Anandamayi Ma on Hatha Yoga
Bengali spiritual teacher Anandamayi Ma is regarded by some as one of the most important mystics of the 20th century. I recently had the chance to read her official biography and came across the following thoughts on hatha yoga (pages 100-101):
.. Now, as to “doing”: Sustained effort ends in effortless being; in other words, what has been attained by constant practice is finally transcended. Then comes spontaneity. Not until this happens can the utility of hathayoga be understood. When the physical fitness resulting from hathayoga is used as an aid to spiritual endeavor, it is not wasted. Otherwise it is not yoga, but bhoga (enjoyment). In effortless being lies the path to the Infinite. Unless hathayoga aims at the Eternal, it is nothing more than gymnastics.
… A competent teacher will accordingly either speed up the process or slow it down — just as a helmsman steers a boat with the rudder held firmly all the time. Without such direction hathayoga is not beneficial. He who would guide must have first-hand knowledge of everything that may occur at any stage, must see it with the perfect sharpness of direct perception. For is he not the physician of those on the path! Without the help of such a doctor, there is danger of injury.
… Hathayoga can be harmful if pure spiritual aspiration is lacking. When doing asanas and the like, if you have found access to nature’s own rhythm, you will see everything proceeds smoothly and spontaneously. By what signs is this to be recognized? There is a sense of play, a deep delight, and the constant remembrance of the One. Indeed, this is not the outcome of the practice of worldly observances. What has been referred to here is that which can only become revealed spontaneously — of its own accord. This is why there is constant remembrance of the One: man’s true nature flows towards God alone.