The first Chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika of course relates the meaning and purpose of Hatha Yoga, “the body as the path to dharma”, but the bulk of it is the list and descriptions of the 14 most important asanas to practice according to this path.
Also in this chapter are highlights of the yogi environment and diet, but that is for another entry…
There are some prerequisites to practicing asana according the Hatha Yoga Pradipika that are important to know before embarking on practice.
You may fail due to the following factors: over-eating, over-exertion, excessive talk, inappropriate disciplines, promiscuous company, and unsteadiness.
You may succeed through the following factors: zeal, discriminative determination, courage, true knowledge, conviction, and renunciation of the company of inappropriate people.
Before listing the important asanas, in this translation it is noted that Krishnamacharya was critical in the Pradipika not specifically starting with a detailed explanation of the Yamas and Niyamas (moral precepts and personal observances) – many of which would be helpful in the success or failure of a student in the above factors.
He also wanted to make clear that many of the descriptions of the asanas in this text (that I will not expound upon here) do not exactly match up with the modern forms of the asanas we know today. What I find interesting is the variety of asanas and might contemplate the reasoning for their importance. Most of them are of course seated postures ultimately for Pranayama or meditative practices, but then there are some not so much….
- Kurmasana (not the one we know)
- Kukkutasana (good luck!)
- Garbha Pindasana
- Danurasana (Akarna Danurasana in our modern tradition)
- Mayurasana (another doozie!)
Past these 10, there are 4 other poses that are listed as the “quintessence” of practice, having mainly to do with reducing the drive for food and sex.
- Siddhasana: “The yogi who, meditating on the self and following a moderate diet, continually practices siddhasana for twelve years attains samadhi.” – get to it!
- Padmasana: “destroys all diseases and only the wise can attain it”
- Simhasana: “held in high esteem by great yogis”
- Bhadrasana/Goraksasana: also “destroys all diseases”
The rest of the first chapter discusses diet and I have to say is one of the areas of the Pradipika that makes me scratch my head and chuckle just a bit…so stay tuned for my next installment…