Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hatha Yoga Pradipika: 'Swamiji on Hatha Yoga'

So, I was thinking on a new yoga-related reading project and settled on the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.  I had a copy.  I hadn't read it.  ...and I was curious about it.

I wanted to dig a little deeper into the reading though than a quick perusal-and-throw-it-back-on-the-shelf.  So, remembering how much fun it was reading Chogam Trungpa with Owl's group, a couple summers back, I threw out the offer for others to read this with me.  I'm extending the invitation to anyone who reads here to join in reading and/or commenting over the summer

The conversation is being held on the Ashtanga-Yoga-Gainesville facebook page.  You can find a reading/discussion schedule there.

Here's an excerpt of my thoughts on the introduction to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika:

"Swamiji who is responsible for the introduction defines Hatha Yoga as “a preparation for higher states of consciousness”.  He refers to the yogi/sage Matsyendranath who noted that “true meditation” needed preparation and a foundation.  Swamiji seems to be suggesting that the preparation and foundation for meditation can be established through the hatha yoga practices.

It’s interesting to me that “pradipika” means “self-illuminating”.  The title can be translated as “Light on Hatha Yoga”, but I think it also suggests a broader meaning, that the hatha yoga practices themselves are self-illuminating.  As Ashtangis, I think we’ve heard this before.  “Practice and all is coming.”…as in: do the practice and the practice itself will begin to help us distinguish illusion from reality.

Swamiji seems firm on a couple points:
1) Most of us cannot begin to control the mind with the mind

2) Most of us could not handle it if we were able to control the mind immediately when we begin practice.  The body at the gross level and energy at the more subtle levels aren’t able to manage that kind of control—we wouldn’t know what to do with it if it happened.

3) Points one and two are why we begin practice with the body."


  1. Hi Christine, I am in. I need a new yoga book to read, I love reading and love the idea of sharing it with a group. I just dusted off my copy from teacher training. It was very dusty but has some post its in it so I must have found it interesting. It is a different version but that might give a slightly different perspective to the discussion? Do you mind if I mention it to my students via Facebook and discuss on my blog too. I can direct them to the discussion on your Facebook page?

  2. Hi Helen,

    Great! I'd love to hear some comments from folks who are reading different translations. I think it will make for a more well-rounded discussion. Please feel free to pass on the facebook link and discuss on your blog as well. The more participants, the better the discussion!...You're welcome to post links to any blog posts you write related to the discussion on our facebook page as well. :)

  3. Awesome! (We actually read this in a book group here at Ashtanga Ann Arbor last summer too.) The Bihar School's translation, with commentary by Swami Muktibodhananda, is really really really good.

  4. Cool! That's the translation that was recommended by my teacher...good to hear others feel the same way about it. Looking forward to hearing some of your thoughts as we get into the book then!

  5. Great Thanks Christine. I am actually really curious about the Swami Muktibodhananda's version now so am ordering it online. In the meantime I will read the copy I already have which is translated by Brian Dana Akers, there is no commentary. I may read them both side by side, I did that with the Bhagavad Gita and found it interesting. Thanks for setting this up, I think it's a great idea!

  6. Sounds great Helen! I'm looking forward to hearing how the translations differ or are similar...should be fun!

  7. Hi! This is Brian Dana Akers.

    I just discovered the Pradipika reading project at Ashtanga Yoga Liverpool and Ashtanga Yoga Gainesville. Pretty cool! I'm going to post this in the comments section on both sites (and email it). Here is some basic information re questions that have already come up in the comments.

    1) Reading a copy in the library. If they don't have a copy already, we have a form that you can fill out and give to your librarian:

    2) The current retail price of the book is 14.95 USD and 9.99 GBP. For some reason, is selling it for $11.95. If you go to our web site, you can buy six copies for 40% off and a carton of 36 for 55% off. Great for teacher training courses.

    3) Hello (ovo) in Ann Arbor! The University of Michigan is where I learned Sanskrit, along with a year in South India.

    4) I'm working intensely on getting our next book out the door, so I'm not going to follow the discussion. (I also don't want to inhibit people.) But if someone wants to email me questions and then post my answers to the blogs, that's fine with me. For instance, I notice that people seem quite interested in comparing translations, so I'd be happy to explain why I translated certain verses the way I did.

    All the best,



  8. Thanks Brian! I'll share the info on book purchasing on our facebook page where the discussion is being held. Likewise, thanks for being willing to contribute your thoughts on translation. We'll liekly be in touch as we go along.