The Eight Steps of Hatha Yoga and Bhagavad Gita

Hatha Yoga

Yoga is gaining worldwide appreciation due to the excellent benefits it provides. Originated by the ancient sages in India, it can be understood as an activity “to bind back” or “to link up” with the Supreme Lord. It carries a religious connotation and was initially understood as being a spiritual act of connecting with the Lord. The preeminent text of yoga is Bhagavad Gita which provides knowledge on how to connect with Lord Krishna and achieve the larger aim of yoga. 

Hatha yoga teaches how to connect with the Lord by chanting Krishna mantras, it also explains how to fulfil one’s spiritual duties and provides guidance for acting under Lord Krishna’s orders. The teachings of Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras and Bhagavad Gita are synonymous if one pays close attention to their saying which is ultimately following one’s spiritual consciousness. 

Read with us to find answers to what is hatha yoga and how it is associated with Bhagavad Gita. Having complete knowledge is the first step towards mastering the connection between heart and soul.

Eight Steps of Hatha Yoga

What is Hatha Yoga?

Hatha yoga is a branch of yoga involving the body, breath as well as mind. The word “hatha” literally means force and can be understood as a form of yoga involving stringent physical techniques. The hatha yoga can further be divided into two categories as has been distinguished by Dattatreya Yoga Shastra. The first form, practised by Yajnavalkya involves the eight limbs of yoga while the second form practised by Kapila involves eight mudras. 

In the present day, Hatha yoga has come to be known by the name of yoga and focuses majorly on asanas as a form of physical exercise. However, in the early 11th century, hatha yoga asanas were aimed at attaining mukti and siddhi. The actual practice of yoga requires certain skills of the yogi which include utsaha (enthusiasm), dhairya (patience), nishcaya (determination), sahasa (courage) and tyaga (solitude). 

Bhagavad Gita Teaches Hatha Yoga

How Bhagavad Gita Teaches Hatha Yoga?

Just like Yoga-Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita teaches to transcend the conceptions of “I” and build on love for God also known as ishvara-pranidhana (dedication to God). Patanjali talks about a one-pointed movement of the mind towards a single target which he further denotes as the Ishvara (the controller) while at the same time Bhagavad Gita elucidates further on how this goal can be achieved.

Edwin Byrant has pointed out how Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita has all the qualities which Patanjali pertains to God namely represented by om, awarding enlightenment, being transcendental to karma, untouched by time as well as a teacher of the ancients. Likewise, Krishna is represented as being the beginning, middle as well as the end of everything and is not bound by karma. 

The Gita addresses all the eight limbs of hatha yoga. The first limb, known as yama, consists of five different ethical principles namely truthfulness, nonviolence, non-covetousness, continence and abstention from stealing which are also present in the Gita. Likewise, the second limb known as niyama consists of self-reflection, austerity, contentment, worship and cleanliness which are also present in Lord Krishna’s text. 

The third limb known as asana is less pertinent in the Gita as compared to the method of Patanjali. Pranayama or breath control, the fourth limb of yoga is discussed in Bhagavad Gita. Lord Krishna elucidates on how the incoming and outgoing breath can be an offering to the Lord as a form of offering one’s breath to God as a form of complete devotion. 

According to Lord Krishna, prana – the air of life, is meant for God and can be used by Arjuna, His disciple to come to Him. As per Bhagavad Gita, if one chants the Hare Krishna mantra there is little need for breath control to form a union with the Lord. Further, this limb of pranayam is also extended to dancing in ecstasy and chanting Lord Krishna’s name. 

Now the fifth limb of yoga called pratyahara is about the withdrawal of the senses. This has been talked about extensively in the holy text when Lord Krishna asks His disciple to detach himself from the pleasures of the material world and centre everything around Him. The utilisation of these objects in the service of the Lord is considered to be the best form of pratyahara. 

Further, samyama, the perfect practice is also paid attention to in the Bhagavad Gita. Lord Krishna tells Arjuna to fix his mind upon the Lord and engage all his intelligence in Him by which Arjuna will be able to live in the Lord. The Lord further guides Arjuna to follow the principles of Bhakti yoga to fix the mind on the Lord. 

Additionally, Patanjali also talks about how chanting helps in reaching the goal of yoga. While chanting, one focuses their voice, ears as well as sense of touch on the Supreme Lord which gives way to absolute devotion to the Supreme Lord. 

Final Thoughts

The principles which Patanjali talks about in his Yoga-Sutras have been elucidated as the truth in Bhagavad Gita thereby connecting the two. The practice of hatha yoga was initiated as a form to reach spiritual prosperity and connect with the Lord along with ameliorating the mind and the body. In this way, we can say that Bhagavad Gita can be read as the sequel to Yoga-Sutras if one wants to reach the true spirit of hatha yoga. 

The primary aim of Patanjali’s text, just like that of Bhagavad Gita was to help people reach ultimate spiritual benefit like those which have been clarified in Bhagwat Gita verses. His work, however, is read and used in a different manner in the present day. Yoga in contemporary times is misunderstood as a means of bodily and mental health benefit activity, completely ignoring its spiritual side. 

Having gained knowledge about the true benefit and implication of hatha yoga, one must understand that it is an excellent form of connecting with the Lord. Along with yoga, Hare Krishna mantra chanting must be paid attention to since it carries both spiritual as well as bodily benefits as has been mentioned in both Bhagavad Gita as well as Yoga-Sutra and in all other Vedic scriptures.