Hatha yoga is known as the yoga for the physical body. In Sanskrit, “Ha” represents sun and “tha” represents moon,
This alludes to 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.
History and Origins
Hatha yoga is known, nowadays, as the yoga for the physical body. The Sanskrit term haṭha refers to “forceful” or “strong”. This refers to the powerful transformational techniques of Hatha and the results it forced to happen.. The more esoteric meaning of sun (Ha) and Moon (Tha) is a later addition, when elements of subtle body psychology (e.g. chakra) gained prominence. 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. Hatha yoga aims to transform the body-mind complex in order to obtain supernatural powers (siddhi’s) and Liberation.
The Practice of Hatha Today
Hatha today usually is a slowly-paced class, consisting of asanas. It does not have the flow one might find in Anusara or Vinyasa but its a great place to start if you are new to yoga or to advance or deepen your practice. You get the time and space to become familiar with yoga poses and relaxation techniques. A Hatha Yoga class would most likely include asanas, breathing techniques and meditation. 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!
Benefits of a regular Hatha yoga practice
- Makes the body stronger and more flexible.
- Release 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.
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