What Is Hatha Yoga?

Hatha means forceful in Sanskrit. Compared to more subtle practices that were in use at the time Ellen Stansell, a scholar of yogic literature. However, it was some time before hatha became synonymous with yoga asanas as we practice them today.

What Is Hatha ?
In its most basic usage, hatha means yoga. The word hatha describes any kind of yoga in which poses are done. Remember that yoga has eight limbs, only one of which, asana, is concerned with yoga poses. If you do Iyengar Yoga, this is hatha yoga. If you do Ashtanga, as different as it may seem, it is also hatha yoga. Any of the many contemporary types of physical yoga practices can be accurately described as hatha yoga.

Hatha Yoga poses
Hatha History
Hatha means forceful in Sanskrit. Compared to more subtle practices that were in use at the time Ellen Stansell, a scholar of yogic literature. However, it was some time before hatha became synonymous with yoga asanas as we practice them today. The first Indian gurus who brought yoga to a western audience in the mid-19th century took pains to distance themselves from hatha yoga, which they associated with wandering street mendicants called yogins, according to Mark Singleton's book Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice. Singleton explains that it was not until the international popularity of the physical culture movement later in the 19th century that hatha yoga
was integrated into the teachings coming west.
(which may have been as early as the 12th century), the physical practices of hatha must have seemed forceful, according to

The Science of Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga is not exercise. Understanding the mechanics of the body, creating a certain atmosphere, and then using body postures to drive your energy in specific directions is what hatha yoga or yogasanas are about. “Asana” means a “posture.” That kind of posture which allows you to reach your higher nature is a yogasana. There are other dimensions to this, but to put it in the simplest way, just by observing the way someone is sitting, you can almost know what is happening with him, if you have known him long enough. If you have observed yourself, when you are angry, you sit one way; if you are happy, you sit another way; if you are depressed, you sit another way. For every different level of consciousness or mental and emotional situation that you go through, your body naturally tends to assume certain postures. The converse of this is the science of asanas. If you consciously get your body into different postures, you can elevate your consciousness.

The body can become a means for your spiritual growth or it can become a major barrier. Suppose some part of your body – your hand, leg or back, for instance – is hurting. When it is hurting badly it is hard to aspire for anything higher because that becomes the biggest thing. Right now if you have a backache, the biggest thing in the universe is your backache. Other people may not understand that, but for the person who is going through it, that is the biggest thing. Even if God appears you will ask for your backache to go! You will not ask for anything else because the physical body has such a power over you. If it is not functioning well, it can take away all other aspirations from your life. Whatever you may fancy, all your longings just disappear once the body starts hurting – because to look beyond that takes an enormous amount of strength, which most people do not possess.

iyengar hatha yoga
Guru BKS-Iyengar Hatha Yoga
There are thousands of people who have come out of spinal problems by doing simple asanas. Doctors had told them they would definitely have to go through a surgery, but they never had to. Your back can be restored to such an excellent condition that you will never need to go to a chiropractor. It is not only your spine that becomes flexible; you also become flexible. Once you are flexible, you are willing to listen, not just to someone’s talk; you are willing to listen to life. Learning to listen is the essence of a sensible life.

Dedicating a certain amount of effort and time to see that the body does not become a barrier is important. A painful body can become a major obstacle, and so can a compulsive body. Simple compulsions, whether they are about the body wanting to relieve itself or of lust, can rule you so strongly that they will not allow you to look beyond; the physical body becomes a major entity. Body is only a part of you; it should not become the whole of you. Asanas level the body down to its natural place.

Hatha Yoga Overview:
  • Fitness & Sweat 40%
  • Flexibility 80%
  • Strength & Balance 80%
  • Mind & Spirituality 50%
  • Flow 0%
  • Overall difficulty 20%
Hatha yoga can be for all levels, depending on the teacher. The classes are typically gentle, but there may be classes that take on tougher poses. Read class descriptions carefully, or talk to the teacher ahead of time, to make sure you attend an appropriate class.
For this type of yoga, it’s hard to rate some of these criteria definitively because the teacher has a lot of freedom to choose what they teach. If you want more or less of a mind-body element, keep trying different teachers until you find a good fit.

Fun fact: To properly pronounce the word “Hatha,” don’t pronounce the th sound. Pronounce a hard t, so the word sounds like hot-ha.

Purpose Of Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga Vinyasa
Hatha Yoga Vinyasa
Hatha yoga classes use the breath to create a link between the body and the mind. Hatha classes build
flexibility and strength while minimizing the chance of injury. This well-rounded style balances and opens the body. You will learn to still the mind and be present in the moment.

Benefits Of Hatha Yoga
In addition to more flexibility and strength, a hatha yoga practice will lead to all the other usual benefits of yoga–reduced stress, lower blood pressure, more energy and better sleep.

How Hatha Is Used Today
Given that the word has such an open meaning, what should you expect if you attend a hatha yoga class?

These days, hatha is most often used to describe gentle, basic yoga classes with no flow between poses. Expect a slower-paced stretching class with some basic pranayama breathing exercises and perhaps seated meditation at the end. Hatha classes are a good place to learn beginners' poses, relaxation techniques, and become comfortable with yoga.

What About Hatha Flow?
Just to confuse things more, some studios throw something called hatha flow into the mix. Wait, didn't I just say that hatha wasn't flow? Well, since the term is so open, it can be used to mean almost any kind of asana class. What some call hatha flow, I would call vinyasa. However, some places take the confusion one step further by offering both hatha flow and vinyasa. In this case, expect the vinyasa to be a little more vigorous, but so much depends upon the approach of each individual teacher that it's impossible to be definitive on this point without taking specific classes. If you need more clarification, ask at the studio or gym where the classes are taught.

Is Hatha Yoga for You?
Try a hatha class if the idea of gentle yoga appeals to you or seems right for your level of physical
fitness. It can be a great introduction to yoga, but shouldn't be mistaken for easy yoga since it can still be challenging both physically and mentally. If you go into a hatha class and it feels too slow or not active enough, don't give up on yoga completely.

There are faster-paced, more athletic ways to do yoga. Try a flow or vinyasa class and see if that is more your speed.

Hatha Yoga Prepares the Body
Another aspect of hatha yoga, when one wants to move into deeper dimensions of meditation, is that it allows for a higher possibility of energy. If you want your energies to surge upwards, it is very important that the pipeline of the body is conducive. If it is blocked, it will not work, or else, something will burst. Preparing the body sufficiently before one goes into more intense forms of meditation is very important. Hatha yoga ensures that the body takes it gently and joyfully.

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THE YOGI GUIDE: What Is Hatha Yoga?
What Is Hatha Yoga?
Hatha means forceful in Sanskrit. Compared to more subtle practices that were in use at the time Ellen Stansell, a scholar of yogic literature. However, it was some time before hatha became synonymous with yoga asanas as we practice them today.
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