Right off the bat, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika defines the purpose of Hatha Yoga to be the “ladder to those who wish to attain the lofty raja-yoga”. And in this translation, Krishnamacharya alludes also to Hatha Yoga being a ladder to laya-yoga as well.
So what are these raja and laya yogas ? In looking into it, we can definitely again see why the numerous terms for yoga are so confusing or daunting to those not in the culture or traditions of yoga’s origins.
Raja Yoga – can be translated as the “royal” or “ultimate” goal. For most, Raja Yoga is what is designated as the full path of yoga described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the path to complete self knowledge and freedom from the binds of Nature (see previous Blog on the Knower and the Field/Purusa and Prakrti).
Laya Yoga – to me, the easiest way to designate this yoga, translated as “dissolution”, is through more dedicated practices of pranayama and kriya … like Kundalini Yoga…I would not think that Laya Yoga ignores all the other limbs, but Hatha Yoga might better prepare the body for the energetic work of Laya,
So, in my brief study, I am going with the idea that Hatha Yoga is a prerequisite for the practice and attainment of the ultimate goal of both Raja and Laya Yoga.
But this cannot be done all alone nor can we ignore that tradition that set out to help us be successful in our efforts. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika makes a point to begin with salutations to and a list of the lineage of teachers that have passed on the method. However, Krishnamacharya goes on to comment that like in the Yoga Sutras, it is important to remember that “one attains success not merely by being in the tradition of a teacher, but by understanding and practicing the teachings until the mind is clear and steady.”
PRACTICE IS KEY! And through that practice, we can find the tools and pathways toward that ultimate goal of self knowledge and dissolution into the universal consciousness – Raja and Laya.