Medieval hathayoga Sadhana: an indigenous south Asian bio-therapeutic model for health, healing and longevity.
Article Type: Essay
Subject: Health (Analysis)
Longevity (Analysis)
Yoga (Health aspects)
Yoga (Physiological aspects)
Yoga (Methods)
Author: Goldberg, Ellen
Pub Date: 01/01/2009
Publication: Name: Acta Orientalia Publisher: Hermes Academic Publishing Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Hermes Academic Publishing ISSN: 0001-6438
Issue: Date: Annual, 2009 Source Volume: 70
Geographic: Geographic Scope: India Geographic Code: 9INDI India
Accession Number: 300652468
Full Text: Abstract

This paper looks at the medieval practice of hathayoga specifically in terms of its contribution to bio-therapeutic paradigms for health and longevity. The canonical or root texts of hathayoga clearly document a complex of embodied strategies that are considered immensely important to indigenous healing practices. An outline of the yogic body and an analysis of two advanced practices called khecari mudra and kevala kumbhaka are provided to show how this specialized path to optimum health culminates in the hathayoga notion of divine body or divya de ha.

Keywords: Yoga, Siva, Sakti, advaita, pranayama, mudra.

1.1. Introduction

This paper addresses the subject of health and healing in Indian traditions of hathayoga. My analysis is based primarily on a reading of the 'canonical' texts of the hathayoga tradition. (1) I argue that within its conceptual matrix medieval hathayoga offers an indigenous biotherapeutic paradigm for health, hygiene and the cessation of human suffering (duhkha). Traditions of yoga in South Asia, particularly tantra and hafha, frame their goal of cognitive non-duality (advaita) within a deeply embodied and profoundly natural (inner) science (vidya) that promises long life and the attainment of divine body (divya deha). To support this thesis I also look in some detail at two specific practices, namely, khecarT mudra and kevala kumbhaka, and show how the metaphysics of non-duality (advaita) is informed in the medieval hathayoga textual tradition (2) by an underlying preoccupation with purification, rejuvenation, and longevity. These concrete and pragmatic goals are not seen as ends in themselves, but, rather, they are linked to a broader template of embodied strategies that purport to remove ignorance (avidya)--the root cause of illness--and claim to produce an internal elixir of immortality (amrta) capable of bestowing long life. Thus in medieval hathayoga we find an indigenous system of bodily purification and an alternative paradigm of mind-body healing informed by coherent theories and practices premised on (but certainly not limited to) the underlying emancipatory assumption that the psychophysical complex holds the key to healing itself.

1.2. Substantive non-duality

Hatha and tantra yoga traditions claim that the nature of ultimate reality is advaita (3) (non-dual, monist). In Saiva yoga lineages, the supreme god Siva (pure consciousness) and his consort Sakti (energy, matter) represent interdependent and coexistent dimensions of a unified reality (brahman). What becomes clear is that this belief in absolute wholeness--though called by many names--is intricately woven throughout the complex and diverse philosophical, mythological, and iconographical socio-religious traditions of India dating back in some instances as far as the Vedas. (4) Siva-Sakti (also known as Ardhanansvara, see Goldberg 2002) conveys the normative hafhyoga and tantric understanding of ultimate reality as well as the essence of the inner self (atman). As I show, however, this state of transcendental wholeness (yoga), or what I call embodied or substantive non-duality, finds its most enactive (5) expression not in speculative, metaphysical theories and static iconographical images, but, rather, in the wholly natural (i.e., physical) mind-body complex of living adept yogins and yoginls (past and present).

