The new translation of Hathayogapradipika by Doctor Kausthub Desikachar is a modern classic. His personal footnotes make this classic text “User friendly” for Yoga teachers and serious students. Highly Recommended!
I have to agree. This is an excellent and valuable book to be added to the Yoga book library of the serious practitioner or Yoga teacher. A beautifully designed hard cover (with two beautiful drawings of Kali Ma inside) where the wisdom therein is as rich (if not richer) as the outside.
Five forwards in the book are written by Sonia Nelson (Santa Fe, New Mexico), Geeta S. Iyengar (Pune, India), Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani (Pondicherry, India), Frans Moors (Belgium), and Sharath Jois (Mysore, India.)
Sharath Jois writes that “the Hathayogapradipika is especially important because it is a tool that helps to understand the entire system of Yoga practice.” He writes that Kausthub has revealed a new level of understanding of the HYP.
Sonia Nelson writes that “the quality and use of the English language makes the translations and footnotes fully accessible to serious students willing to give the time and attention needed to digest the content. …the inclusion of both the Devanagari script and transliteration in the word by word translation provides a useful tool for extensive study.” Indeed, for a student of Sanskrit alone the book is invaluable.
Kausthub’s aunt, Geeta Iyengar, writes that her nephew has done a “wonderful job of transcribing and translating the whole Samskrta text along with the Jyotsna commentary. The Hathayogapradipika is such a text that no student of Yoga can bypass it.” She believes that Kausthub’s footnotes can be seen as his own “modern commentary, making it easier, more relatable and comprehensible to today’s readers.”
In his Introduction Kausthub gives a brief history of the HYP and of the ancient yogis at that time. I particularly enjoyed this history telling because it echos what Stephen Cope taught in my Mindfulness Yoga and Meditation training at Spirit Rock in California: that the ancient yogis (the “Skull Men”) were considered rebels, cast out by conventional Brahmin society of the time. Kausthub writes that the Skull Men had a significant influence on Hathayoga, which evidence can be found through texts such as Sivasamhita and the HYP.
Among other things in the 22 page Introduction Kausthub also writes about whether the HYP is the only Hathayoga text; about the commentator of the HYP, Brahmananda; the special view of Isvara; what is Hathayoga (see photo above) — my students liked my reading this in class.
Given the latest statement about yoga therapy by the Yoga Alliance, of special interest in the Introduction is his section on “Hathayoga and Yoga Therapy.” Kausthub writes:
One key trend that occurs recurrently throughout the text is the health benefits of the specific tools presented. Whether in the chapter on Asana, Pranayama or Mudra, the Hathayogapradipika makes claims regarding which illnesses may be warded off through such practices.
This clearly confirms without a doubt that Yoga is indeed a therapeutic tool used by its practitioners over a long period of time. So to say that Yoga and Yoga Therapy are two different things is against what the tradition of Yoga represents.
Then comes the business of organized professional governance.
You’ll have to get the book to find out the rest of the story, i.e., the two problems that governance creates in Kausthub’s opinion.
A sample page:
My long time readers know that I have studied in the Krishnamacharya Yoga tradition for 10+ years. I am grateful and blessed to have been introduced to this lineage by one of Krishnamacharya’s longest standing students, Srivatsa Ramaswami, on his first visit to Chicago. In fact, he is teaching about the HYP in Chicago in September. Join me!
If the HYP is mentioned at all in Yoga teacher trainings, the usual text that I’ve seen used in my area (Chicago) is by Swami Muktibodhananda published by the Bihar School of Yoga. Kausthub’s translation is an excellent addition to your study of the HYP for a side by side comparison. His is the type of book to be savored, not read quickly (as if the HYP would be a candidate for speed reading!) It’s always good to have a few different translations of a Yoga text just to see how and who says what. You can purchase this book directly from his school in Chennai, India.
The Hathayoga journey is not meant for superficial results like having a nice and slim body structure. Rather it is meant for meaningful psychological and spiritual exploration of oneself and a profound transformation at all levels, that takes us closer to our own potentials and helps manifest them into reality. (Introduction, p.50.)
That’s authentic Yoga. The real deal, the good, the bad, and the ugly, wherever the journey takes us.