A summary of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika

By Adriana Maldonado, May 2017

Swami Satyananda Saraswati describes the main objective of hatha yoga in the Introduction of The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (HYP) (Muktibodhananda 1998) as:  “to create an absolute balance of the interacting activities and processes of the physical body, mind and energy.” He continues describing that if this balance is achieved, the central force, sushumna nadi, can be awakened and that supposes to allow human consciousness to evolve.

B.K.S. Iyengar (Ulrich Rieker 1992) mentions that Hatha Yoga, in the context of the HYP, is an ‘integrated science leading towards spiritual evolution.’

13086696_1782324728668019_8203698570161547763_oIn hatha yoga, ha means prana or the sun and tha, the mind or the moon; hatha meaning the union of the pranic and mental forces, a duality that exists in everything (Muktibodhananda 1998). In the context of the HYP, and as explained by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Hatha Yoga is the collection of practises that prepares oneself for meditation. Meditation has the purpose of purifying the mind, but before being able to do this, according to the HYP, the first action is to work the body, calm the mind and balance the flow of energy or prana through asana and pranayama, and purify the whole body with the shatkarmas: the stomach, intestines, nervous system and other systems.


Chapter 1 – Asana

Chapter one, before introducing Asana, Swatmarama describes the principles, restraints on behaviour, yamas, and observances, niyamas, as well as dietary rules for yoga practitioners. The very first verse has been translated in different ways by different translators and commentators, sometimes very differently, as is the case for other verses later in the text, and probably for many other Sanskrit texts. However, there is something in common: Shiva or Sri Adinath, as in Muktibodhananda’s case, is evoked and the affirmation of hatha yoga as the path to raja yoga, the highest state of yoga. The following verses introduce the idea of hatha yoga as being learnt from gurus or ‘siddhas’ to students. Later it is said that the hatha yogi over time would develop siddhis, or powers, and that she or he will have to keep these secret in order to succeed in his/her path to raja yoga, it is also said that they would have to practise alone, secluded from society. The student was able to learn the practises; then remove him or herself from society to work towards achieving liberation, and in the way he/she may have developed these siddhis, but it is not clear when he or she will become a guru to other students. Then, the yamas are presented as rules of conduct: non-violence, truth, non-stealing, continence, forgiveness, endurance, compassion, humility, moderate diet and cleanliness. It is worth noticing that there are ten and not only five as Patanjali describes them. There are also ten niyamas, as the observances: penance (austerity), contentment, belief (faith) in the Supreme, charity, worship of God, listening to the recitations of sacred scriptures, modesty, a discerning intellect, japa (mantra repetition) and sacrifice. Muktibodhananda mentions that both the yamas and niyamas are not much mentioned in the HYP because these are prerequisites before commencing hatha yoga, and that one can practise them after, “when the mind has become stable”, although she also writes that Swatmarama does not stress their importance.

Then, asana is presented as the first part of Hatha Yoga. The purpose of asana, according to the HYP, is to control the body and by doing this, the mind is controlled too. When an individual practises asana, her or his prana flows freely, develops steadiness and has less chances of developing illnesses (Muktibodhananda 1998). Muktibodhananda mentions that by prana flowing freely, the body will become supple; the person will be able to remove toxins from his or her system and will be able to feel relaxed.

It is said that there are about 840,000 asanas, “as many as forms of life”, as said by B.K.S. Iyengar in the foreword of the HYP (Ulrich Rieker 1992) and Muktibodhananda (Muktibodhananda 1998); although there are no ancient texts that talk about more than thirty-two asanas, in the case of the Gheranda Samhita and eleven in the Yoga Sutras, commented by Vyasa. Iyengar argues that asanas are not just physical exercises but “they have biochemical, psycho-physiological and psycho-spiritual effects” (Ulrich Rieker 1992), he continues presenting the idea of asanas as diffusers of the pranic energy to bring the whole body in harmony, as they improve blood circulation, balance the hormone system, stimulate the nervous system and eliminate toxins, as some examples of their benefits: “physical, mental, and spiritual health and harmony are attained” (Idem). Swatmarama presents fifteen, as the most essential ones in the HYP, and these are: swastikasana, gomukhasana, veerasana, koormasana, kukkutasana, uttankoormasana, dhanurasana, matsyendrasana, paschimottanasana, mayurasana, shavasana, siddhasana, padmasana, simhasana, and bhadrasana.