As such, the profound therapeutic effects that the ideal of substantive non-duality has in ever more pragmatic and empirical terms is also of critical importance to studies of health and healing in South Asian traditions of mind-body medicine. (6) Here I am referring to a broadly defined template of embodied practices and techniques (sddhana) that could include kriyas, bandhas, mantra, asana, mudra, prauayama, pratyahara, dharaua, and dhyana, prescribed according to the agamas by a recognized guru or siddha for the purpose of purification and hygiene, physical and psychological training, the prolongation of life, and the attainment of self-knowledge (utmavidya). The therapeutic efficacy of these physical and psychological practices is well-documented in the medieval literature on hathayoga through extensive lists of remedial cures that include balancing the three humors (dosas, i.e., bile, phlegm, and wind, HYP 1:31; 2:2728), alleviating abdominal and digestive disorders (7) (HYP 2:34, 52; 3:17; GS 1:20), destroying deadly diseases (HYP 1:28-29, 31; GS 1:16), eliminating obvious signs of old age such as deteriorating health, grey hair and wrinkles (HYP 3:29), conquering hunger, thirst, sleep, and fear (HYP 1:32; 2:55, 58; GS 3:28), and bestowing flexibility (HYP 1:17), radiance (GS 1:18-19), extraordinary strength (KV 1:70), endurance, and siddhis (perfections, SS 3:54)--while also revealing deeper and subtler states of consciousness (samadhi) (8)

We also see emphatic claims made in hathayoga literature written between the ca. twelfth and fifteenth centuries by Nath Siddhas such as Gorakhnath that sadhana leads to the attainment of immortality signified by a divine body (divya deha, kayasiddhi, jivanmukti). By almost all accounts, as Mircea Eliade (1969) points out, the human body is valorized in the saivagamas in ways unknown before in the history of Indian religions (227). Purification, rejuvenation and longevity, eradication of all disease (HYP 2:16, 20; KV 1:1,15; 3:10, 45; SS 5:65), recognition of the human body as homologous to the cosmos, and the acquisition of a transfigured body beyond the grasp of death (amrta, see HYP 1:29; 3:6-7; 30, 40, 44; 4:13, 27, 70, 74; see, also, KV 1:15; 3:10, 45, 55) are among the many possible siddhis (perfections) declared attainable through tantra and hathayoga sadhana, augmented in some cases by the ingestion and alchemical transmutation of base metals into gold. (9)

Thus within the root texts of the hathayoga tradition sadhana is considered vital because of its soteriological potential (mukti, moksd) and its regenerative, curative, and remedial properties. In other words, the substantive or embodied nature of hathayoga theory is made apparent through the extended health and therapeutic benefits experienced directly in the body and mind of the practitioner. As such hathayoga offers an indigenous bio-therapeutic paradigm based on a pragmatic understanding of the self-healing laws of nature (sakti). When we look more closely at specific practices such as khecarT mudra and kevala kumbhaka we see evidence to support the argument that within hathayoga tradition the convergence between liberation and optimum physical and mental health is completely natural and interdependent.

1.3. The yogic body

Popular conceptions of the subtle body (siiksma sarira) in hathayoga literature are premised on the same intricate system that we find in some Upanisads (see, for example, Prasna (PU) 1:10; 3:6, Kafha 6:16; and Svetusvatara 2:8-5), tantras (Hindu and Buddhist), and schools of Indian alchemy (rasayana (10)). Energy or the five vital breaths (udana, prana, samana, apana, and vyana), variously referred to in hathayoga as prana, sakti, and kundalinT, circulates in the yogic body through an intricate system of seventy-two thousand nadls (channels). Three main naqls--the ida (left), the pihgala (right), and the susumna (central channel that runs along the spinal column, also referred to as brahmamarga)--are key to understanding this subtle and esoteric physiology. With the assistance of advanced hathayoga techniques including sakticalana mudra, khecarT mudra, vajrolT mudra, sumbhavT mudra, mula bandha, jalandhara bandha, and kevala kumbhaka, the sadhaka (practitioner) attempts to stimulate, harness, and unite the flow of vital energy from the left and right channels at the brahmadvara (gate of brahma) and raise it (utthd) forcefully (hafha) through the central channel and the six primary cakras (wheels or circles of energy) into the cranial vault located in the crown of the head (sahasrara cakrd). This is what the term "hathayoga" means--the union of the ida (tha, moon) and the pingala (ha, sun, KV 2:45) by force (hathayoga sadhana). As White (1996: 72) states, similar yoga techniques are used in Indian alchemy to attain bodily immortality although supplemented by external metal and mineral based elixirs.

