The Eight-Limbed Path to Self-Realization begins with the foundational mastery of Yamas and Niyamas.
Without mastering these foundational limbs of Yoga practice, a Yogi will never truly be able to get his/her body and mind regulated, controlled, and unattached to the illusions of the world on a deep enough level to experience higher states of consciousness in a sustainable and meaningful way.
If a person is not fully grounded within his/her “self” on a fundamental/physiological level that supports him/her to understand his/her sense of independence and control outside of the context of their conditioning or outside of the content of their attachments within their social groups, constructed societies, and culture (illusions that solidify their false sense-of-self/ego-identity), they will first need to learn to come into a basic level of “self collectedness/freedom” before eventually starting to loosen their attachments and conditionings on the required deeper level needed for Self-Realization.
This learning can only start from where these individuals are internally/psychically/physiologically. Those who are deeply attached to their body-mind-ego identity will first have to learn to regulate their body-breath and to create new pathways in their mind through clearing energetic channels within before they can then begin to practice Raja Yoga.
This is why Hatha Yoga exists as a useful precursor to success on the Eight-Limbed Path for many.
Before some, who often have a vested interest in remaining attached to the world for one reason or another (attachment which is often, at its core, grounded in a sense of compulsion for human-animal survival–whether a person is aware of this or not), can truly gain the maximum benefit from Yoga practice (Self-Realization) they have to first clear away the densest energetic/psychic blocks to their success that exists: their body-mind-ego identity that is anchored by their attachments to the illusions of Maya/the world.
Whether out of subconsciously/unconsciously striving for comfort to avoid pain or due to behaving out of ignorance for fear of annihilation and/or destruction, many Yogics are unable to begin their journey on the solid foundation of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-greed/non-attachement (to the body, things, people, places, ego, etc), self-control, Self-purity, contentment, accepting but not causing pain, studying of spiritual books, and surrender to God/a higher power, because they are simply (at their core) stuck in over-identification with their basic human-animal form/nature and it’s accompanying mental/emotional/psychic perspectives and, therefore, need supplemental practice to prepare for new ways of being and perceiving in the world in order to move forward with an elevated inner journey.
Some Yogis simply need to first gain control of their body-mind-ego overidentification before they can graduate to more inwardly focused/higher cognitive functioning practices, and this is what Hatha Yoga supports many to do. And please note, that this is not something that these individuals should be ashamed of in any way (it makes no sense to be ashamed of striving for one’s greater expression in life); it is simply a fact that is vital to acknowledge for true “success” in Yoga.
Hatha Yoga, which focuses on Asanas, Pranayamas, Bandhas, Mudras, and Shatkarmas, all of which can help a person’s body-mind become regulated enough on a fundamental level to gain a sense of basic independence from outside attachments in the world due to fear (whether this is acknowledged consciously or not), can, according to the purpose of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, help many to prepare to begin the higher practice of Raja Yoga (traditional “Patanjali Yoga“) that leads to Samadhi and then Self-Realization).
This is why it is very important that, if you begin your Yogic journey on this physically focused path, you understand that there is more to gain from your practice than abs.
Beginning your Yogic journey with regulating your body-mind-ego is the point of Hatha Yoga practice. This basic regulation then allows practitioners to progress to more advanced levels of ego regulation that revisits Asanas and Pranayamas at a higher level as preparation for the greater work of sitting in Meditation/Dhyana in order to eventually gain total Self-Collectedness and Self-Realization and liberation in their lifetime.
Hatha Yoga is simply preparation for Raja Yoga practice.
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