What is Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga is a system of yoga introduced by Yogi Swatmarama, a sage of 15th century India, and compiler of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. With ha meaning “sun” and tha meaning “moon,” Hatha Yoga is commonly translated as the yoga that brings union “of the pairs of opposites.” Sometimes Hatha Yoga is also translated as the “forceful yoga”, because it requires a lot of physical effort. Hatha Yoga is certainly the yoga that is the best known in the West, which is part of the reason why so many definitions of Hatha Yoga exist.
Excercising postures or Asanas in Hatha Yoga has two essential objectives. The first is that to practice any real meditation, one needs at the least one posture in which one can be perfectly comfortable for a longer period of time. The more such postures one can master, the better the basis for developing the inner meditation techniques. The second objective of excercising asanas in Hatha Yoga is to bring health and energy to body and mind by opening the nadis (energy channels). When such excercises are regularly perfomed, the path of hatha yoga is opened automatically, though one still has to follow it further. The mere mastering of postures is no objective in itself, though mastering various postures certainly strengthens the power of will and concentration and the habit of not paying too much attention to the information input by the senses.
The excercise of Pranayama in Hatha Yoga is essential to master ones’ breathing patterns. If one can master breath, then the mastery of mind is within reach. Through breathing excercises the flow of prana or vital life force through the body is regulated. That energy is certainly needed on the further steps of Hatha Yoga that ultimately may lead to samadhi. Special breathing techniques, in which the flow of breath though both nostrils is alternated, brings balance to the two hemispheres of the brain. Pranayama in Hatha Yoga also activates the Kundalini Energy.
Hatha Yoga Schools and Classes
If you see a class described as Hatha, it will likely be a slow-paced stretching class with some simple breathing exercises and perhaps seated meditation. This is a good place to learn basic poses, relaxation techniques, and become comfortable with yoga.
As it was said before, the word hatha is a compound of the words ha and tha meaning sun and moon, referring to prana and apana. According to the Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary, the word “hatha” means forceful. It is a strong practice done for purification. In other respects hatha yoga follows the same principles as the raja yoga of Patanjali. Hatha yoga is what most people in the Western world associate with the word “yoga” and is most commonly practiced for mental and physical health.
So Hatha Yoga is a very good place to start on the path of yoga. And even then it is important to realize that if the first 2 steps of Ashtanga Yoga are neglected, Yama and Niyama, Hatha Yoga might not bring the desired results.
Hatha Yoga comes in many varieties and traditions, such as Kashmir Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, etc..
Is Hatha Yoga for You?
Many people try a hatha class and love the relaxed feeling, others decide that yoga is too slow and meditative for them. If you fall in the later category, try vinyasa next time for a completely different experience.