Two nāḍī-śuddhi prāṇāyāmas

In Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā (4-35-44), at first, purification of nadīs is given in the form of using the alternate breathing technique with breath holdings, using bijas, which we can find in tantric rituals, such as bhūta-śuddhi or, for example, those intended to remove doṣas (defects) from some offerings. In that way, impurities are dried up by the bija of Air यं ‘yaṃ’ and then they are burned by the bija of Fire रं ‘raṃ’. Further, the remained ash is getting wet by the element of Water or Nectar by the corresponding bija वं ‘vaṃ’ (as it often happens in tantric practices), but sometimes in yogic and tantric texts another bija symbolising nectar ठं ‘ṭhaṃ’ is suggested to use instead. Then a newly formed body should be strengthened by the bija of Earth लं ‘laṃ’. Some prāṇāyāmas reduce these elements to only three bijas (of Air, Fire and Nectar) because in yoga, it is very typical to minimise the practise to the most essential components.

As in a tantric ritual, in Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā, there is a description of the further use of the alternate breathing but in combination with praṇavaOm’. Also, in the third part of Vasiṣṭha Saṃhitā prāṇāyāma with the use of praṇavaOm’, or, more precisely ‘A-U-M’ – three mātrās or counts of breath lengths, is described. It is said that a practitioner must mentally repeat अं ‘aṃ’ a certain number of times on the inhalation, then उं ‘uṃ’ during kumbhaka and मं ‘maṃ’ on the exhalation. It is recommended to meditate on each of the three elements as on one of the Goddesses, namely ‘A’ – Gāyatrī, ‘U’ – Sāvitrī and ‘M’ – SarasvatīGāyatrī is described as बाला bālā in a Sanskrit text, which usually means ‘a child, a girl at the age of eight’. She is red in color and rides on a swan (haṃsavāhinī). U-kara is Sāvitrī, she is described as युवती ‘yuvatī’ (she’s 15 y.o.). She is white in color and rides on Garuḍa (garuḍavāhinī). Similarly Ma-kara, or repetition of the vibration of ‘M’ correlates with Sarasvatī, who is described as वृद्धा ‘vṛddhā’, she is 28 years of age or older and she rides Vṛṣabha.

In Gāyatrīhṛdayam from Devī Bhāgavata Purāṇa is said:

॥ गायत्रीहृदयम् ॥
पूर्वा भवति गायत्री, मध्यमा सावित्री, पश्चिमा स्नध्या सरस्वती ।
रक्ता गायत्री, श्वेता सावित्री, कृष्णा सरस्वती ॥ १२॥

pūrvā bhavati gāyatrī, madhyamā sāvitrī, paścimā snadhyā sarasvatī ।
raktā gāyatrī, śvetā sāvitrī, kṛṣṇā sarasvatī ॥12॥

In the morning it is necessary to worship Gāyatrī, at noon – Sāvitrī, and in the evening –SarasvatīGāyatrī is red in color, Sāvitrī is bright, Sarasvatī is dark.

Although, there are differences about vāhanas (beings used as vehicles), for example in Gāyatrī Hṛdayam:

पूर्व सन्धि ब्राह्मी, मध्य सन्धि माहेश्वरी, परा सन्धि वैष्णवी ।
हंसवाहिनी ब्राह्मी, वृषवाहिनी माहेश्वरी, गरुडवाहिनी वैष्णवी ॥ १४॥

pūrva sandhi brāhmī, madhya sandhi māheśvarī, parā sandhi vaiṣṇavī ।
haṃsavāhinī brāhmī, vṛṣavāhinī māheśvarī, garuḍavāhinī vaiṣṇavī ॥14॥

In the first sandhya (in the morning) she is known as Brahmī, at noon as Maheshvarī, and in the evening she is Vaishnavī. Brahmī rides a swan, Maheshvarī rides a bull, Vaishnavī rides Garuda.

Something similar exists in many yogic texts where it is recommended to use praṇava (OM).

For instance, in the fifth upadesha of Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā (shlokas 48-50) there is also a recommendation to use A-kara, U-kara and Ma-kara. But there, A-kara is connected with raja-guṇa and Brahma and is red in color, U-kara is connected with sattva and Viṣṇu and is black. And Ma-kara, in opposite, is white in color and connected with Śiva.

Here, as you can guess, some similarities with Śri Vidya are immediately come to mind. In the third part of Jñānārṇāva Tantra (shlokas 11-12), it is said that Tripurasundarī is a Goddess with three aspects, the one is with bijaaiṃ” and white in color, the Goddess in red color with kama-bijaklīṃ” and the Goddess suvarṇa (the golden color) with bijasauḥ”. At first she is like Bala, a girl at the age of eight, then she is Pancadaśī (15 y.o.), this is a time full of passion (kāma), and finally she is Śodaśī or Mahaśodaśī (from 16 to 28 years of age or older) – she is full of wisdom.

