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Āsana - Pure translation
Hi, Gabriel Pradīpaka once again. This is the first section of Haṭhayogapradīpikā. The subject to be dealt with is "Āsana" or "Posture".
This is a "pure translation" document, that is, there will be no original Sanskrit, but sometimes there will be a minimal quantity of transliterated Sanskrit in the translations themselves of the stanzas. Of course, there will not be any word for word translation. Anyway, there will be very often transliterated Sanskrit in the explanatory notes. If you are a blind person using a screen reader and do not want to read the notes, or simply if you are not blind but want to skip the notes, click on the respective "Skip the notes" link to jump directly onto the next stanza.
Read carefully the warnings and tips I give you below.
Warning: All methods and techniques taught in this scripture MUST be practiced under the proper guidance of a qualified teacher. To practice them by oneself is generally DANGEROUS. Act wisely then. Of course, this site takes no responsibility in case you decide to ignore the present warning.
Important: All that is in brackets and italicized within the translation has been added by me in order to complete the sense of a particular phrase or sentence. In turn, all that is between double hyphen (--...--) constitutes clarifying further information also added by me.
When reading this scripture, remember the place and time in which it was written, that is,
India during the medieval age. If you forget that, you will not understand some advises, practices and the like recommended by Svātmārāma (the author).
And now, (the scripture) shedding light on Haṭhayoga (begins): Salutation(s) to that venerable Primordial Lord by whom has been taught the Haṭhayoga science which shines forth in the form of a stairway for that person who wishes to ascend to the superior Rājayoga --lit. "Royal Yoga"--||1||
After having (firstly) bowed to the venerable Guru, (who is) the Lord (Himself), the Haṭhayoga science is taught by Yogī Svātmārāma only for the sake of Rājayoga||2||
Svātmārāma, sprinkling compassion (over the world), gives Haṭhayogapradīpikā to those who do not know Rājayoga due to a misconception or confusion (arisen) in the darkness (created by too) many ideas||3||
Matsyendranātha, Gorakṣanātha, etc. undoubtedly know the Haṭhayoga science. And by their favor, Yogī Svātmārāma (also) knows (it)||4||
Śrīādinātha --Venerable Primordial Lord--, Matsyendra, Śābara, Ānandabhairava, Cauraṅgī, Mīna, Gorakṣa, Virūpākṣa, Bileśaya, Manthāna, Yogī Bhairava, Siddhi, Buddha and Kanthaḍi; Koraṇṭaka, Surānanda, Siddhapāda and Carpaṭi; Kānerī, Pūjyapāda and Nityanātha; Nirañjana, Kapālī, Bindunātha and that (Yogī) known as Kākacaṇḍīśvara; Allāma, Prabhudeva and Ghoḍā Colī, and Ṭiṇṭiṇi too; Bhānukī, Nāradeva and Khaṇḍa, as well as Kāpālika, etc. are the Great Siddha-s --Perfected Beings-- who, having shattered the staff of Time --as Death destroying all things-- through Haṭhayoga, roam about the universe||5-9||
For those who are completely tempered by Tāpa, Haṭhayoga is the hermitage giving refuge; and for those who are completely occupied with (or united in) Yoga, Haṭhayoga is a tortoise giving support||10||
The haṭhayogī must stay in a hermitage, in a solitary, remote and secret place. (His abode) must be a bow long --i.e. approximately 5 feet--, (and it must be situated) in (an area) where there is no (hazard) from rocks, fire (or) water; in a virtuous (and) good realm; in a region that is free from any affliction and danger (and) where plenty of alms may be gotten||12||
"With a small door, without openings --i.e. windows--, holes (or) fissures (and) being neither too high (nor) too low. (It should be) immaculate, completely smeared with a thick (layer of) cow dung (and) totally free from animals and insects. Outside, it is pleasant (due to) a well (and) an altar in a kind of hall with thatched roof, (and) it is surrounded by a wall". This precise description of the hermitage for (the practice) of Yoga, has been declared by the perfected Haṭhayoga practitioners||13||
Thus, dwelling in the hermitage (and) being devoid of all thought, Yoga should be certainly practiced by means of what is taught by the guru or spiritual preceptor||14||
Overeating, strenuous exertion or work, gossiping or frivolous conversations, adhering to rules or observances, being in the company of (common) people and (mental) restlessness are the six (obstacles) through which Yoga is completely lost, destroyed and eliminated||15||
Yoga is attained or accomplished through six things: by means of the enthusiasm --strength of will and seriousness--, fearlessness or courage, perseverance, (discrimination or) knowledge of the Truth and firm faith, conviction and resolution; (as well as) by abandoning the company of (common) people||16||
Two extra aphorisms dealing with Yama and Niyama in Haṭhayoga are appended to the present sūtra. They should be considered as two complementary sūtra-s and not as two independent ones:
And now, the rules of behavior and the observances: The ten rules of behavior (are): "non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence --lit. moving in the Absolute--, forgiveness, steadiness and tolerance, compassion, honesty (humbleness), moderate diet and cleanliness".
