HATHA YOGA: WHAT IS HATHA YOGA?
Hatha Yoga is a general category of yoga to which we practice postures and meditation. It is a great tool to introduce beginners to yoga with basic poses and relaxation techniques. Hatha yoga is considered one of the most beneficial yoga types for beginners because in the Hatha method, you hold the postures long enough to learn proper alignment and feel the sensations and subtle energies in the body.
Fundamentally, all yoga types strive for the same outcome, a unification of mind, body, and spirit, although they may differ in their philosophy and even in the postures.
You can expect to practice fewer poses held for a longer period of time. In Hatha, there is little to no flowing, meaning that vinyasa flows aren’t generally incorporated into a Hatha class.
The word ‘Hatha’ is a broad term. It is often used to describe a more gentle form of yoga. Many students find the Hatha yoga method as a more static and calming way of practicing, different from the Vinyasa or Ashtanga methods. I personally enjoy practicing Hatha yoga on the days when I feel overworked and exhausted. I usually practice Hatha at night because I think it’s a good way to finish the day with and it sets you up for an even greater tommorow.
Hatha is a Sanskrit word that can be broken down into HA, the energy of the day, and THA, the quiet of the night. Hatha is a practice of creating balance and uniting opposites. Hatha yoga works to balance these two strong energies within ourselves.
In this article, we will dive deeper into the meaning of Ha & Tha, the history behind the Hatha style, and how it is practiced today.
So whether you’re new to yoga, recovering from an injury, or just looking to slow down and destress your mind, the Hatha style might be the perfect fit for you.
HATHA YOGA: TODAY
Today, Hatha yoga is one of the most common yoga types practiced in yoga studios around the world.
Hatha Yoga is often defined as a generic term to a style of yoga that teaches gentle physical postures. It is also described as an umbrella term to surround any type of physical yoga practice.
As a yoga beginner, Hatha yoga would be a great way to get used to the poses, without any of the quick flowing that might be confusing for the ones that are just starting out. Poses will be held for a longer period of time sustained by various breathing techniques. You will learn how to integrate breath into each pose in order to find ease and stability.
Today, in yoga studios, there are multiple different types of yoga to choose from. If a class is just labeled as yoga, it is likely the Hatha variety.
Hatha is considered a gentle yoga that focuses on static poses. However, even though it is gentle, it can still be physically and mentally challenging.
Hatha yoga is suitable for all ages, from young kids to elderly people. Hatha classes provide the opportunity to stretch, unwind, and release tension, a great complement to busy lifestyles.
If you try a Hatha class and it feels too slow or not active enough, don’t give up on yoga just yet. There are more faster-paced, more active ways to practice yoga. One of my best tips for beginners is to experiment with different types of yoga. If Hatha is not your thing, then just find a style that best suits your needs.
While some may say that any physical type of yoga falls under the Hatha category, other may argue that Hatha is inaccurately described as just gentle or physical yoga and that it is a whole style of yoga in and of itself, and there is actually a specific meaning that goes along with it. So let’s dive deeper into the philosophy of this ancient practice.
HATHA YOGA: PHILOSOPHY
In ancient times, yoga was referred to as a tree, a living strucure with roots, branches, blossoms, and fruit. The six branches of yoga were Raja yoga, Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga, Jnana yoga, Tantra yoga, and Hatha yoga.
Hatha yoga is one of the six branches of yoga. Each branch with its unique characteristics and functions represents a specific approach to life. Some may find one particular branch more inviting than another. However, it’s important to be aware that involvement in any of these paths does not preclude activity in any of the other ones, and in fact, you’ll find many paths naturally overlapping.
The essence of Hatha yoga is working with Ha and Tha, the two opposite currents that regulate all processes in our bodies, that dominate our experience of the world.
Ha represents the sun. The sun qualities of Hatha yoga are stimulating and vibrant, energizing and strong. During the day, we’re active; we work, we think, we interact. But we can burn out if we’re always efforting.
Tha represents the moon. Generally, in our culture, we need to connect more with our moon energy, the quiet and receptive nurturing introspective and restorative energy.
Hatha focuses on balancing the flow of solar and lunar energy in the human system.
