Yoga & Alchemy

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Yoga & Alchemy
By: Sandhyanath

In verses 5-9 of Chapter 1 of the Haṭha Pradīpikā, the author Svātmārāma lists the lineage of hatha yoga up through his time. The lineage begins with Śiva Himself teaching Matsyendranāth, whose many disciples including Gorakṣanāth are mentioned next. In total 30 different masters are named. There are some variations between different manuscripts,but they are mostly the same.In the Lonavla Yoga Institute Critical Edition, they are:

1.   Ādinātha (Śiva)
2.   Matsyendra
3.   Śārada
4.   Ānandabhairava
5.   Cauraṅgī
6.   Mīna
7.   Gorakṣa
8.   Virūpākṣa
9.   Bileśaya
10.  Manthānabhairava
11.  Siddha-buddhi
12.  Kanthaḍī
13.  Kauraṇṭaka
14.  Surānanda
15.  Siddha-pāda
16.  Carpaṭī
17.  Kānerī
18.  Pūrvapāda
19.  Nityanātha
20.  Nirañjana
21.  Kapālī
22.  Bindunātha
23.  Kākacaṇḍīśvara
24.  Allāma-Prabhudeva
25.  Ghorācolī
26.  Tiṇṭiṇī
27.  Vāsukī
28.  Nāgabodha
29.  Khaṇḍa
30.  Kāpālika

The verses conclude, “These Mahā Siddhas (Great Masters), having conquered time by the practice of Haṭha Yoga and now roam freely through the universe.”

What is most interesting about this passage is that most of those mentioned in the list are primarily known as being alchemists. Some have even written works on Alchemy. So what does this have to do with Yoga?

Alchemy is often an entirely misunderstood subject and it would be impossible to fully explain it here, but suffice to say that it can be broadly considered as an art and science of “Transformation.” It is not merely a precursor to Chemistry (though many Indian and Western alchemists were also scientists who made important scientific discoveries). It has always included a strong spiritual component.

By listing well-known Indian alchemists as masters of Yoga, Svātmārāma is making very clear the connection between Yoga and Alchemy. Yoga, especially the Yoga of Tantra and of Haṭha, is conceived as a special kind of “inner” Alchemy, where the transformation process is happening within the individual’s body and mind.

Many of the physical techniques of Haṭha Yoga work by using alchemical principles within one’s own body. The subtler techniques of Rāja Yoga apply these principles to mind directly.

If you’d like to learn more about this inner technology of transformation, check out and register for our 300 hour advanced yoga teacher training.