By emptying the flow of subtle energy from the peripheral channels into the central channel (also called sunyata nadi) and guiding it upwards into the crown cakra via a series of advanced practices including khecari mudra and kevala kumbhaka, the adept yogin or yogini becomes aware of deeper and more penetrating levels of consciousness and witnesses (or visualizes) the progressive transformation of the material body (sarira) into an immortal or divine body (divya deha). (11) It is this realization, or what we could call the binding (yoga) of Siva (pure consciousness) and Sakti (matter, energy) in a mutually interdependent and coexistent unified reality (brahman), that is said to occur over and over again in the lived body of self-actualized adepts. This "binding" process identifies the underlying assumption behind numerous homologies (12) in hathayoga literature between the body of the adept (microcosm) and the ideal of universal non-duality (microcosm) and once again reinforces the naturalness (i.e., physicality) of substantive non-duality. Although this speculative system of metaphysics poses a great challenge to modern medical research, it nevertheless illuminates a powerful indigenous paradigm of healing and health within medieval South Asian tradition. (13)

1.4. Asana and mudra

Hathayoga manuals for all intents and purposes are sudhana sastras. They explain a rigorous system of psychophysical exercises and austerities intended to extend the health, hygiene, and life span of the initiated practitioner. For this reason it is important to examine the logic of hathayoga sadhana in some detail in order to understand how advanced, esoteric practices such as khecari mudra and kevala kumbhaka guide the adept toward a direct experience of substantive non-duality--defined in my argument as both liberation and immortality.

Some initial observations are necessary. According to most hathayoga manuals we can divide sadhana into roughly six categories paralleling to some extent the practices outlined in the astanga (eight-limbed) system of Patanjali's Yogasutras. The six limbs include: kriyd (bodily purification); asana (postural exercises); pranayama (breathing exercises); mudra (seal); dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (integration or wholeness). What is implied here is that the first five categories lead to samadhi--the goal of all yoga practice (Hindu and Buddhist) and the last of the three antarahgas enumerated in the classical yoga system (darsana) of Patanjali.

A coherent and programmatic approach to hathayoga sadhana typically begins with active purification and training of the physical body (sthala sarTra) via prescriptive procedures intended to control and regulate the functions of the five sense organs (karmendriya). Within the tradition of hathayoga this is considered a prerequisite before mastering more advanced or "secret" practices such as khecari mudra (SS 5:52). Although bodily purification through kriya techniques such as tapas, dhauti, neti, basti, and nauli and training in preliminary movements such as asana initially requires diligence and rigorous discipline, we read that in more advanced stages (rajayoga, layayoga) residual effects of preparatory exercises on the external and internal organs of the physical body actually neutralizes or suspends all physical movement. We learn for example from the earliest texts of the yoga tradition that asana is considered attained when all effort to sustain it disappears (YS 2:47). (14) Yet in hathayoga tradition we see that as preliminary postures are refined they evolve and mature into more advanced techniques, which are not even mentioned in the Yogasutras, called mudra (seal).

Practical instructions as stated in a variety of hathayoga root texts are often terse, incomplete and ambiguous. It is clear that initiated practitioners within each yoga lineage (sampradaya) must learn from a qualified guru (SS 3:11) or, in more advanced cases, directly through their own spontaneous (sahaja) yoga practice (yoga yukti). The Hathayogapradipika, for example, catalogues the first seven postures in an abbreviated manner without disclosing details, results or curative benefits. However, from the eighth posture (matsyendrasana) onwards, Svatmarama (author of the Hathayogapradipika) provides the position of the body and the remedial effect of each pose in a more substantive way. He cites how asana facilitates relaxation, arouses kundalini, appeases the appetite, purifies disease, and churns the internal organs to eradicate toxins, illness and various disorders (often mythologized in Indian traditions of yoga by a reference to the poison lodged in Siva Nilakantha's blue throat). Prolonged or sustained practice of asana, as stated above, promotes more advanced movements called mudras that are purported to heal physical and psychological suffering (duhkha), eradicate disease and death, and generate a divine body (GS 3:28; HYP 3:38-40, 44, 51, 88; SS 3:72). It is particularly evident that through disciplined and sustained practice and by the sheer force of prana or kundalini generated during preliminary exercises, particularly in the lower cakras, more advanced practices such as khecari mudra and kevala kumbhaka arise spontaneously in the adept stages of yoga sadhanu.

