Learn More About Hatha Yoga As A Branch of Yoga Available At Punyah Yoga
The word Hatha means wilful or forceful. Hatha Yoga refers to a set of physical exercises (known as Asanas or postures) and sequences designed to align your skin, muscles, and bones. The postures are designed to open the many channels of the body — especially the main channel, the spine — so that energy can flow freely.
Hatha is also translated as a combination of words “ha” meaning sun and “tha” meaning moon. This refers to the balance of masculine aspects (active, hot, sun) and feminine aspects (receptive, cool, moon) within all of us. Hatha Yoga is a path toward creating balance and uniting opposites. In our physical bodies, we try to develop a balance of strength and flexibility. In Yoga, we also learn to balance our effort and surrender in each pose.
There is a lot of confusion over the term Hatha Yoga. To put it simply, originally, Hatha is a general category that includes most Yoga styles — Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Sivananda, Bihar, Bikram, and more. All these fit under the umbrella term of Hatha Yoga. It is an old system that includes the practice of Asanas (Yoga postures) and Pranayama (breathing exercises) which help bring peace to the mind and body. This then prepares the body for deeper spiritual practices such as meditation.
It is important to understand that Yoga is not limited to a mere physical exercise as it is often seen nowadays. It is an ancient practice originating thousands of years in Hindu tradition — a complete life path and a moral code. Yoga’s history has many places of obscurity and uncertainty due to its oral tradition of sacred texts and the secretive nature of its teachings. Early writings on Yoga were transcribed on fragile palm leaves that did not survive the passage of time. Still, we can find references to Yoga in some of the most sacred texts in the Hindu tradition.
Historically, Yoga was not identified as exercise at all. In Bhagavadgītā (one of the key texts for the theory of Yoga written sometime between the 2nd c. BCE and 1st c. CE), Krishna, the embodiment of the god Vishnu, introduces various types of traditions. Among others: Yoga as a base of selfless action (Karma Yoga), an intellectual inquiry into the essence of reality (Jñana Yoga), and devotion and love to the god (Bhakti Yoga).
We owe the fairly fundamental change in the understanding of the role of Asana and its meaning in yogic practice to the sage Patañjāli — the author of the Yoga Sutras (around 400 C.E.). The collection contains what is thought to be much of the basis of classical Yoga philosophy, including the concept of the eight limbs of Yoga. The first detailed descriptions of Asanas (third limb) appeared in sixteenth-century — the HaţhaYogapradīpikā.
Most modern approaches to Yoga blossomed from the teachings of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. The founder of the Yoga school under the patronage of Maharaja of Mysore in the 1930s’, Krishnamacharya was the teacher of, among others, Indra Devi, A.G. Mohan, B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois and T. K. V. Desikachar. Later on, each of those disciples developed the teachings of the master in their own ways. Although they all shared one guru, each of Krishnamacharya's students taught Yoga in their own unique way, emphasizing different elements and focusing on different aspects of the practice.
Hatha Yoga Practice and Modern Understanding
Nowadays, Hatha Yoga is rarely understood as an umbrella term but rather as another style of yoga. When compared to Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, it is less dynamic, more gentle, and static in routine. Its focus is placed on Asana deepening, encouraging the proper skeletal alignment and correct posture. The practice pays attention to relaxation while increasing flexibility, endurance, and muscle tone. It is a powerful tool to calm the mind and build the physical awareness of the body. This uniting of polar opposites is a beneficial way to view one’s practice and life in general.
To sum it all up, Hatha Yoga stems from a deep understanding of the mechanics of the body. It uses yogic postures to enable the body to sustain higher dimensions of energy. By practising this profound science, one can change and enhance the way they think, feel, and experience life. Hatha Yoga is about creating a body that is not a hurdle in your life. The body becomes a stepping stone in the progress towards blossoming into your ultimate possibility.