The chapter continues with recommendations of foods that are to be eaten by yogis, these include: whole grains, wheat, rice, barley, milk, ghee, brown sugar, sugar candy, honey, dry ginger, patola fruit, five vegetables, mung and pulses, and pure water.

There is then emphasis on practice and the chapter ends mentioning that asanas, and other practices of hatha yoga must be kept until raja yoga is attained.


Chapter 2 – Shatkarma and Pranayama

Pranayama is practised once that the body has been regulated by asana and a moderate diet has been introduced. Muktibodhananda defines pranayama as “the process by which the internal pranic store is increased. Pranayama is comprised of the words prana and ayama, which mean ‘pranic capacity or length, it is not merely breath control, but a technique through which the quantity of prana in the body is activated to a higher frequency.”

Verse 6 is chapter 2 says that “…pranayama should be done daily with a sattwic state of mind so that the impurities are driven out of sushuma nadi and purification occurs.” A sattwic mind refers to a steady mind. The practices are to be carefully practised and “all diseases will be eradicated”; these practices include: Nadi Shodhana, Ujjayi, Surya Bhedana, Sitali, Sitkari, Bhastrika, and Bhramari (see  Pranayama in the context of the HYP for a more detailed presentation on Pranayama).


When pranayama becomes difficult and there are impurities in the body, there are processes of purification that can be done. The practices for these purifications are called shatkarmas, described in chapter two of the HYP. They include:

  • There are fours neti practices: jala neti, passing warm saline water through the nose, sutra neti, passing a soft thread through the nose, ghrita neti, passing clarified butter though the nose and dugdha neti, passing milk through the nose.
  • dhauti (cleansing of the eyes, ears, tongue, forehead, oesophagus, stomach, rectum and anus). Dhauti is a series of practices divided in four parts: Antar dhauti (internal), danta dhauti (teeth), hrid dhauti (cardiac) and moola shodhana (rectal cleaning).
    • Antar dhauti is divided into four practices: vatsara dhauti, expelling air through the anus, varisara dhauti, evacuating a large quantity of water through the bowels, vahnisara dhauti, rapid expansion and contraction of the abdomen, bahiskrita dhauti, washing the rectum in the hands.
    • Hrid dhauti is divided into three practices: danda dhauti, inserting a soft banana stem into the stomach, vastra dhauti, swallowing a long thin strip of cloth, vaman dhauti, vomiting the contents of the stomach.
    • Moola shodhana could be performed by inserting a turmeric root or the middle finger into the anus
  • Basti: there are two practices; jala basti and sthala basti. The first one consists of sucking water into the intestine through the anus and then expelling it, and sthala basti sucking air into the large intestine.
  • kapalbhati, that has three practices: vatkrama kapalbhati, similar to bhastrika pranayama, vytkrama kaplbhati, sucking water in through the nose and expelling it through the mouth, sheetkrama kapalnhati, sucking water in through the nose.
  • trataka is gazing steadily at a point of concentration. It has two practices: antar, meaning internal, concentrating on an object or symbol with the eyes closed, and bahir trataka, concentration on the object with the eyes opened.
  • and nauli. It is the practice of isolating and contracting the muscles of the rectus abdominis. When the contractions are to the right it is called dakshina nauli and to the left it is vama nauli, in the middle madhyama nauli.

Chapter two finishes mentioning that perfection of hatha yoga is achieved when the energy channels or nadis are purified, when the body and the mind are in harmony. Muktibodhananda presents here the idea of kundalini shakti passing through the central nadi, sushumna, passing through the different chakras, having mastered the practises, the person acquires the siddhis. When kundalini passes sahasrara chakra, perfection is attained, “and when it is redirected down to mooladhara, every virtue descends upon the yogi. That is dharma megha samadhi.”