The ten observances established by those who are conversant with the scriptures (dealing with) Yoga (are): "penance --i.e. austerity--, contentment, belief in God, charity, worship of the Lord, the act of listening to what is said in the scriptures, modesty, a discerning intellect, muttering of a Mantra and sacrifice or oblation".
And now, Āsana or Posture:
Āsana or Posture is described in the first place inasmuch as it is the first limb or step (of the stairway for that person who wishes to ascend to the superior Rājayoga --see 1st aphorism of this section--). Therefore, Āsana, which gives steadiness and firmness, health and bodily lightness, should be performed||17||
I am going to describe some of the postures accepted by (such) Sages (as) Vasiṣṭha, etc., and by Yogī-s (such as) Matsyendra, etc.||18||
Sitting with a straight body, after having duly placed both soles of the feet on the inner side of thighs (and) kneels. (The Great Yogī-s) call that (posture) Svastika or Auspicious||19||
The right ankle should be placed at the side of the left buttock; and likewise, the left (ankle should be placed) next to the right (buttock). (This is known as) Gomukhāsana (as) it looks like a cow's face||20||
Thus, one foot should be placed firmly next to one thigh; and likewise, the (other) thigh (should be situated) by the other (foot). It is said (that this posture) is Vīrāsana --i.e. "the hero posture"--||21||
Pressing the anus with the ankles, (both of them placed) in opposite direction to each other, while one is firm and concentrated. The knowers of Yoga say that this (posture) is Kūrmāsana --i.e. "the tortoise posture"--||22||
Having assumed the lotus posture, inserting both of hands between thighs (and) knees; (and) firmly resting them --i.e. the hands-- on the ground, (let your body lift and) stay in the air. (This is known as) Kukkuṭāsana --i.e. "the cock posture"--||23||
Knotted --as it were-- in the cock posture, (and) holding (his) neck with the forearms, one should remain supinely --i.e. lying on his back--, like a tortoise. This (is) Uttānakūrmāsana --i.e. "the tortoise posture in a supine position"--||24||
Holding the big toes with the hands, one should perform the bending of a bow up to the ear(s) --i.e. one should pull his big toes up to the ears--. (This) is known as Dhanurāsana --i.e. "the bow posture"--||25||
The right foot is placed at the base of the left thigh; (in turn,) the left foot encompasses or encircles (till it is placed) by the outside of the (right) knee. Having taken hold (of the left foot with the right hand,) one should remain (in the posture, passing the left arm behind his waist,) with the body turned. (This) is the posture described by venerable Matsyanātha --also called Matsyendra or Matsyendranātha--||26||
The posture of Matsyendranātha kindles the stomach --i.e. the digestive fire-- (and) is a weapon --as it were-- to remove a multitude of terrible diseases. By practicing (Matsyendrāsana, it) bestows the awakening of Kuṇḍalinī and firmness or steadiness of the moon --i.e. Bindu-- on men||27||
Having stretched the legs on the ground, like a stick, (bent forward and) held both tips of the feet with the hands --lit. forearms--, one should remain with the region of the forehead placed on the knees. (The great Yogī-s) say that this is Paścimatānāsana --or Paścimottānāsana, if I use "uttāna" instead of "tāna"-- --i.e. "the posture that stretches the rear part of the body"--||28||
Thus, Paścimatānāsana or Paścimottānāsana, the primordial one among the postures, makes the vital air flow through the rear part of the body; produces for men an increase of the digestive fire, flatness in the abdomen and a state free from diseases||29||
Resting oneself on the ground with the two hands (and) with its --i.e. body's-- elbows placed at the sides of the navel, (the body must) remain lifted (or) raised like a stick in the air. (The great Yogī-s) call this posture Mayūrāsana --i.e. "the peacock posture"--||30||
