Part II — Hatha Yoga (postures) and physical fitness

Question: Is Hatha Yoga necessary in concentration, meditation and contemplation? Is it indispensable for realising God?

Sri Chinmoy: If your body is not strong enough, then today you will suffer from a stomach-ache, tomorrow you will have a headache and the next day you will have some other disorder. Naturally, you will not be able to concentrate and meditate. For that reason it is important to keep the body fit. And Hatha Yoga asanas are far better for the body than the vigorous exercises that are done in the West. Asanas will soothe your body as long as you do not do them too much. If asanas are done too dynamically, they may arouse aggressive feelings. But when you do them correctly, you get a kind, mild, soft vibration.

Hatha Yoga may help us a little bit spiritually, but we have to know where we stand in our spiritual journey. If we are very restless, we can do Hatha Yoga in the beginning to learn to sit calmly and quietly. But if we are not constant victims of restlessness, even if we are absolute beginners, Hatha Yoga is not needed, for when we enter into meditation we automatically enter into a calm, quiet state. By doing Hatha Yoga exercises, we feel that we are regulating and disciplining our life. But when we meditate properly and life-energy enters into us from our meditation, automatically our life is disciplined. The divine Peace and Light which we need, we can never, never get from Hatha Yoga.

Just as Yoga exercises will bring calm and quiet, breathing exercises will bring poise. This is not real inner peace, though. It is only a temporary poise. Concentration, meditation and contemplation are the only things that bring real peace.

If your aim is just to keep the body relaxed and fit, then Hatha Yoga will certainly help you. But if you want to complete your course in the inner life, you have to enter into the school of concentration, meditation and contemplation. Hatha Yoga is like kindergarten, whereas your aim is to get a Master's degree. There are many excellent students who have not gone to kindergarten. They have skipped it and gone directly to primary school, and from there they have gone on to high school and university studies.

In India there are hundreds and thousands of real aspirants who have never done any exercises. I happened to be in an ashram where I did physical exercises for the sake of the body, but even in that ashram the spiritual Master never recommended that the aspirants practise asanas in order to make spiritual progress. In many spiritual communities in India asanas are never done. The seekers start directly with aspiration and meditation.

If one feels that by becoming an expert in Hatha Yoga he can realise God, or make fast progress on the road to realisation, then I wish to say that he is mistaken. There are many people on earth who do physical exercise and keep their bodies extremely fit. There are wrestlers and acrobats and athletes who are very strong and healthy, but God-realisation is not meant for them in this incarnation. They are strong physically, but they do not care for spiritual strength. Fortunately or unfortunately, there is no direct relationship between physical strength and spiritual strength or capacity. Any Indian village has hundreds of little boys who will give a far better performance of Hatha Yoga than the swamis here can do. Nature has taught them; Mother India has taught them. But God-realisation for those village boys will long remain a far cry.

We have to know what we actually want. Hatha Yoga has something to offer which is very limited, and meditation has something to offer which is absolutely unlimited. If you say, "Let me achieve the limited thing first and then grow into the unlimited," that is all right. Again, if you have the capacity and willingness to enter directly into the vast ocean, God will not ask you to swim in a swimming pool. But if you do not have the capacity to jump directly into the ocean, then God says, "Go to the swimming pool and enjoy yourself for a while."

My Yoga will not say anything against Hatha Yoga but, at the same time, my Yoga feels that inner strength will also supply the outer strength. That is to say, if I really love God, my eternal Father will take care of the needs of my body. He will give me a sufficiently strong body to enable me to carry on my inner work. If I am ready to sacrifice myself or offer something to my Beloved, my Father, then He will naturally think of my body's needs; for He knows that if I do not have the physical capacity, I will not be able to fulfil Him as a divine instrument and work for Him on earth.

So if you want to do asanas for five or ten minutes daily to keep your body fit, you can do so. But if you want to do Hatha Yoga for two hours before you meditate, it will be a sheer waste of time.