On The Hatha Yoga Pradipika

1:15 Yoga is destroyed by the following six causes:—Over-eating, exertion, talkativeness, adhering to rules i.e , cold bath in the morning, eating at night, or eating fruits only, company of men, and unsteadiness.

1:16 The following six bring speedy success:—Courage, daring, perseverance, discriminative knowledge, faith, aloofness from company

Reading these two verses one might think that yoga is just about following instructions. However these same verses state that it is possible to destroy yoga by ‘adhering to rules’. Therefore it does not follow that we should never ‘overeat’, never ‘be in the company of men’, or never ‘exert ourselves’. Similarly it does not mean that we should always be courageous, aloof from company and constantly have faith. The instructions are not to be labelled as ‘wrong’ or ‘right’, only recognised in how they do, or do not take us closer to the meaning of the word ‘yoga’.

If we treat the verses of the pradipika as rules then we live in constant judgment of ourselves. Things in life become divided between being right and wrong or good and bad. Thought patterns using phrases like “that was wrong”, “I could have done that better” or “I should have done xxx instead” create seeds of self doubt, and life becomes more complicated and less enjoyable. We can never be good enough.

Yoga is not about following a rule, for example, to never overeat. It is about overeating and being aware that you are overeating. This is the only way to learn about the effects of our choices on the body, and whether the choice comes from the ego, mind, body or spirit. Perhaps overeating feeds certain thought patterns and directs energy away from one’s centre. But just following a rule never to overeat means we can never realise the roots of our tendancies, and end up in a cycle of self-judgment written over the original problem, driving it deeper.


Yoga is a creative process. It is more important to follow what feels freeing and opening than restrictive and hard to follow. We can utilise the pradipika as a guide to extend our boundaries and increase our self awareness. However it is important not to apply too narrow a discipline to our practice. Yoga, in this time and environment, does not require the same strict instructions it did at one time in the past. We must beware of the ego using the texts as a checklist of what one is 'good at' or not. Instead maintain the feeling of the practice, the part that cannot be put into words. This is where the magic is.



Rachael Dunsmore

Dec 2008


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