How to practice Hatha Yoga

Post By: Published on: December 14, 2016 Reading time: 6 minutes

What is hatha-yoga?

Recap – The word yoga has its roots in the word yuj, meaning “to yoke”, meaning yoking of any two entities into a bond.

In the practice of Yoga, at the material level, this signifies weaving of conditioning (svadharma) with  behaviour (svabhāva) with the intention of projecting a cohesive personality (svatantra). At a sublimal level, it means transcending materiality and merging with the Brahman.

  • Rāja-yoga and hatha-yoga systems are related in the manner of how an individual merges with Brahman.
  • Both require the understanding of the subtle energy called kundalini which falls under the category of tantra, an ancient Indian concept based on the intertwining of Śiva with Śakti.
  • Generally, since Śiva (the Identity) is considered the static element, and the practice centers around Śakti, (the manifestation of Identity) the mobile and creative principal. Also, this practice is called srividya”.
  • The practice of srividya revolves around the awakening of the kundalini from its position in the mūl̄adhāra and guiding it to its union with Śiva at the sahasrāra.
  • In fact, both yoga systems have much in common but both use different approaches.
  • Also, both systems use āsana, prāṇāyāma and dhyāna as tools to reach samādhi (merger with Brahman).
  • However, the preparation process in each system is different.

What are the major areas of difference between hatha-yoga and raja-yoga?

hatha-yoga rāja-yoga
External system of preparation, also called kaula-mārga (noble path). Internal system of preparation, also called samaya-mārga (time path).
Coerces kundalini from mūl̄adhāra to sahasrāra. Coaxes kundalini from mūl̄adhāra to sahasrāra.
Kaula-mārga considers Śiva static, emphasis more on Śakti, the creative energy. Samaya-mārga advocates the sameness of Śiva and Śakti.
Individual’s preparation consists of shatkriya, mudra, yantra, bījākṣara-mantra. Individual’s preparation consists of yama and niyama.
Based on 64 tantras. Based on 8 steps or aṣṭāṅga.

A deep-dive into hatha-yoga.

Hatha-yoga (hatha = coercing + yoga). is a form of yoga practice where the kundalini is coerced to move from the mūl̄adhāra to the sahasrāra.

This is a metaphysical system of achieving salvation. Firstly, in hatha-yoga, the body, cognitive apparatus (manas), endocrine, circulatory and nervous systems (nāḍi) are first optimised. Thereafter, the kundalini energy is forced through the central channel or suṣumṇa-nāḍi to the sahasrāra. Importantly, this is different other forms of yoga practices where the identity is isolated through simpler and more conventional methods.

Incidentally, there is no western equivalent or logic which can explain the subtle energy movement of motility (prāṇa) and kundalini in hatha-yoga.

Vāyu Cakra Spinal area Function Kriya
Prāṇa Ājñā Ingestion and life Trātaka
Apāna Svādhiṣṭhāna Sacral Sexuality Nauli
Vyāna Anāhata Thoracic Circulation Kapālabhāti
Udāna Viśuddhi Cervix Nervous Neti
Samāna Maṇipūra Lumbar Digestion Dhauti
Brahmana Mūl̄adhāra Coccyx Excretion Basti

What are the preparatory tools in hatha-yoga practice?

It is important to recognise that hatha-yoga is a complete system and consists of a preparatory stage as well as an advanced stage.

The preparatory steps are;

Yogacharya Sundaram demonstrating Nauli-kriya


Shatkarma (shat = 6 + kriya/ karma = action) are 6 cleansing actions which are used to prepare the body. They are neti, dhauti, nauli, trātaka and kapālabhāti. Additionally, to understand why these 6 exercises are considered important hatha-yoga cleansing exercises, one should understand flow of prāṇa or vāyu. Vāyu are forces or energies which control certain bodily functions. Finally, the table above shows the correlation between the vāyus and the shatkriya.


This aspect of hatha-yoga is used to control the flow of motility (prāṇa). Additionally, it’s important to recognize that prāṇa, like any flow (vāyu), operates in a circuit. When it reaches the ends of the body, it has to either flow out or back into the body. Consequently, when it flows out, it is lost. However, when it is directed into the body, it acts like a capacitor, increasing prāṇa levels in the system. This is the logic behind the mudra system. The intent is to touch parts of the body which activate specific channels to induce specific outcomes.


The major locations from where prāṇa can be redirected are hands, feet, tongue and tip of the nose. Also, the hands have many types of mudras to redirect prāṇa, depending on where the phalanges meet or are joined. Additionally, the legs are used in asana position to redirect the flow of prāṇa. For the tongue, kechari-mudra is used, and for the nose, nasikāgra-mudra or nasikāgra-drishti, which means gazing at the tip of the nose is used. Another worthwhile mudra for the nose is the positioning of the fingers in nadi-śuddhi prāṇāyāma, where the flow of prāṇa is facilitated by the mudra.

Hatha Yoga Pradeepika – Chapter 3 explains mudra in great detail.


Unfortunately, the use of yantra is more difficult to explain. However, yantra can be approximated as diagrams/ charts which have specific meanings for delivery of specific results.


Mantras are very relevant to development in hatha-yoga. Mantras are used to isolate the visual and kinaesthetic elements of consciousness by use of repetitive audio stimuli. Importantly, the basis for this is the Saṁskṛt language itself which uses alphabets (akṣara) and meter (chandas) to produce specific vibrations which are meant for certain outcomes.

Additionally, there are certain syllables and sounds which activate certain cakras. These are called bījākṣara-mantras and are learned under a Guru.

Points to Ponder on bhakti-yoga.

Internal Tags: Karma, Dharma (conditioning)Stress and Situational AwarenessStress and pranaAwareness measures, Bhakti Yoga fundamentals, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga.

External Tags: Consciousness

  • Do you understand hatha-yoga? What are the elements of hatha-yoga?
  • How does kundalini energy operate? What is prāṇa?
  • What is common and what are the differences between hatha-yoga and rāja-yoga?
  • In hatha-yoga, what are shatkriya, mudra, yantra and mantra?

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