Venerable Mayūrāsana --the peacock posture-- quickly destroys all diseases, (and) is victorious over enlargement of the glands, enlargement of the abdomen due to dropsy or flatulence, etc., as well as over imbalance of the bodily humors --i.e air or vāta, bile or pitta and phlegm or kapha--. In a high degree, it reduces to ashes all ingestion of inadequate food. It generates digestive fire (to such extent, that it even renders possible) that the (frightening) Kālakūṭa poison to be digested||31||
Lying on the back --i.e supinely--, resting like a corpse on the ground; that (is) Śavāsana --i.e. "the corpse posture"--. Śavāsana removes fatigue (and) brings about mental rest or repose||32||
Eighty four postures (have been) certainly stated by Śiva. Having extracted four out of those as being the main ones, (now) I (proceed to) describe (them)||33||
"Siddhāsana --i.e. the posture of the Siddha-s or Perfected Beings--, Padmāsana --i.e. the lotus posture-- as well as Siṁhāsana --i.e. the lion posture--, and also Bhadrāsana --i.e. the propitious posture--", (constitute) the group of four main or best (postures. Out of them, one should choose Siddhāsana) indeed, which is easy and comfortable --sukha--, and remain in that posture of the Perfected Beings always||34||
Therefore, Siddhāsana (is now explained): Having made that the region of the perineum firmly get in close contact with one of the heels --i.e. having firmly pressed the perineal region with one of the heels--, one should place the (other) foot on top of the penis1. After this, one should place the chin, the only one not forming pairs, very firmly on the heart --i.e. chest--. Remaining still and firm, with one's own senses restrained --i.e. under complete control-- and the eye(s) immovable, one should gaze at the space between the eyebrows. Because this (posture) breaks open the door to Liberation, it is known as Siddhāsana --i.e. "the posture of the Perfected Beings"--||35||
Skip the notes
1 Siddhāsana is exclusively intended for men. Women should practice a variant posture called Siddhayonyāsana.
Placing the left ankle on top of the penis, and likewise, putting the other ankle on top --i.e. on top of the foot placed on the penis--, this (posture so formed) would be Siddhāsana (according to others)||36||
They call this (posture) Siddhāsana; others know (it) as Vajrāsana --i.e. "the thunderbolt or diamond posture"--; some name (it) Muktāsana --i.e. "the posture of the Liberated Beings"--; (and even) others call (it) Guptāsana --i.e. "the secret posture"--||37||
The Perfected Beings know that Siddhāsana is the principal (and) the most important among all postures, just as the moderate diet (is the most important) among the Yama-s --i.e. Restrictions-- (and) exactly as non-violence (is the most important) of the Niyama-s --i.e. Observances--||38||
Out of the eighty four postures --pīṭha-s--, one should practice always Siddhāsana indeed, (since) it cleans the impurities (contained) in the 72 thousand subtle channels||39||
The yogī who meditates on the Self (and) observes a moderate diet during twelve years, practicing always Siddhāsana, attains Accomplishment or Liberation||40||
When Siddhāsana is perfected, what is the point (of practicing) many other postures --pīṭha-s--? When the flow of vital energy --i.e. breath-- is channeled or stabilized, (that breath) is stopped or restrained, (and thus,) a pure (and spontaneous) Kumbhaka --i.e. stoppage and retention of breath within or without-- (occurs. Then,) the Power that is devoid of mind arises spontaneously --effortless--, by itself certainly||41||
So, when Siddhāsana, the only one1, becomes firm (and) perfected, the three Locks or Bandha-s --i.e. Jālandhara, Mūla and Uḍḍīyāna-- are easily produced, by themselves||42||
Skip the notes
1 Final "n" in "ekasmin" must be doubled in the text as it is preceded by a short vowel ("i") and followed by a vowel ("e" in "eva"). However, the words are shown as they originally are in the translation. See the 2nd sub-rule of the 15th Rule of Consonant Sandhi for more information.
