”There can be no perfection if Hatha yoga is without Raja yoga or Raja yoga without Hatha yoga. Therefore, through practice of both, perfection is attained.”
Chapter 2, verse 76. Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Swatmarama, 5th century CE

The practice and science of Yoga can be traced back thousands of years. Two of the older branches are Raja and Hatha Yoga, which go hand in hand and complement each other.

Raja Yoga, the royal path, is laid down in writing by Sage Patanjali around 800 BCE in the Yoga Sutras. Hatha Yoga, sun/moon yoga, by Sage Swatmarama around 500 CE in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

Both practices are much older than that though and influenced by the Tantric tradition. Tantra literally means to expand and liberate. They incorporate the use of physical exercises and breath contol, as well as various relaxation, concentration and meditation techniques.

From Hatha Yoga we also learn about Shatkarmas, techniques to cleanse and purify both the physical and energy body. The philosophy of Hatha Yoga states that by cleansing and strengthening the physical body to begin with, the mind becomes peaceful and calm and ready for deeper meditation experiences.

Through Raja Yoga we also learn about the psychological and philosophical aspects of existence. According to Patanjali it consists of 8 particular limbs.

1. Yama – social recommendations, how we relate to the outer world
2. Niyama – personal recommendations, how we relate to ourselves
3. Asana – physical postures and exercises
4. Pranayama– breathing techniques
5. Pratyahara – sense withdrawal
6. Dharana – practice of concentration
7. Dhyana – meditation
8. Samadhi – culmination of meditation, state of Oneness

The Hatha Yoga tradition encompasses all the above, with the exception of the first two, as the attitude is that these evolve by themselves naturally when the rest are practiced.

Ultimately, the intention of Yoga is liberation – Kaivalya. This is the highest state in Raja Yoga and what the practice of Hatha Yoga leads up too. Patanjali states the goal of yoga to be ‘Yoga Citta Vrtti Nirodha’ then ‘Tada Drashtu Svarupe Vasthanam’ – ‘Union ceases the fluctuations of the mind’ then ‘The Seer is at ease in its essential form’. This is Kaivalya – liberation.