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The word Yoga means, "link". The root of this word is connected to the root of our English word, "yoke". When one yokes two oxen together, one links them, so that they may function in harmony with one another. Yoga, therefore, is a set of tools that allow us to link. Yoga links man with god, the conscious mind with the unconscious , man with woman, the individual with the universe.
The Sanskrit word "Hatha" comes from two smaller words. "Ha" means "sun". "Tha" means "moon". Therefore, Hatha Yoga means, "to link the sun with the moon".
What does this mean? In Yoga, "Ha" represents energy that is warm, light, active, male, and so on. It also stands for the right side of the body. "Tha" represents energy that is cool, dark, reflective, female, and so on. It also stands for the left side of the body.
Hatha Yoga is a kind of alchemy, a personal form of mysticism that is meant to affect transformation in the individual. With Hatha Yoga, the body becomes a kind of laboratory. The goal of Hatha Yoga is to achieve spiritual transformation by putting the "Ha" energy and the "Tha" energy of one's being in perfect harmony with each other.
Hatha Yoga is very closely connected with Kundalini Yoga. They are both Kriya Yogas. Kriya is a Sanskrit word that means, "action". Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga therefore, are Yogas of action. A person performs certain actions in the course of attempting to achieve the goals of Yoga.
Prana is a very important word in Sanskrit. It is generally interpreted to mean "breath", but in Yoga, breath is much more than simply pushing air in and out of the lungs. The lungs are the one organ that functions both consciously and unconsciously on a regular basis, and as so is a kind of gateway between those two parts of the mind. Our breath is continually telling us how we feel. . If you pay attention to your breath you come to see that it is a continuous communicator of what is going on inside of you. It is like a thermometer. When we are angry, scared, laughing, exhilarated, the breath is reflecting this.
There are many different kinds of Prana. There is Prana that flows downward, upward, Prana that circulates in the upper part of the body or the lower part. Yama is a Sanskrit word that means, "suppression" or "control". Pranayama, therefore, is breath control. Hatha Yoga maintains that to control the breath is to control the mind. When we control our breath, we are using our conscious mind to send a message to our unconscious mind. We can say, "calm down. don't be angry, etc." In the Raga Yoga of Patanjali (see "Classical Yoga"), it is said that to control the mind (through meditation) is to control the body. My experience has been that both of these ideas are equally true.
Purification (or "detox" in our contemporary vocabulary) is always taking place, whether we are aware of it or not. This is simply how the body functions. It is part of our karma. It is important to understand that detox takes place as much on a spiritual or mental level as a physical level. Illness is the body's attempt to bring about a re-balance in the face of detox, or purification.
Changing how we breathe can change our purification process. It can increase or decrease it.
The postures of Yoga are also part of our Karma. They are a set of tools that allow us to take a conscious part in our body's purification process. Our purification is part of "Sadhana" (see also, "Tantric Yoga"). Our Sadhana is our daily practice, and also what we experience on a daily basis.