In yogic texts, It is also said that prāṇāyāma is the unity of three matras, i.e. in case they are unrelated to each other – it would mean a loss and a waste of the vital energy (prāṇa), but not it’s enhancement.

The signs of the progress in prāṇāyāma

Different texts give the different signs of the progress in prāṇāyāma. The most famous is the division of the levels into the duration of the breath holding, namely कनिष्ठ kaniṣṭha (short period), मध्यम madhyama (medium) and उत्तम uttama (high). The yogin controls sweating (स्वेद sveda) on the first one, trembling in the body (कम्प kampa) on the middle and on the highest, according to the Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā (5-56), “earth abandonment” is happening or levitation (भूमि त्याग bhūmi tyāga). In other texts for example, in the description of the third stage, it is said about “fatigue”, “melancholy” (विषाद viṣāda), but since “triumph” (जय jaya) is used in relation to the three conditions, so it is about “conquering the gravity”, above “fatigue”, i.e. in contrast to the lightness. Therefore भूमि त्याग bhūmi tyāga can be understood not necessarily as a physical levitation, but more often as an “easy state,” although in some cases one cannot exclude the other.

Some tantras, for example, the Āgamarahasya-tantra or Mārkaṇḍeya-purāṇa (Ch. 36) give a similar description, the Kūrma-purāṇa (2.36, 21-26) says about the four processes of progress in prāṇāyāma. They are as following:

  1. ध्वस्ति dhvasti – the cessation of attachment to the fruits of good and bad actions.
  2. प्राप्ति prāpti – independence from such conditions as kāma, lobha, moha; abandonment of the wishes of the ordinary (ऐहिक aihika) and other (अमुष्मिन् amuṣmin) worlds. Acquisition of the abandonment of all desires (स्यात्सर्वकामिकी syātsarvakāmikī).
  3. संविद् saṃvid – knowledge (comprehension) of the past (अतीत atīta), the future (अनागत anāgata), nearest and remote objects, the moon, the sun, the planets, etc. (of the macrocosm).
  4. प्रसाद prasāda – realisation of “mercy”, “divine grace” thanks to which the mind, feelings, senses and five pranas are appeased.

There is a description of the other four elements closely associated with the four aforementioned in the purāṇa, for example in the Vāyu-purāṇa (11.4 – 11) and in the cases where they are quoted by tantras accordingly.

  1. शान्ति śānti – getting rid of imperfections (पाप pāpa).
  2. प्रशान्ति praśānti – perfection in speech, elimination of the problems associated with the father, mother and other relatives (पितृमातृप्रदुष्टानां pitṛmātṛpraduṣṭānāṃ).
  3. दीप्ति dīpti – enlightened vision, the vision of the past and the future, comprehension of the objects of the universe (the sun, the moon, etc.).
  4. प्रसाद praśāda – an appeasement of the five prāṇa, the mind, the senses and their objects of perception.

Yājñavalkya as a Nātha yogin

There is an interesting explanation of the oldest source of the yoga doctrine found in बृहद्योगीयाज्ञवल्क्यस्मृति Bṛhadyogīyājñavalkyasmṛti (12.5):

सांख्यस्य कर्ता कपिलः परमार्थः स स
हिरण्यगर्भो योगस्य वक्ता नान्यः पुरातनः ||12.5 ||

sāṃkhyasya kartā kapilaḥ paramārthaḥ sa sa
hiraṇyagarbho yogasya vaktā nānyaḥ purātanaḥ (12.5)

Kapila, the founder of Sāṃkhya, is known as paramārtha. (Similar to that) Hiraṇyagarbha expounded the yoga doctrine, there is none more ancient than him.

However, in the Nātha Sampradāya, Yājñavalkya is known not only as a Vedic ṛishi, but also as a disciple of Brahma (Satyanāth), who in the form of Hiranyagarbha transmitted the knowledge of yoga to Yājñavalkya. And Yājñavalkya Nātha is mentioned on the lists of 84 Nāthas.

āgamarahasyam Ch. 17

In the chapter devoted to the yoga practice, namely, in the section of dhyāna, the elements of sexuality are described in a positive context. Unlike many formal celibate guardians, who in fact do not follow it themselves, there is not so much hypocrisy directly in the ancient texts. On the contrary, sexual power is interpreted as extremely important in spiritual evolution. With the correct perception it is capable of bestowing a higher yogic realisation.

अग्रतः पृष्ठतो मध्ये पार्श्वतोऽथ समन्ततः ।
विद्युच्चकितवद्भाति सूर्यकोटिसमप्रभः ॥ २९७ ॥

रतान्ते स्त्री यथात्मानं क्षणं क्वाहं न बुध्यते ।
रमणोऽपि न जानाति कोऽहं योगे तथा पुमान् ॥ २९८ ॥

agrataḥ pṛṣṭhato madhye pārśvato’tha samantataḥ ।
vidyuccakitavadbhāti sūryakoṭisamaprabhaḥ ॥ 297 ॥

ratānte strī yathātmānaṃ kṣaṇaṃ kvāhaṃ na budhyate ।
ramaṇo’pi na jānāti ko’haṃ yoge tathā pumān ॥ 298 ॥

(Yogin) is shining with thousand millions of sun rays evenly in front, behind, in the middle, in the center and at the sides. During orgasm, a woman (रतान्ते स्त्री ratānte strī) tries to realise: “Where am I?” (क्वाहं kvāhaṃ?), but can not realise it. A man at the moment of pleasure asks the question: “Who am I?” (कोहं? ko’haṃ?) and cannot find the answer, also a person in the yogic state doesn’t know who he is (i.e. his false personality).