By way of example, siddhasana (as the name implies) is the seat or posture of the siddhas ("accomplished ones")--implying that this practice is not intended for the ordinary practitioner. Nevertheless, it has what I would call a novice (willful) stage and an adept (spontaneous) stage. When an adept experiences siddhasana in the higher stages of meditation (dhyana, samadhi), it is typically accompanied by kevala kumbhaka and khecari mudra. Kevala kumbhaka and khecari mudra signal the internal purification of the seventy-two thousand naals, the three granthis (brahma, visnu, and siva), the five primary or lower cakras (muladhara, svadhisthana, manipura, anahata, and visuddhi), and the awakening of the siddhis (perfections, SS 3:54) in the beginning phase of unmarii (no-mind, see HYP 1:41). In other words, siddhasana accompanied by khecari mudra and kevala kumbhaka reflects the advanced ideal of sabija samadhi in embodied form and by most textual accounts secures a state of longevity and holistic health for the adept (HYP 1:43-44; KV1:1; 3:45, 55). The practice of asana and mudra navigates the adept through a process of internal bodily purification culminating in sustained conscious awareness (samadhi). In other words, practices such as khecari mudra and kevala kumbhaka not only facilitate samadhi; they are seen as the bare corporeal evidence that it is actually occurring.

Still it is crucial not to confuse the means with the ends--as we often see in some modern postural approaches to yoga. (15) According to the literature, asana is a necessary though preliminary stage of yoga only, with physical and subtle therapeutic benefits and effective methodologies that move the practitioner toward the ultimate goal of atmavidyu characterized in hathayoga tradition by prajna (wisdom) and immortality. Kriya manuals catalogue postural procedures and situate them in a hierarchical framework alongside other preliminary practices such as mudra, pranayama, and mantra (for example, chanting the prariava) making their preparatory role perfectly evident. Thus the overall importance of asana and similar ritual techniques lies primarily in their therapeutic and purificatory benefits for body and mind, as well as in their ability to awaken kundalini--the vital life force that lies dormant at the base of the spine of the subtle yoga body. Through asana and mudra the purified body becomes tranquil and steady and is rendered fit for deeper states of meditation (dharana, dhyana, and samadhi). Each posture as it were identifies an embodied experience with a corresponding state of mind. For example, in the HYP siddhasana refers in its advanced stage to mental steadiness, entrance to sabija samadhi, and so on (1:37-45). Furthermore, bear in mind that preliminary practices as described in the hathayoga treatises address the first five cakras from the base of the spine to the throat region only. When these cakras are pierced (vedha), then and only then does the final phase of rajayoga begin from the ajha cakra (located between the eyebrows) moving upwards through the mahumarga (great pathway) to the saharara cakra (thousand petal lotus located in the crown of the head--hence, the term 'raja').

By almost all 'canonical' accounts, sadhana is seen as the surest path to liberation characterized by bodily immortality. However, hathayoga manuals claim instructions should be kept "secret" (HYP 1:11; 3:9; SS 1:19; 5:25, 42, 168; GS 1:18; KVl:15-20). This implies, as stated above, that transmission of these instructions is passed down through the lineage from guru to initiated disciple. It also explains why instructions in the agamas are often encoded and partial -described purposefully with omission, reservation and, at times, even incorrectly. It seems clear that one reason for couching advanced teachings in secrecy is to ensure proper and controlled oral transmission of the esoteric (inner) and exoteric (outer) techniques for awakening kundalini (HYP 3:1) since, according to the Hathayogapradipika, it is the basis of all tantra and hafha yoga knowledge. The awakening of kundalinT facilitates the concurrent purification of the six primary cakras and the piercing (vedha) of the three granthis (knots) over many years of dedicated practice, until the door of the upper central channel opens for prana to ascend into the mahamarga (great path) between the ajna and the sahasrara cakras (HYP 3:2).

