Hatha yoga is known as the yoga for the physical body. In Sanskrit, “Ha” means sun and “tha” means moon.
This represents the opposites in our lives, such as yin and yang, light and darkness, hard and soft, vigorous and gentle. Hatha yoga is about finding balance. Through working with the physical body, releasing tensions and traumas stored in the body, you create space in yourself and, through that space and balance, the opportunity for spiritual growth.
Hatha yoga comprises of a set of asanas (poses) designed to align the body in a certain way so that energy can flow freely. It is a powerful tool as it eases physical and mental obstacles. Benefits of a regular Hatha yoga practice:
- Makes the body stronger and more flexible
- Releases tension and trauma stored in the body
- Calms the mind
- Creates space in body and mind and in that space you find ‘balance’ and the opportunity for spiritual growth
The main principle behind the practice of Hatha yoga is breathing. Controlling our breath can help improve oxygenation in the body and reduces stress levels. Therefore, this practice encourages us to focus on our breath, maintain balance and promotes stillness in mind.
History and Origin
The origins of Hatha are a mixture of various earlier traditions. Though exact dates are unknown the earliest Hatha yoga textual references dates 1100 AD but some of its techniques are at least a thousand years older. In the 15the century Swatmarama compiled the Hathapradipika, based on a collection of eight scriptures, combining several traditions and their methods. Contrary to popular belief, Hatha yoga stresses the importance of meditation (samadhi). Meditation is combined with postures (asana), breathing techniques and energy locks (pranayama and mudra).
Philosophy and Principles
An important principle to understand the philosophy of Hatha is that the Sacred encompasses and penetrates the Mundane. Though now known as physical yoga, an important principle of Hatha is that the physical body comprises both materiality and mentality. The latter being of a more subtle nature or subtle matter than the former.
The Practice of Hatha Today
Hatha today consists mainly of non-moving asanas. It does not have the flow one might find in Vinyasa but its a great place if you are new to yoga or to advance or deepen your practice. A hatha yoga class includes asanas, breathing techniques and meditation. The techniques have a beneficial effect on the nervous system, the glands and other important organs, and generally relax the body. The purpose of Hasha yoga is in the West is primarily to promote health and well-being. The practice of Hatha historically, was used to prepare the body for extreme and prolonged meditation so it is designed to release tension and stress in body and mind.
Hatha yoga is the basis for all contemporary, physical yoga practices. When you do Iyengar, this is hatha yoga; when you do Ashtanga, as different as this may seem, it’s hatha too.
Join a Hatha yoga class.