The limbs of haṭha-yoga in the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā and the Agama Rahasya Tantra

The limbs of haṭha-yoga according to the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā:

आसनं कुम्भकं चित्रं मुद्राख्यं करणं तथा ।
अथ नादानुसन्धानमभ्यासानुक्रमो हठे ॥ ५६ ॥

āsanaṁ kumbhakaṁ citraṁ mudrākhyaṁ karaṇaṁ tathā |
atha nādānusandhānamabhyāsānukramo haṭhe || 56 ||

The sequence of haṭha-yoga could be practiced as āsanas, breath holdings, mudrās and nādānusandhāna.

तान् हठयोगे वक्ष्यामः |
आसनं प्राणसंरोधो ध्यानं चैव समाधिकः |
एतच्चतुष्टयं विद्धि सर्वयोगेषु सम्मतम् || १२ ||

tān haṭhayoge vakṣyāmaḥ |
āsanaṁ prāṇasaṁrodho dhyānaṁ caiva samādhikaḥ |
etaccatuṣṭayaṁ viddhi sarvayogeṣu sammatam || 12 ||

Asana, a stopping of prāṇa (prāṇāyāma), dhyāna (contemplation) and samādhi – these four kinds are recognised in all the yogas.

Svātmārāma specifies the following sequence of the four-limb haṭha-yoga:

1) āsana, 2) prāṇāyāma, 3) mudrā, 4) nādānusandhāna.

Agama Rahasya Tantra specifies the following sequence:

1) āsana, 2) prāṇāyāma, 3) dhyāna, 4) samādhi.

Also, Agama Rahasya divides the genealogy of haṭha-yoga into two categories. The first one is going from Matsyendranātha (kaula and nātha yogin) and the second from aṣṭa-ciranjīvī (immortal ṛṣi and muni, like Mārkaṇ‍ḍeya and others). Although, they are considered to be related to nāthas in Nātha Samprādaya.

Issue in understanding traditions

Sometimes I’m really astonished by the statements of some people, who earned their academic degrees in the US or the UK. For example, by  the one that Nathas do not practice “real yogic methods” for the last 400 years (i.e., “real” in the sense that they are understood by scholars and their beloved  modernised and globalised yoga environment, despite the fact that they often deny it). They state that the real hatha-yoga is now easier to be found in the lines related to Dashanami.

But it does not occur to them that the Nathas began to spread widely in the West over the past 10-15 years – thanks to people like me, and not  to the Gurus from Dashanami, who had long since left for the West. In my opinion, those Dashanami Gurus have long been adapted to the needs of Western  consumers, lovers of fitness and  New Age culture. Nathas simply did not have time to  make it, and God forbid they do. It’s not Nathas to blame for not practising “real hatha” for the last 400 years, since the “real hatha” didn’t exist among Nathas or any other followers of the spiritual path either 400, or 700, or 1000 years ago. The fact is that both Western Indologists and Indian Gurus have long been susceptible  to the ideas of Western consumerism, in  which commerce supplanted the  goal of yoga as a sadhana.

For the sake of business they are  eager to recognise everything as traditional. Rather, they have already done  so and integrated it into their Indian culture a long time ago. Yes, the Nathas did practice that yoga neither 400, nor 700 years ago, never. It is ignorance to seek confirmation of your own delusions in the Tradition, doesn’t matter who you are – a  fitness trainer, a scholar or a Guru from India, who dreams of  owning 200 cars in the US  like Rajneesh.

Nātha as a manifestation of the nāda

The following definition of the term nātha is given in Gorakṣa-siddhānta-samgraha:

नाकारो नादरूपं च थाकारः स्थाप्यते सदा |

भुवनत्रयोवैकः श्रीगोरक्ष नमोऽस्तु ते ||

Reverence to Gorakṣanāth, the Nātha, who is one in the three worlds, he as a syllable “nā” – means “nāda”, and “tha” – manifested (in the three worlds).

The other part also says that nāth is one who realises the nāda or the source of own origin. In the subtle form nāda is manifested in the form of the praṇava OM, which is known as Mahāgāyatrī, and in the gross form it is known as Brahmagāyatrī; all Navanāthas, Caurashi Siddhas, Deities, Vedas, grammar (vyākaraṇa), Purāṇa, Itihāsas, etc. are manifestations of this particular Nātha-yoga.

Indeed, practices related to nāda play a fundamental role in the Nāth Tradition.