For Villages and Ashrams

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Hatha yoga is not for those who live in the ashram. It is meant for the people who live in very artificialand unnatural surroundings, like the cities in the West, and like Delhi, Calcutta and Bombay in India or anywhere in the world. That life has become very artificialand unnatural, you have to close your windows. You just go in half a minute to your bathroom and you come back. In the ashram it is not possible, for the toilet the people have to go half a mile, for a bath another half mile. That keeps the purity of the body constant.

Even now when I go to the villages of India, and they ask me which yoga they should practise, I tell them bhakti yoga. They say, “What about hatha yoga?” I say, “What for? You don’t need oxygen, you don’t want circulation, you don’t need quicker metabolism.” Then they ask, “Can we practise raja yoga?” I say, “What for? You work so much that when you go to bed, in half a second you sleep. Raja yoga is for those people who have a jumping tendency of the mind.” If your body is pure, why hatha yoga? If your mind is calm and quiet and equipoised, why raja yoga?

Then comes bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga means love for God. So when I go to the Indian villages, I tell them, “No asanas, no pranayama, no neti, no dhauti, no yoga nidra, no hatha yoga.” Then they say, “But Swamiji, how do we evolve?” I answer, “Evolve through bhakti yoga.”

Therefore, in ashram life there is no necessity for any practice other than karma and bhakti yoga. Many times in our ashrams, I have tried to organize hatha yoga classes for the ashram people but they don’t come. Nobody comes. They say, “What for?” But when there is kirtan there is 100% attendance and sometimes on Saturdays I say, “No kirtan today.” All the ashramites frown because in ashram life, in the purity of circumstances, the heart flows outward. You can love each other, you can love your guru, you can love God. That is called bhakti yoga.

So in the ashram, the evolution takes place through karma yoga and bhakti yoga. And if one does not live in the ashram, and if one has very impure food and air, then one needs hatha and raja yoga also.

—1977