With an emphasis on the physical exercises to a greater extent, Hatha Yoga is all about mastering your body by synchronizing the exercises with brainstorming to de-link its connection with the external and materialistic objects. As cliche it sounds, it is most used by Yogis who seek inner peace and also the users whose aim is to gain an accelerating inner peace.
The word ‘hatha‘ gets divided into ‘ha‘ and ‘tha‘; two Sanskrit words which when combined get translated to ‘force‘. However, on the other hand, the ‘ha‘ is believed to denote the ‘sun‘ and its brightness while the ‘tha‘ denotes the ‘moon‘ and the darkness and ‘hatha’ together is the creation of balance between the sun and the moon. Early Indians thought that hatha was challenging to practice because of the forced techniques that are inscribed in it. On a broader view, “Hatha Yoga” is about the connotation of a supplementary system to the body.
Origin of Hatha Yoga
Digging deep into the origin of the Hatha Yoga, it is believed that it is founded by some Yogic scholars of Shaivism, a Nath Yogic tradition. These Yogis belonged to Gorakhnath who developed Hatha Yoga among the group of people who shared the same beliefs. James Mallinson, a Yogic Scholar, also quoted that Hatha Yoga is more ancient with roots that go beyond the attribution of the Nath and it is claimed that there around twenty ancient texts on Hatha Yoga.
Over the years, Hatha Yoga was developed and has been practiced by a range of different sectarian traditions, exclusively in India and then is made available by people across the blog. The important contributors for the evolution of Hatha Yoga are Dattatreya and Dashanami Sampradaya.
Why should you practice Hatha Yoga?
The aims of all the Yoga types are similar when we look at them through an objective paradigm. The Hatha Yoga is practiced to develop physical strength, physiological benefits, reduces the ageing process and creates a spiritual liberation (known as ‘mukti‘). The Hatha Yoga techniques in the latest century are the ‘asanas‘ that are popular across the world in the Yogic community as a physical activity for body strength, relaxation, flexibility and also concentration. Colloquially referred as “Yoga” now a days, Hatha Yoga is the like the Great Great Great Grandfather of all the Yoga forms which later developed into many modern styles and movements like the Iyengar Yoga, the Hot Yoga etc.
What does Hatha Yoga include?
Hatha Yoga includes a proper diet which sets us along with the physical activities and which also helps in elevating the processes of purifying the body by cleansing it. It includes body regulation, articulation, proper breathing during the asanas and each exercise routine contains different body postures. The methodology mostly revolves around sequences that include Sun Salutations followed by various asanas for the fluidity in the movement.
Classical Hatha Yoga: History
The classical form of Hatha Yoga is believed to be derived or formed from the textual inscriptions that belonged to 1st millennium BCE. One of the most influential and important texts that has been notified is the Hathapradīpikạ. Compiled by Svātmārāma, a Yogic Scholar back in 15th Century BCE, theses texts are more like Vedanta texts that had a non-dual Shaiva perspective. These texts borrowed the philosophies of 'Advaita', the non-duality.
According to Mallinson, the reliance helped the Hatha Yoga to thrive and to emerge in the Medieval period where 'Advaita' was believed to be the soteriological method in religious living. The Pradipaka as mentioned above lists around 35 Siddhas starting with AdiNatha (Lord Shiv) followed by many others including Gorakshanath and Matsyendranath. In also includes information about six acts for purification of body known as Shatkarma, the 15 Asanas, Pranayama, Meditation, Mudras, Kumbhaka, NadanuSandhana, Kundalini and the Chakras.
Post-Modern Hatha Yoga
The postmodern texts that are found belonged to 1525 BCE with fragments of a manuscript that are found in China near Kuqa, Xinjiang. The text mainly discusses Khecarimudra followed by Hatha Ratnavali, a text that belonged to 17th century which contained a total of 84 asanas, 10 mudras, 8 cleansing methods and few Kumbhakas. The 18th Century text that presented Hatha Yoga as the basic form of the Yoga is the 'Jogpradipaka'; written by Ramanandi Jayatarama which contained 84 asanas, 6 cleansing methods, 8 kumbhakas and 24 different mudras.
Hatha Yoga Vs. Pathanjali Yoga
Hatha Yoga is the Father of the modern yoga types and it shares many doctrines with other yoga types. If you know Patanjali, the widely renowned Yoga type in the latest decade; practiced by Baba Ramdev, it also shares the system taught by him. The few differences between both are created by the different addition, perspective and addition of the limbs. Kundalini and mudras are almost the same in the both sutras. While Patanjali dwells a little less on the asanas when compared to the Hatha Yoga, Hatha Yoga focuses entirely on the physiological methodology of practicing it.
