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THE BIG BOOK OF YOGA: THE NUTS & BOLTS OF HATHA YOGA

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Fifth, cultivate mental focus and stillness. This is accomplished by various meditation techniques, including Laya & Mantra

It's important to remember that the final stages of practice in

Hatha Yoga are meditative ones! The Asanas, Pranayamas, Bandhas, and all the rest, are all preparatory phases, meant to purify and energize the body and mind. At this point, the techniques for meditation vary per text - for example, Gheranda Samhita lists several visualizations to meditate upon4, but Hatha Yoga Pradipika prefers to focus on the the inner sounds that arise with the awakening of Kundalini energy5, and Siva Samhita focuses on the chakras as objects of meditation6. (More on the chakras in Chapter Three.)

Hatha Yoga Pradipika even goes so far as to say that Hatha Yoga practitioners who don't also engage fully in meditation miss the point completely, and derive "no fruits for their efforts"8. Remember, the fruit we're talking about here isn't better health or fitness, but a mind that rests in complete stillness!

Sixth, stabilize the quality of inner stillness. This is accomplished by entering and resting in Samadhi.

Samadhi...well, what to say? If it's a state where the mind ceases all movement, then it's not exactly an experience that is easy to talk about! Inner stillness, at least the way the Yogis talk about it, is quite a bit different from simply feeling more relaxed, peaceful, or centered after a good Yoga class! But make no mistake, this is and always has been the goal of Hatha Yoga - and of every Yoga, for that matter.

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Swami Sivananda summed it up nicely in a short note to his students:9

Beloved aspirants,

Samadhi is blissful union with the Supreme Self.
It leads to the direct intuitive realization of the infinite.
It is an inner divine experience which is beyond the reach of speech and mind.
You will have to realize this yourself through self-meditation.
The senses, the mind, and the intellect cease functioning.
There is neither time nor causation here.

May you rest in Samadhi.

For a visual representation of the Hatha Yoga system, have a look at the following illustration - you can see how the steps of practice build from the feet up to the top of the head.

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