History of the Natha Tradition
The Sanskrit terminology of the word Natha means: passer, lord, protector, refuge, master, possessor….
The Natha sampradaya Tradition is an unorthodox Yoga stream composed of twelve panthas (branches or paths). Each pantha has its own lineage of Spiritual Masters. There are also other lines in addition to these, notably Tantric. This Natha Tradition represents a particular divinity, Adhinatha, the Master of the origins. Founded around the 7th century by Matsyendra-natha and his disciple Goraksha-nâtha, it is today a very lively Traditional Yoga movement, present mainly in northern India but also in Nepal, Rajasthan, Bengal and other Indian states. This traditional Yoga, respectful of the teaching of the origins, is very far from the phenomena of fashion and popularization of which Yoga is sometimes subject to today….
Legend has it that fisherman Matsyendranath was swallowed by a fish inside which he overhead and captured the secret teachings of Yoga given by the God Shiva to his wife Parvati. The event reportedly occurred on the bed of Lake Manasarovar in Tibet.
Shiva, the first of the Yogis at the origin of time, taught at the bottom of this lake in order to maintain greatest secrecy to preserve the fundamental essence of the path of Yoga and its practice.
After being saved from the fish by another fisherman, Matsyendranath received an initiation and was recognized as the founder of the Natha Sampradaya Tradition.
Philosophical principles of Natha-Yoga
The Tradition of Natha-yoga is a path of personal growth that respects the absolute freedom of conscience. Natha-yoga is open to all regardless of caste, social level, religious opinion, gender, age and nationality….. Love, compassion and communion with nature are the foundations of the life of the Nathas-Yogis.
The important thing is to accept one’s reality, to set out on a journey and to have faith in oneself, in one’s practice, in the teaching chosen and received. The process of personal evolution will take place along the way through self-study and patient and persevering yoga practice. It is from the understanding of his inner universe that the practitioner in yoga will be able to understand some deep realities about him and the reality that surrounds him. But without taking the first step on this journey, there is little chance of reaching the eternal snows of personal consciousness….
Objectives and method
There are many Traditions and spiritual paths in India (Darshanas), both orthodox and unorthodox. Their density is such that a lifetime wouldn’t allow us to study them all in depth. It also seems wise to choose one path, to stick to it over time and to deepen it through practice in order to acquire experience and get closer over time to its deep essence. The fundamental objective of the practice of Natha-Yogis is to awaken the vital and spiritual force present in each of us , what the Traditional texts call the Kundalini-shakti, the coiled energy.
This includes, in particular:
- The health of the body,
- The control of breath and energies,
- The reduction of mental fluctuations through concentration,
To achieve this objective, the Nathas-Yogis use Hatha-Yoga developed by Goraksha-natha.
The most well-known techniques in the West are:
- The postures (Asana)
- Breath control (Prânâyâma)
- Concentration (Dharana)
In India, there is not one type of Yoga but various and in particular:
- Hatha yoga,
- Mantra Yoga,
The path of the Natha-Yogis, in order to achieve the high objective of personal spiritual awakening, is not simply the practice of Hatha-yoga, which is the foundation of their approach. They also draw on the essence and techniques of other forms of yoga. This is why the Natha Tradition is so rich and can be adapted to the reality of each practitioner.
Natha-Yoga is not a fashion or a style but a Tradition that privileges fullness beyond form and appearance.
Written by Dunia from SoukhaYoga
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