Chapter 3 – Mudra and Bandha

Mudra means seal and bandha lock. B.K.S. Iyengar argues that by locking and sealing the many ‘apertures or outlets’ of the human system, “the divine energy known as kundalini is awakened and finds its union with purusa in the sahasrara chakra.” (Ulrich Rieker 1992). According to Mr. Iyengar, this is the essence of part three of the HYP, “the union of the divine force with the divine Self”.

Ulrich (1992) also affirms that mudra awakens kundalini, but this would only happen after considering all the former practices previously described in chapter one and two. Mudras are body positions that have the goal of channelling the energy produced by asana and pranayama “into the various systems and arouse particular states of mind.” (Muktibodhananda 1998). According to Muktibodhananda, they help awaken the chackras and arouse kundalini shakti. You can also “invoke specific qualities of Shakti or Devi and can become overwhelmed by that power.”

Ten mudras are mentioned by Swatmarama in the HYP: maha mudra, the great attitude, maha bandha, the great lock, maha vedha mudra, the great piercing attitude, khecari mudra, the attitude odd willing in supreme consciousness, uddiyana bandha, the abdominal retraction lock, moola bandha, perineum or cervix retraction lock, jalandhara bandha, throat lock, viparita karani, the attitude of reversing, vajroli, contraction of the urogenital muscles and shakti chalana mudra, the attitude of moving or circulating the energy. It is worth noticing that the three bandhas are included here. Muktibodhananda explains that originally in the ancient texts bandhas were considered mudras; but later when the system of Hatha Yoga was defined from the Tantric texts and practices, mudras and bandhas were separated. She also points out that now the combination of the three bandhas performed together, maha bandha, becomes a mudra.

Wikipedia defines Bandha’ as a bond or arrest, a term for the “body locks” in Hatha Yoga, treated under the heading of mudra. Specific bandhas are: Mula Bandha, contraction of the perineum, Uddiyana bandha, contraction of the abdomen into the rib cage, Jalandhara Bandha, tucking the chin close to the chest, and Maha Bandha, combining all three of the above bandhas (Wikipedia 2017).

The website Eclectic Energies (2017) gives a simple definition to mudras as “positions of the body that have some kind of influence on the energies of the body, or your mood.” Nowadays, in an occidental context and yoga centres around the world, mudras are mostly performed with the hands and fingers are held in some position, but the whole body may be part of the mudra as well, like in Veeparita Karani. During meditation mudras are widely used. While sitting in a crossed leg position, the hands can be performing a mudra, such as chin mudra, joining the index finger and the thumb.

However, the HYP mentions different and more complex mudras, a not necessarily widely performed by western yoga contexts, among them there is Khechari mudra, turning the tongue backwards into the cavity of the cranium and turning the eyes inwards towards the eyebrow centre. This mudra implies “the gradual cutting of the frenum and elongation of the tongue” (Muktibodhananda 1998). Swatmarama mentions that this mudra will free the person from disease, death, old age, etc. Muktibodhananda explains that by touching the eyebrow centre internally, the ajna chakra would be stimulated, as well as the pineal gland. The gland stimulation, according to Muktibodhananda will have a positive effect of the general wellbeing of the person.

Another mudra mentioned by the HYP, but quite widely practised in yoga in the west, is Veeparita Karani, the reversing process where the navel region is above the palate. It implies raising the legs and supporting the back with the hands. Some people practise it against the wall, bringing the legs up and relaxing the body.


I haven’t included chapter four in this article: Samadhi. I will leave this for a future blog post.

Thanks for reading me!



By Adriana Maldonado, May 2017

hyp imagePranayama has been translated as the “extension of prana (breath or life force)” (Wikipedia 2017) or “breath control”. In the yogic tradition both definitions are used, the first as a subtle description and the second as the practical and systematic description. Etymologically, pranayama is composed by two words in Sanskrit, prana, meaning life force, and ayama, meaning to restrain or control the prana or to extend.

