May 11, 2018

Hatha Yoga and Patanjali

This unscheduled article has been induced by my short post on Facebook. A couple of days ago my sight was caught by an ad of “Hatha Yoga after Patanjali” event in Kharkov, and I could not but turn the yoga community attention to incorrectness of this word combination. They started speaking about Hatha-yoga in the period of the Naths, that is, 600 to 800 years after Yoga Sutras had been written. As to Sutras proper, they don’t give any specific descriptions of asanas or pranayamas. In a short discussion commenting the post Boris Zagumennov, a man I hold in high regard and one of Sutras first interpreter from Sanskrit into Russian, advanced an idea that though Patanjali does not of course use the term “hatha-yoga” he however speaks about “stages that refer to body”. This is a very popular point of view; moreover, I also personally stick to the idea that proper body work is essential prior to taking to yoga’ more complex and sophisticated practices. But! My personal (or, say, the popular and traditional) opinion is one thing, while the opinion of Patanjali and commentators is a totally different issue. Indeed, Patanjali did mention asana and pranayama as constituents of yoga, but were these terms of his identical to their present-day meaning?