau bodhicittabindunirodhād akṣarakṣaṇaṃ sādhayen niḥspandeneti haṭhayogaḥ ||119|||. Tibetan: ད་ནི་བཙན་ཐབས་ཀྱི་རྣལ་འབྱོར་གསུངས་ཏེ་འདིར་གང་གི་ཚེ་སོ་སོར་སྡུད་པ་ལ་སོགས་པས་གཟུགས་མཐོང་བར་གྱུར་པ་ལ་སྲོག་མ་བཅིངས་པ་ཉིད་ཀྱིས་འགྱུར་བ་མེད་པའི་སྐད་ཅིག་མ་མ་སྐྱེས་ན་དེའི་ཚེ་ནཱ་ད་གོམས་པ་འཆད་པར་འགྱུར་བས་བཙན་ཐབས་སུ་དབུ་མར་འབབ་པར་བྱས་ནས་ཤེས་རབ་ཀྱི་ཆུ་སྐྱེས་སུ་གནས་པའི་བྱང་ཆུབ་ཀྱི་སེམས་ཀྱི་ཐིག་ལེ་རྡོ་རྗེ་ནོར་བུར་བཀག་ནས་མི་གཡོ་བས་འགྱུར་བ་མེད་པའི་སྐད་ཅིག་བསྒྲུབ་པར་བྱའོ་ཞེས་པ་ནི་བཙན་ཐབས་ཀྱི་རྣལ་འབྱོར་རོ། །

Further Reading