B.K.S. Iyengar cites Swatmarama: “When the breath wanders the mind is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed, the mind too will be still.” This is verse 2 of chapter 2 and it presents the reason why pranayama is practised in hatha yoga. And in the context of the HYP, pranayama is a series of practices that have the goal of regulating the prana or energy flow in the body. There are five prana vayus, currents of energy or pranic air functions in the body: apana, prana, samana, udana and vyana. When these five vayus function in harmony, they bring health and vitality to the body and mind (Anderson, Yoga International, 2017). They are associated with different parts of the body and have different functions: Prana vayu is associated with the chest and head and governs intake, inspiration, propulsion, forward momentum. Apana vayu is related to the pelvis and governs elimination, downward and outward movement. Samana vayu is around the navel and governs assimilation, discernment, inner absorption and consolidation. Udana vayu is associated with the throat and governs growth, speech, expression, ascension and upward movement. And finally vyana vayu is related to the whole body, governs circulation on all levels, expansiveness, and pervasiveness (See Idem).Diagramma-chakra-kundalini

And these currents of energy or pranic flow travel through the nadis in the body. According to the yogic tradition, there are thousands and thousands of nadis or channels where energy flows through the body. To be able to practice pranayama in an efficient way, the nadis have to be purified. The vayus do not enter a nadi if it is full of impurities; this is the main message in verse 4 of chapter 2. The most important nadis are: ida, pingala and the sushumna nadis; this later being the central channel, runs from the bottom of the spine to the crown of the head, passing through each of the seven chakras (Bailey, Yoga Journal, 2007). Sushumna is the chanel “which kundalini shakti (the latent serpent power) –and the higher spititual consciousness it can fuel – rises up from its origin at the muladhara (root) chakra…to the sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head. In subtle body terms, the sushumna nadi is the path to enlightenment” (Idem). The ida and pingala nadis spiral around the sushumna nadi, like the DNA. They meet at the ajna chakra. Ida and Pingala represent the duality in everything, ida the moon, pingala the sun, the feminine and the masculine, white and red; the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The idea is also to keep both balanced to avoid dominance from ida or pingala, dominance of one of them may result in changes in personality and health.ColouredChakraswithDescriptions

In this context, the chakras are the centres of storing energy or prana. Chakras are “a circling motion or wheel” (Muktibodhananda, 1998). The chakras from base of the spine to crown of the head are: Muladhara, Swadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddhi, Ajna, Bindu, and Sahasrara. They all influence different parts of the body and are related to different functions, colours, animals and the bodily senses.

The pranayama practices

In order to practise pranayama, the mind needs to be in a sattwic state, meaning that the mind should be steady and not moving from thought to thought.

The first practice described by the HYP is Nadi Shodhana. This is the alternate nostril breathing, which is said to activate and harmonise ida and pingala nadis, shodhana means ‘to purify’ (Muktibodhananda 1998). The technique is described as sitting in padmasana (or siddhasana according to Muktibodhananda 1998), inhaling through the left nostril, closing the right nostril with the right thumb holding the breath, and then exhaling through the right nostril. Then inhaling through the right nostril, closing the left nostril with the third finger and holding (retention of breath is called kumbhaka) and then exhaling completely though the left nostril. So the inhale is done through the same nostril which exhalation was done. Muktibodhananda explains progressive rations for nadi shodhana: 1:1 (Inhaling –I- and exhaling –E-), 1:2 (I-E), 1:2:2 (I- retaining –kumbhaka- -R-E), 1:4:2 (I-R-E), 1:4:2:3 (I-R-E-Retaining). Muktibodhananda also gives other techniques on the same nadi shodhana. Swatmarama affirms that after three months of practising nadi shodhana all nadis will be purified.1._Pooruck_Pranaiyam_-Puraka_pranayama-._2._Kumbuck_-Kumbhaka-._3._Raichuck_-Recaka-.

If there is excess of mucus or other physical issues making difficult the practise of pranayama, then the shatkarmas come useful (please see above about the shatkarmas).

You could introduce nadi shodhana with a simple ratio in your classes: 1:0:1:0, then 1:1:1:1 and back to 1:0:1:0; it is a fairly accessible practice, easy to explain and present its benefits, and as I’ve seen in other classes, people are quite enthusiastic to practise it.

