One aim behind many Hatha Yoga traditions is to live the ultimate reality of bliss in this world and body. Radical stuff, this body talk, hundred of years ago when Hatha Yoga became more organized. It remains radical.
“Hatha” translates as “forceful,” so says yoga scholar Georg Feurstein in his encyclopedic book The Yoga Tradition. Unlike Bhakti Yoga – the yoga of devotion –said to be the easiest gateway to enlightenment, Hatha Yoga requires work. It’s difficult practices involve trying to transmute the body’s energy, in turn, to transform the mind’s patterns. Postures, artful sequences of postures, harnessed breathing, concentration and meditation exercises, and more – these are all tools to shift how your crazy mind works and plays.
Hatha Yogis were and are spiritual salmon who live counter to the mainstream. Why? Because they said that this body is the very vehicle that will liberate our mind from its imprisoning patterns. The mainstream of Yoga before them denounced the body as an “ill-smelling…conglomerate of bone, skin, sinew, muscle, marrow, flesh, semen, blood..-what good is the enjoyment of desires?” That passage comes not from a contemporary tele-evangelist but from theMaitra-yaniya-Upanishad. Hatha yogis see their calling as to live in this world creatively and dynamically.
THE YOGIC BODY IS 95% OF THE MIND
Malcolm Gladwell focuses his best-selling book Blink around a new understanding of the unconscious. This adaptive unconscious, Gladwell argues, shapes the decisions of many successful people. We, he also argues, can learn to cultivate more awareness of this blinking unconscious. Why would we want to? So we don’t let stultifying rationalizations override the often more accurate unconscious. Think of conscious rationalizations as the mind’s mainstream and the blinking adaptive unconscious as the mind’s creative undercurrent.
In essence, the adaptive unconscious includes visceral gut feelings, sensations, and rapid flashes of instinctive insight. It comprises a good 95% of what we call mind, and that 95% influences the 5% called consciousness (this fact, according to cognitive linguist George Lakoff and cognitive scientist Mark Johnson in their book Philosophy in the Flesh: How the Embodied Mind Challenges Western Thought, 1999). But what influences that 95%? Well, for one, sensory input that the body absorbs. But also autonomic functions such as respiration, heartbeat, organ functioning.
That’s right: how you breathe, how your heart beats, and how your organs function influence how 95% of your mind works.
So doesn’t it follow that, if you can alter your respiration, moderate your heart beat, and optimize your organ functioning, you could change the way that 95% of your mind works? That’s my supposition for why Hatha Yoga has revolutionized the way I live, write, and create and the way that literally thousands of other people around the globe do so.
Hatha Yoga hones focus and stokes creative fire. It deepens awareness of feelings and thought patterns that can stifle the self from fulfilling its creative calling.
Hatha is a difficult path that ultimately makes navigating the creative undercurrent more easeful – though not easy.