There is no posture similar to Siddhāsana, no stoppage and retention of breath --i.e. Kumbhaka-- like Kevala --i.e. Kevalakumbhaka, the pure and spontaneous Kumbhaka--, no Seal or Mudrā equal to Khecarī, no dissolution similar to Nāda||43||
And now, the lotus posture: Having placed the right foot on the left thigh, and likewise, (having put) the left (foot) on top of the right thigh; having crossed the hands behind the back (until they) firmly (hold) the big toes; (and finally,) having made the chin rest on the heart --i.e. chest--, one should gaze at the tip of the nose. This (posture) is known as Padmāsana --i.e. "the lotus posture"--, and brings about the destruction of the diseases for the ones who restrain themselves --i.e. for the self-controlled beings--||44||
Having put diligently the feet, with the soles upward, upon the thighs, (and) placed the hands, palms upward likewise, between the thighs --forming a kind of bowl, as it were--, one should fix the eyes on there --i.e. one should gaze at the hollowness formed by the hands between the thighs--||45||
After pressing with the tongue on the root or base of the front teeth --i.e. incisive--, having brought the chin against the chest (and) gradually raised the vital air, one should fasten (the eyes) on the tip of (his) nose||46||
This (posture) is called Padmāsana --i.e. "the lotus posture"--, which destroys all diseases. It is difficult to be attained by whosoever --i.e. a mere ordinary person cannot attain it--, (but) it is attained by the person who is wise on this earth||47||
Placing the hands (one above the other so that they) form a kind of bowl, let (the Yogī) assume the lotus posture steadily; putting the chin firmly upon the chest and making the mind be concentrated on That --i.e. the Self--. (Should) a man repeatedly lead (his) Apāna (or) inhaled vital air upward, (and make his) Prāṇa (or exhaled vital air) go down, he obtains, unparalleled wisdom through the Supreme Power||48||
Certainly, the Yogī who, while remaining (seated) in the lotus posture, keep (within the subtle channels or nāḍī-s his) vital air which has been inhaled --i.e. Apāna-- through the entrances of (those) subtle channels, is a Liberated Being. There is no doubt about this||49||
And now, the lion posture: One should place the two ankles below the scrotum, at both sides of the perineum; (being situated) the left ankle on the right side, certainly, while the right ankle (is) on the left side (of the aforesaid perineum)||50||
This is the lion posture, which is worshipped by the most eminent ones among the Yogī-s. (It is) the best of the postures and brings about the union of the three Locks or Bandha-s --i.e. Jālandhara, Mūla and Uḍḍīyāna--||52||
And now, the propitious or auspicious posture: One should place the two ankles below the scrotum, at both sides of the perineum. Thus, the left ankle (is situated) on the left side, while the right ankle (is) on the right side (of the abovementioned perineum)||53||
Holding firmly the feet, which are on their sides, with both hands, (and remaining) completely immobile; this is Bhadrāsana --i.e. "the propitious or auspicious posture"--, which destroys all diseases. The Perfected Yogī-s say that this (Āsana is) certainly "the Gorakṣa's posture" --"iti" stands for the inverted commas--||54||
In this way, the best of the Yogī-s, whose fatigue has ceased or is gone during (the practice) of postures (and) locks --bandha-s--, should practice purification of the subtle channels or nāḍī-s, Mudrā-s, Prāṇāyāma, etc.1||55||
Skip the notes
1 Another possible translation might be: "... should practice (abhyaset)... Kriyā-s or active exercises (kriyām) (affecting or operating upon) the vital air (pavana) (such as) Mudrā-s (mudrā), etc. (ādi)". Both translations are valid.
Āsana --i.e. Postures--, the different varieties of Kumbhaka --i.e. stoppage and retention of breath--, as well as the practices known as Mudrā-s --i.e. Seals--, apart from the intense concentration on Nāda --i.e. the subtle inner sound--, (constitute, as a whole,) the succession, arrangement or sequence of practices in Haṭhayoga||56||
The brahmacārī --i.e. a person dwelling in Brahma or God1-- who is (also) a Mitāhārī --i.e. someone being on a moderate diet--, who has attained renunciation (and) who is wholly devoted to Yoga; he2 becomes a Perfected Sage after a year. There is no reason to doubt about this --i.e. there is no room for doubt about this--||57||
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1 The given translation is correct in all respects. However, the "common" meaning of the word "brahmacarya" is "celibacy". A person who practices celibacy is also called a "brahmacārī".
2 Although "bhavet" might also mean "she becomes" (or even "it becomes"), the proper translation is "he becomes" as the term "brahmacārī" (the subject of the sentence) is a masculine noun.
