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                              Hatha Yoga

What is Hatha Yoga?
Hatha Yoga  is the Yoga of Body Control. It's objective is to build a strong, flexible and disease free body that functions perfectly for at least a hundred years. Once you have such a body, it will not bother or trouble you at all and you can transcend it and go beyond to the mind and soul. Hatha Yog is a scientifically designed system thousands of years old that produces the desired results without any negative side effects. It consists of cleaning techniques, various postures, locks and breathing exercises.
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Pre-requisites for Hatha Yoga
One cannot wake up one day and start practicing Hatha Yoga without proper guidance and meeting the pre-requisites. Unfortunately this is precisely what most people do and thus end up doing themselves harm. Yog then gets the bad name, which of course is un-deserved. The main pre-requisites are the yamas (ethical restriants), niyamas (observances) and of course the dietary restrictions (sattvic diet)
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Principles of Hatha Yoga
What makes Hatha Yoga unique and different from any other form of exercise is the faithful adherence to these principles. Without them Hatha Yoga degenerates into circus acrobatics building human rubber bands and nothing more. Unfortunately many schools of yoga ignore or ar unaware of these principles. They include staying within your capabilities, slow and steady movement and progress, co-ordination of movement with breathing, no use of force or violence, awareness in the pose, pose and counterpose, static and dynamic poses, no use of props to do what you otherwise cannot, no going out-of-breath and no comparisions with others.
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Precautions before practice
These are the standard precautions to be followed by any practictioner. They are common to most other forms of exercise and well known to everyone.
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Components of HY
Initially the body is cleansed of various accumulated toxins using specialised techniques called kriyas. Some of them are easy (eg Jala neti) and can be practiced daily; others (sutra neti) can be done weekly and still others (shankha prakshalan) can be done once in six months. Because these techniques are generally look and feel more difficult than asanas, and might scare away beginners, most schools do NOT teach them. However beginning yog practice without kriyas greatly reduces the efficiency of the practice...
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Sukshma Vyayama
A unique series of exercises to loosen up and exercise the entire body from head to toe. All exercises are to be done from a  standing position so everyone can do them. They are a combination of asanas, pranayam and bandhas. Once widely propogated by Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari, now this wonderful practice is almost lost to all yoga schools...
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An excellent warm up and body strengthening exercise is the Surya Namaskar or Sun Salute . Some people even say that even if you just do Surya Namaskar, it is enough and you don't need anything else. A dynamic series of 12 postures involving movement, breathing, body awareness  and chanting of a specific mantra. Click on the 'Surya Namaskar" link above for more info...

The main part of Hatha Yoga are the asans or various postures that make this science so popular. There are supposed to be 84,00,000 different asans, but only a few hundreds of them are known today. A good practictioner has a repertoire of fifty to hundred asans for variety though daily one need practice no more than ten....Click on the "asans" link above for more. Click here to see photos of Peter's Asana Practice

Bandhas and Mudras
Locks, seals and hand and feet positions that restrain and direct the life force (prana) in specific areas. An oft overlooked area of yog practice
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Breathing exercises that help us eventually gain a better level of control over the the prana or life force and then the mind. The ancient yogis found there is an intimate link between the breath and the mind. If one is affected, the other follows. See what happens to your breathing when you are angry or upset. Conversely, hold your breath and see how agitated your mind becomes. Since it is very difficult to control the mind directly, the yogis work on the mind through the breath using pranayam
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Ancient Sanskrit Texts
A proper theoretical grounding in yog obtained by reading (translations) of ancient yogic texts is extemely important but sadly overlooked. Many yog students have not even heard of the existence of these texts. It is like practicing Christianity without reading the bible. It can be done but you miss out on a lot. Some of the texts are the Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, Siva Samhita, Gheranda Samhita, Vasishta Samhita, Yog Sutras of Patanjali, and the greatest yog text of all, the Bhagwad gita.
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Beyond HY
What next? Raj yog, Mantra Yog, Bhakti Yog, Karma Yog, Tantra.....Click for more...