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THE BIG BOOK OF YOGA: THE END OF YOGA

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THE END OF YOGA

End Of Hatha YogaIt seems fitting to end a book on Yoga by going back to the beginning. Progress along the path often evolves in spirals - new experiences circle us back to the same questions, issues, and discoveries over and over again, but seen from a newer and deeper perspective. These are the age-old questions, like: What is Yoga? How should we practice it? And what's the point? We've addressed some of these issues briefly here and there thus far, but in this closing section, we'll revisit them with a closer look at the meanings and motivations behind Hatha Yoga

What is Hatha Yoga?

Yoga is Sanskrit for "union" or "joining". It's related to the English word "yoke", like the harness that farmers once put on oxen to keep them moving in synchrony. The union that is referred to can have multiple interpretations, depending on the approach one takes. From the classical Hindu perspective, Yoga is the union of man (or woman) and God. In a more general sense, we could say that Yoga is the union of our ordinary, mundane selves with our own highest potential. The psychological take on Yoga is that it represents the dissolving of the barrier between the conscious and subconscious aspects of the mind.

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However you want to look at it, Yoga brings together aspects of your life that formerly may have appeared separate. Actually, one of the ultimate teachings of Yoga is that this sense of separation is really just a very convincing illusion - in truth, Yoga doesn't so much bring separate parts together, as it brings the Yogi to a realization of the unity that was always there to begin with!

Yoga Brings Oxen TogetherSo where does the "Hatha" part come in? Hatha means "forceful" in Sanskrit1, which hints at some of the very powerful techniques contained in its system. Another, more esoteric understanding of the word is that its two parts, Ha and Tha, can also symbolize polar forces - the sun and the moon, the masculine and feminine, and so on. So Ha-Tha Yoga implies that it is a Yoga whose union is one of bringing together polar opposites.

If you remember back to Chapter Three, you may recall our discussion of balancing Ida nadi and Pingala nadi - this is one of the Hatha Yoga practices that reflects this second meaning. In general, we can say that Hatha Yoga is a way of achieving a sense of unity through practices that engage the physical, energetic, mental, and spiritual layers of the being.

Remember also that Yoga comes in many shapes and sizes! There are actually several branches of Yoga, including Jnana Yoga (the Yoga of wisdom), Bhakti Yoga (the Yoga of devotion), Karma Yoga (the Yoga of selfless action), and Raja Yoga (the Yoga of mind training)2. Hatha Yoga is just one among many Yogas. In that sense, it's not really all that accurate to simply say "I do Yoga"; that would be something like saying "I am an expert" - well, okay, that's great but an expert in what? It's true that the vast majority of folks practicing any kind of Yoga in the Western world are doing Hatha Yoga, but for the sake of precision, it's good to keep in mind that there are other Yogas out there.

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