Other pranayama techniques are described later and the most relevant are:

Ujjayi, is a pranayama that consist in inhaling through the nose, closing the mouth and retaining the inhalation, then exhaling also through the nose. Both inhalation and exhalation produce a sound by slightly contracting the back of the throat, both are deep and long and controlled. This is probably the pranayama that I teach the most, as it is quite simple to perform and in my experience it is very effective. I introduce ratios with retention as in nadi shodhana, without using the hands, with them just resting on the knees or in chin mudra; I also teach it during asana practice to encourage a ‘moving meditation’.

Surya Bhedana, similar to nadi shodhana, this pranayama consists in breathing in through the right nostril (or left as described by Muktibodhananda), retaining the breath, exhaling through the left nostril slowly and keeping the right closed. During retention jalandhara bandha and moola bandha are also performed closing both nostrils, then releasing moola bandha then jalandhara bandha and raising the head. If necessary, Muktibodhananda mentions that a few breaths can be taken in between rounds and suggests practising up to ten rounds.

Seetkari is performed by inhaling in through the mouth, making a hissing sound with the teeth closed. This practice results in a coolness sensation. Sitting in a comfortable sitting position and closing the eyes, keeping the hands on the knees in chin or jnana mudra, practising kaya sthairyam[i] for a couple of minutes, bringing the lower and upper teeth together and separating the lips as much as is comfortable and breathing slowly through the gaps in the teeth. Listening to the sound that the inhalation produces and closing the mouth to exhale slowly through the nose. Muktibodhananda suggests repeating the process up to twenty times. It can also be performed practising retention and jalandhara bandha and moola bandha.

Sheetali, in this pranayama the inhalation is made through the tongue –like a tube-, practising kunbhaka and then exhaling the air though the nostrils. Like seetkari, this pranayama was designed to reduce body temperature. It is also possible to practise it, as in seetkari, while performing jalandhara and moola bandhas during retention.

Bhastrika, the name comes from bhastra, meaning ‘bellows’. Bhastrika pranayama is similar to vatakrama kapalbhati, but here both the inhalation and the exhalation are equal. Sitting comfortably with the eyes closed and the hands on the knees, taking a deep breath in, breathing out quickly and forcefully through the nose and immediately afterwards breathing in with the same force. After ten breaths, with the same force, take a deep breath in and out slowly to finish a round. Muktibodhananda suggests practising three to five rounds.

And Bhramari, the humming bee breath, is a calming pranayama that imitates the sound of a black bee, some other people say the sound of a humming bird. Sitting in a comfortable meditative posture, keeping the eyes closed, “inhaling slowly through the nose, listening to the sound and closing the ears with the index and middle fingers by pressing the middle outer part of the ear ligament into the ear hole. Keep the ears closed and exhale, making a deep soft humming sound.” When you have finished exhaling, bring the hands to the knees and breathe in slowly. Muktibodhananda suggests performing ten to twenty rounds and when finished, keeping the eyes closed listening for any subtle sounds (Muktibodhananda 1998). I think this pranayama is very accessible and simple to perform, I have already introduced this practice in my classes and it has had a good reception. Particularly with my classes with mothers and babies, it had a great calming effect on the babies.



Bryant, Edwin. (2009). Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.U.S.A.: North Point Press.

Muktibodhananda, Swami. (1998). Hatha Yoga Pradipika. India: Bihar School of Yoga.

Ulrich Rieker, Hans. (1992). Hatha Yoga Pradipika. U.K.: The Aquarian Press.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pranayama (accessed on May 2017).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandha_(Yoga) (accesses on May 2017).

https://www.eclecticenergies.com/mudras/introduction.php (accesses on May 2017).

Anderson, Sandra. (2013). The five prana vayus chart, Yoga International. https://yogainternational.com/article/view/the-5-prana-vayus-chart (accessed on May 2017).

Bailey, James. (2007). Discover the Ida and Pingala Nadis. http://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/balancing-act-2 (accessed on May 2017).


[i] Kaya sthairyam is a meditative process that starts by concentrating or focussing on our own breath.