(The sages) say (that the following foods are) inadequate (for someone practicing Yoga: Those which are) bitter, sour, pungent, salty (and) hot, the green vegetables (aside from those which have been prescribed and recommended, obviously), sour gruel, oil, sesame, mustard, intoxicating drinks (and) fish --matsya--; goat-meat (and meat of) other animals, coagulated milk --i.e. curds plus whey--, buttermilk mixed with (a third part of) water, horse gram --Dolichos uniflorus--, jujube (berry) --i.e. the fruit of jujube--, oil-cake --i.e. residue left after extracting oil from olive pips--, asafetida, garlic, etc.||59||
One should consider to be inadequate food that one which has been heated again --i.e. reheated--, (and/or is) dry --i.e. completely devoid of its original oil--. (In turn, the food which is either) exceedingly salty, (or) full of sourness, (or) stale, is to be avoided. (Moreover,) too many (mixed) vegetables (should not be eaten either)1||60||
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1 Another possible translation would be: "... of sourness (amla), is to be avoided (varjyam). (Moreover,) too many (utkaṭam) stale (kadaśana) vegetables (śāka) (should not be eaten either)", but I chose the other translation because I thought that "any" stale food is inadequate, no only vegetables.
After avoiding fire, women, going --sevā-- along the roads (in long pilgrimages), etc.; one should apply to the practice, because (it is) thus (prescribed by) the word(s) of Gorakṣanātha: "One should avoid the proximity of bad company, fire, (and) women; going along the roads (in pilgrimages); ablutions in the morning; fasting(s), etc., as well as (all) activitie(s) causing affliction to the body"||61||
The adequate (foods) for the best among the self-controlled beings (are): Good and agreeable food (consisting of) wheat, rice (and) barley; (all of them) belonging to the category of grains which ripen in 60 days. (In addition,) milk, clarified butter, crystallized sugar, butter, white sugar --i.e. refined sugar-- (and) honey --madhu--. (Also,) dry ginger, the five vegetables, the fruit of paṭola --i.e. a kind of cucumber whose scientific name is "Trichosanthes Dioeca"--, etc.; (as well as) mung soy, etc., and rain-water --lit. divine water--||62||
The yogī should take nourishing (and) very sweet food, (mixed with) smooth and unctuous dairy products. (That food should) nourish the Dhātu-s or bodily constituents1. (It should also be) appropriate or suitable (and) heart's wished||63||
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1 Chyle, blood, flesh, fat, bone, marrow and semen.
Perfection ensues to the person who is occupied in the action or practice. How might (that Perfection) ensue to someone who does not do so --i.e. who does not practice--? Perfection in Yoga does not arise by merely studying the scriptures||65||
Neither wearing (certain) garments, nor talking about that, are cause of Perfection. The action or practice alone is the cause of Perfection. This (is) the truth, undoubtedly||66||
Āsana-s, various types of Kumbhaka --i.e. stoppage and retention of breath--, and (the remaining) divine means; all of them certainly (should be used) in the practice of Haṭhayoga until the fruit of Rājayoga (is obtained)||67||
(Thus,) the first teaching in Haṭhayogapradīpikā is finished|
It has been a long way, my God!, but the first chapter of Haṭhayogapradīpikā is now completely finished. This section deals with Āsana or Posture. It is interesting to read how such celebrated postures as Padmāsana (lotus posture), Siddhāsana (posture of the Perfected Beings), etc. were described in the good old times, hehe. Also note how little the group of postures that Svātmārāma has described is... nowhere near the traditional number, that is, 84. Very interesting, isn't it? But we have now hundreds of modern postures, some of them are good while others are a complete non-sense. Still, the real problem with Haṭhayoga at present is that dangerous tendency to turn it into mere gymnastics to reduce rolls in the abdomen, be in good shape and the like. Okay, it is really cool to have a healthy (not necessarily handsome) body and live a long life... but for what? If the spiritual goal is not in your life, you are wasting it indeed. We did not come here just to enjoy objects and people, gossip all the time, procreate children and so on; but to attain Perfection in the form of a "solid and constant" I-consciousness.
If the events occurring outside keep affecting you, and your "self" is changing and changing every time a new event happens, then you are not spiritually mature. You are half-cooked. Most people believe that they own a solid I-consciousness, which is able to remain unchangeable despite the continuous changes happening in the world... but this is pure illusion. Of course, they are not willing to make long efforts on the path of Yoga to obtain that which they "imagine" to already have. The truth is that most people change according to how all around changes. This is a dangerous position, as their happiness is dependent on the external circumstances although they "imagine" it is not. On the contrary, the wise people devote themselves to the practice of some spiritual discipline (e.g. Yoga) and attain "real" freedom, "real" strength, "real" stability and "real" perfection in the long run. And about that there is no doubt at all. See you on the next section, which deals with Ṣaṭkarma and Prāṇāyāma!
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