These experiences mark the highest stages of meditation and the onset of siddhayoga (HYP 3:8; GS 4-5), also referred to as the "attaining stage," and by all accounts must be protected by lineage holders.

1.5. Pranayama

In almost all hathayoga treatises, sadhana is described as the great path (mahamarga) to enlightenment characterized by optimum health and the attainment of immortality. Configured in this way, the human body is viewed as both the means and the site of liberation. Once the body becomes steady (sthird) and comfortable through the practice of asana, the practitioner can perform pranayama more effectively (HYP 2:1; YS 2:46-47). Here the word 'pranayama' refers to the critical practice of restraining the vital breaths (prana). To accomplish restraint, textual guidelines again prescribe the practice of advanced esoteric mudras (seals) such as khecari mudra with bandhas (locks, jalandhara, mala, and uddiyana) to facilitate opening the susumnu nadT (also referred to in the literature as nirvana nadi) and piercing the six cakras and three granthis. Brief descriptions of breathing techniques such as anuloma viloma (HYP 2:7-10), kapalabhati (HYP 2:35), and the eight kumbhakas including bhastrika and surya bhedana (HYP 2:44) also are enumerated in the literature alongside the curative efficacy of each practice including the removal of disease and humoral disorders such as excessive kapha (phlegm), pitta (bile), and vayu (air or wind), appeasing hunger, thirst, sleep, and fever, overcoming disease, and the purification of the seventy-two thousand nadis. Of all the prescribed pranayama techniques, however, kevala kumbhaka (the suspension of breath) is considered "supreme" because it facilitates the adept's ability to enter into deep and subtle stages of sabija samadhi (integration) and laya (absorption). The literature also states quite clearly that disease is eradicated and a divine body is attained when the yogin masters kevala kumbhaka (GS 5:89).

Consider more carefully that the process of sadhana involves arousing the vital energies or pranas via disciplined practice of rigorous preparatory exercises such as asana. Similarly, routine practice of various pranayama exercises aids in the conscious regulation of the respiratory rhythm to such an extent that in advanced stages of kevala kumbhaka the vital breaths (prana) are spontaneously and naturally suspended (nirodha) through prolonged inhalation (puraka) and exhalation (recaka). When the central nadjs are purified and kevala kumbhaka occurs, this implies the adept has gained a measure of control over the modifications of the mind (citta-vritti). The physical signs of health that accompany these states are listed, for example, in the Hathayogapradipika as slim body, joyousness, omniscience, control of bindu (vital fluids), the purification of the seventy-two thousand nadls, and the eradication of disease and death. As such, these physical practices are not seen as an end in and of themselves, but rather as preparation for deeper states of meditation (HYP 2:78) and the attainment of a divine body through khecari mudra.

1.6. Khecari mudra

Svatmarama discloses cursory descriptions of the three essential mudras--maha, mahaveda, and khecari--despite their esoteric nature. He withholds instructions, however, for advanced mudra techniques such as vajroli, sahajoli, amaroli, and sakticalana, thus implying they must be learned from either an accomplished guru or through spontaneous yoga experience. Bear in mind, the information Svatmarama provides in the HYP on the essential mudras is hardly precise and his instructions can even be seen as misleading. In particular, instructions provided for the critical practice of khecari mudra are seen as ambivalent and might even distort the primary experience intended. To accomplish what Svatmarama calls the "supreme" mudra he advises the sadhaka to use a clean, sharp, smooth instrument to cut the frenum linguae (tendon) under the tongue regularly over a seven-month period (HYP 3:33-36). The Gheranda Samhita suggests a prolonged cutting period of three years (GS 3:25-26). The Khecarividya--a root text that teaches exclusively on every possible variation of khecari mudra--recommends a minimum of six months to cut the frenum linguae (KV 1:45). Two things are certain from these somewhat contradictory timelines--the practice of cutting is believed necessary for spiritual liberation and the attainment of divine body, and the process occurs gradually.