The sun and the moon are the very strong energetic systems of this planet. And the whole planet is working with them to create harmony and stability.
Because of these two forces we exist. If there is no sun, there is no life. If there is no moon, life wouldn’t be the way it is right now.
HATHA YOGA: THE SUN AND THE MOON
As Sadghuru, famous Indian yogi and author, says it:
“Think of the planet as a womb. The sun and the moon are in some way impregnating, and life blooms.
The sun is the original father, and the moon is the original mother, that keep us alive. In between yourself and the sun and the moon, there are millions of generations, all mixed up genetics, memories, and all kinds of things that happened. Some might have been good and some might have been bad. We don’t have control over that.
So one ancient aspect of Hatha is to keep your parentage aside: your parents, your grandparents, your great grandparents, and so on. You want to keep all these people aside, because ultimately all their lineage goes to the sun and moon. You want to draw straight from that and eliminate the ‘corruption’ that was built through millions of generations.“
Hatha yoga means that you bring such a balance that this intermediate transmission is lost, and you draw directly from that as life was made.
The nature of Hatha yoga is to gradually connect with the sun and the moon.
“A Hatha yogi, if he closes his eyes, he must be able to say [in] what phase [the] moon [is]. One must know within himself. This is completely absent in people. That means totally misaligned with the original source of our physical manifestation.”
HATHA YOGA: BRIEF HISTORY
The reason why nobody knows exactly when yoga was discovered is due to the fact that when yoga was first being practiced, there was no written word, no paper, and no way of transmission other than the spoken word. The practice was also quite mysterious and undisclosed. It’s said that some of the earliest teachings were written on palm leaves, which were, of course, not easy to preserve.
Hatha yoga has been around for thousands of years. It has changed a lot throughout the centuries. Firstly, Hatha yoga was a total philosophy inclined towards inner peace, teaching how to relate to yourself and the outer world.
Hatha, as we know it today, dates back as recently as the 15th century with Svami Svatmarama. Svatmarama made a compilation of historic yoga texts. He introduces his system, which is based on physical postures and pranayama (breath control) as a preparatory stage for physical purification of the body for the purpose of higher meditation.
Since then, the Hatha yoga has not changed much. Students of today still basically rely on the same instructions given by Svatmarama as laid out in his fundamental guide.
These honored traditions have encouraged millions of people from all around the globe to be more active, fit, and aware of their bodies. Hatha Yoga has grown in popularity in the West as a form of exercise that develops strength, flexibility, bodily relaxation, and mental concentration. Hatha yoga has transformed and created the yoga that we know and love in today’s modern system.
HATHA YOGA: INFLUENCERS
Ricardia Bramley is a 46-year-old Hatha yoga teacher. She has started practicing yoga in New York in the ’90s and has been a yoga teacher for over 5 years. She is now living in Berlin, Germany, where she teaches yoga, primarily for men.
Yoga is not just for women, athletes, or hyper-flexible people. And that’s why she has developed YUNGsYOGA©, a yoga series for men, in Berlin. The series is suitable for all men who aren’t generally opposed to yoga but really don’t get what the hype is all about or what benefits it brings.
Nowadays, you can practice with her in person at Remedy Studio in Berlin or you can practice with her online on DoYouYoga, where she shares classes for all-level yogis. Yoga is a journey; not a race. Enjoy it! 🙂
Brett Larkin is an online yoga teacher with a following of over 300.000 people on her Youtube channel, where she shares an unlimited amount of free yoga classes designed for everyone who wants to head on the beautiful journey of yoga. She teaches mostly Hatha classes, and she perfectly portraits this style of yoga in the video above.
Brett completed her yoga teacher training in 2009, but it took her over two years to get the courage to actually start teaching. Today, she is the leader of the number one selling online yoga teacher training Uplifted, and is one of the most successful yogis on the internet.
She is a certified yoga teacher and a dance MFA from New York City. On her channel, you’ll find free yoga classes that will support you not only physically but mentally and emotionally too. Explore the Hatha style alongside Christina and surrender to the beautiful practice of yoga.
Yoga is not for the flexible. It’s for the willing. Subscribe to Christina and start your practice today!
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