Khecari mudra refers to the specific hathayoga practice of elongating the tongue through a process of milking (dohana), moving (calana), and striking (tadana). These actions sever the tongue from the frenum linguae so that it can be inserted fully into the "threepeaked mountain" or cavity called the "diamond bulb" (KV 3:50) located behind the roof of the soft palate in the region above the uvula (rajadanta, HYP 3:32-53; KV 3:1, 15). When accompanied by the restraint of breath (kevala kumbhaka) and the three bandhas, khecari mudra facilitates the preservation and drinking of candrajala (also known as amrta and somarasa) by physically sealing off the cavity above the uvula with the severed tongue (HYP 3:47-50; KV 3:2025). This sealing (or mudra), it is claimed, physically prevents the "nectar of immortality" (amrta) from being consumed by the lower cakras, particularly The mampura cakra in the navel region (surya or sun). As a result, The adept "cheats" death and attains an immortal body (KV 3:10-20). In terms of therapeutic benefits, the HYP states there is no more hunger, thirst, old age, disease, or death for the adept who "knows" the secret rejuvenation practice of khecari mudra, nor is the adept subject to the mundane laws of time (kala) or karma (HYP 3:38-40; SS 3:66). ihe Goraksasatika makes the explicit claim that khecari mudra alone renders the body immortal (GS 131-148 cited in Mallison, 2007). ihe KV and the HYP also explain that khecari mudra enables the yogi or yogirii to still the mind to such an extent that they enter deeper states of meditative absorption (laya). Thus, khecari mudra accompanied by kevala kumbhaka announce the onset of sabija samadhi and rajayoga and are the corporeal evidence that the stage of hathayoga is now complete.

1.7. Conclusion

The yoga techniques discussed in this paper are premised on the fundamental presupposition that Siva and Sakti represent an androgynous (non-dual) presence that dwells as matter and consciousness within each and every subtle body (KV 3:40; see, also, Goldberg 2002; White 1996: 252). By empowering the body and mind through sadhana the adept strives to become divine--like Siva. This ideal of divinization (sivatva) characterized by bodily immortality, as Gavin Flood (2006: 11) points out, "is arguably the most important quality in tantric traditions." Indeed, as I have argued, it conveys the normative model of optimum health within the hathayoga tradition.

I have also shown that hathayoga tradition assumes an integral understanding of the human body and its corresponding states of consciousness. As we have seen, an intrinsic interrelationship exists in the tradition between mind-body, experience, and practice. To this end, an integrative indigenous approach unfolds in observable ways at the practical level in the life of the adept. Thus, at the core of this performative bio-therapeutic model lies a specialized program of techniques (sadhana) designed to navigate the adept through the complex systems of the body (for example, respiratory, circulatory, nervous, endocrine, and so on) to show that the means (self-cultivation) and the end (self-knowledge) of yoga are not only complementary--they are non-dual in both theory and substance. Their efficacy, as I have suggested, is verified in the material wellbeing, holistic health, and long life of the practitioner. Preservation of the body, according to the literature, is the direct result (karma) of specific purification and rejuvenation techniques such as khecari mudra and kevala kumbhaka that harness and retain prana in the central channel and facilitate its ingestion in the form of an elixir of immortality (amrta-rasayana). ihis is made possible by various internal alchemical transformations and the curative efficacy of sadhana. The discourse of hathayoga no doubt is grounded in the language of the transcendental, but the transcendental, as I have argued, finds its most perfect expression in the realization of substantive non-duality in the lived bodies of hathayoga adepts. As such, it offers a profound paradigm of health and healing in South Asian tradition.

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Wallace, Vesna A. 2001. The Inner Kalacakratantra: A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual. London: Oxford University Press.

(1) The heritage of yoga scriptures in India is vast. However, medieval hathayoga or kriya texts such as Hafhayogapradipika (HYP); Goraksa Sariihita (GS); Goraksa Paddhati (GP); Goraksasatika (GoS); Gheranda Sariihita (GhS); Khecanvidya (KV); Siva Samhita (SS); and Hatharatnavali (HR), to name just a few, represent a genre of Sanskrit aphoristic literature that concentrate mainly on a prescriptive regimen of corporeal practices that facilitate samudhi and longevity. Goraknath of the Nathayoga sampradaya first used the technical term 'hatha' in the Ha\hadipika (HD). See Venkata M. Reddy (1982), Hatharatnavali of Srinivasabhatta Mahayogindra (Sanskrit and English), Arthamuru: Ramakrishna Reddy, 1982, for more details on two unpublished manuscripts of the HD in Darbar Library, Nepal and Government Manuscript Library Bhubaneswar, Orissa. See, also, David Gordon White 1996 for an excellent study of Nath tradition in India.

(2) Hathayoga is certainly not the earliest tradition of yoga in India, but its scriptures articulate how an adept can attain an understanding of the principles of health and hygiene. Indeed they provide the practitioner with clear maps designed to illustrate the underlying disciplines and principles of practice (sadhana). For this reason, they are useful to help illuminate theories of health and healing in South Asia.

(3) We also see the concepts of non-duality and immortality paired in Buddhist tantras such as the Kalacakra tantra (Wallace 2001) and the Hevajra tantra (Snellgrove 1959).

(4) The relationship between science or medicine and its interaction with religion in South Asia is a complex one. For example, both yoga and Ayurveda emerge as systems of thought from the Vedas (ca. 6th century B.C.E.) and, as David Gordon White claims, "both continue to share common methods and goals down to the present day" (White 1996: 19).

(5) The term 'enactive' refers to Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological philosophy (1962) that challenged entrenched ideas of Cartesian dualism and hierarchical modes fostered in classical Western thought. As an alternative he proposed an "enactive" approach based on the notion of the "lived body" wherein structures such as cognition, sensation, perception, and will originate with embodied subjects and lived experience.

(6) Consider that cognitive scientists in the West have recently recognized the effectiveness and proven results of yoga (for example, asana and meditation) in the treatment of various medical disorders including clinical depression, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stress reduction, to name just a few. Western scientists also acknowledge that the biological system, particularly the endocrine, respiratory, cardiovascular, and central nervous systems, benefits tremendously from the mind-body interaction cultivated in various types of yoga practice. See, for example, Opsina et al. 2007; Goldberg 2005; McNamara 2001; Andresen 2000; D'Aquili and Newberg 2000, 1999; and Gelhorn and Kiely 1972, to name just a few.

(7) We see that digestion is also critical to the Ayurvedic understanding of the body and its metabolic functions. See White 1996: 21 for specific details.

(8) J. Bulbulia (2004) offers a cognitive-evolutionary theory of religion that requires more empirical research, but what he argues is that some religions recruit adherents through highly emotive, costly rituals while others appeal in much less costly ways due to their impact on fitness. As we see, hathayoga claims fitness and health are deeply embedded in the promise of enlightenment and liberation from samsara.

(9) David Gordon White (1996: 9) writes, "Yogis were healthy, had good digestion, and lived for hundreds of years because they ingested mercury and sulfur as part of their daily regime."

(10) See, for example, the work of Gopinath Kaviraj (1966). He claims siddhis can be attained through the path of alchemy, tantra, or hatha (392). We also see Daoist schools practicing inner alchemy (neidan). See Livia Kohn, 2008.

(11) The three bodies are referred to in the literature as sthula (physical, material body), suksma (subtle, yoga body) and para sarira (subtle most or divine body). Also, as Gavin Flood states, "visualisation is realization" (2006: 172).

(12) See also the work of Brian K. Smith (1989). Here I refer to a complex network of culturally identified correspondences that establish links between the vital centers in the body (e.g., heart, throat, navel, abdomen), colors (e.g., yellow, red, blue), sounds (e.g., drums, bells, conches, flutes), elements, geometrical shapes (e.g., triangle, square), sacred sites (e.g., rivers, mountains), indwelling deities, physical postures that often resemble zoomorphic forms (e.g., dog, lion, cobra), and the nervous system with its web of seventy-two thousand meridians and seven primary nerve plexuses that correspond to organs and other somatic areas. See also SS 2:1-5.

(13) This model has also been used in the medicalization of modern yoga because it focuses primarily on physiological and psychological fitness. See Alter 2004, De Michelis 2004.

(14) Prayatna Saithilyananta samapattibhyam (YS 2:47).

(15) See Alter 2004 and De M ichel is 2004.

Ellen Goldberg

Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario
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