In terms of P.V Kane, Hatha Yoga focuses more on the health of the person while Patanjali Yoga deals with the mind. Most of the people do not identify the distinction between both as there are few texts like Yogatattva Upanishad which includes all the elements and the yogasutras of the Hatha Yoga and Patanjali Yoga together, making it too complicated for people to distinguish both.
Elements of Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga on a whole has a wide range of elements, both practical and behavior. As mentioned above, the texts of Hatha Yoga states that a Hatha Yogi should contain specific characteristics like tyaga (soltitude), utsaha (enthusiasm), dhairya (patience), sahasa (courage), nischaya (resolution), jnana tattva (knowledge) etc. Most of the western countries have understood Hatha Yoga as just the asanas and nothing more. This way of practicing Yoga won't benefit you much as the ancient Indians and Tibetans used to practice. Hatha Yoga extends beyond the physical exercise and is actually an integration of diet, ethics, cleansing, meditation and pranayama.
- Body Cleansing
Known as Mitahara, Hatha Yoga involves measured diet. One should eat moderately while practicing Hatha Yoga to get benefited from it and also to make your body fit and healthy. The eating habits of a person are mainly responsible for the balance of the body and people who eat in an optimized way will be strong and flexible. Eating referred as Gheranda Samhita in Sanskrit is a practice or a devotional act that is to be performed with a dedication to the temple of the body by expressing the same amount of affection and devotion that we express to the gods.
Hatha Yoga teaches body cleansing with the postures. There are different specifications of the cleansing methods that one can find in the Hatha Yoga ranging from the peculiar and hard exercises to the hygiene practices involving reversing the flow of seminal fluid. The most common six cleansing actions are:
- Dhauti (Cleansing teeth)
- Neti (Cleansing nasal ways)
- Vasti (Cleansing bladder)
- Nauli (Cleansing abdomen)
- Trataka (Cleansing eyes)
- Kapala-Bhati (Cleansing phlegm)
The Hatha Yoga texts teach exercises, but they are not called as pranayama. Regardless, they follow the same procedure of intensive breathing with different techniques while performing the posture and is indeed the mainstay of the Hatha Yoga. The breathing also acts as reinforcement in cleansing and balancing the body. Being one of the core practices of Hatha Yoga, it is also referred as one of the main limbs of Hatha Yoga out of four or five as a practice to regulate the inhalation and exhalation of the breath.
Before starting the Yoga practice, one must find a suitable place so that they can practice the Yoga every day. Make sure that this practice is distant from all kinds of distractions and mostly a hermitage, a fireplace or damp surfaces. Once the location has been chosen, the asanas should follow in numerous forms. For a beginner, some of the core asanas might be very hard and extremely uncomfortable to practice which can only be done with extended practice by persistence and repetition. Therefore, the beginner can start with say 10 basic poses and then move deep to explore the total 84 poses of the contemporary era.
Raising vital energies through symbolic gestures was stated to be the main element of Hatha Yoga. The two important energies are the Rajas (Menstrual fluids) and the Bindu (Semen). In the earlier ages, the yogis believed that by increasing these energies one could also enhance the physical essence of the life. Later, the concept of chakras and kundalini were formed, and these exercises were then believed to awaken the kundalini (The serpent goddess) that helps in rejuvenation of the body. The energies that were discussed earlier changed into 'jiva' also known as the life force.
Meditation is the ultimatum of the asanas, pranayama and the cleansing. The aim is to realize the concept of Nada-Brahman, the amalgamation of Brahman in your soul and to awaken it with the inner dwelling mystic sound. Guy Beck, a professor in Religious and Yogic studies, said that a Hatha Yogi should seek an internal union of two opposites and create a samadhi inside to support the divine sounds which are already there.
10 Basic poses of Hatha Yoga
Each subset of the Hatha Yoga has numerous poses that form a routine based on your body's flexibility and ability to perform asanas. In case if you're a beginner, here are the basic ten poses that you should try before you go deeper down the lane.
As the name says, stand placing the feet together while you relax the shoulders. Let the arms be firm at your sides.
- While inhaling, raise the hands over the head while your palms face each other but not are adjoined. Reach the sky and then hold the posture for 30 seconds to 60 seconds.
- While exhaling, lower the arms. Typically, this is the most basic standing asana one can find in Hatha Yoga.
- Start with placing your feet together. Stand straight and put your arms at the side.
- Shift the entire weight onto the left leg and then bend the right knee a little. Now, place the right feet's sole on the inside of the left leg.
- Be sure that your hips are facing forward. Right when you have found the correct balance, move the hands and make a prayer gesture right in front of your chest.
- While inhaling, bring both the arms over the head and hold them for 30 seconds.
- While exhaling, bring them again to the chest.
- Now, try with the opposite leg and repeat it at least for 3-4 times while taking full breathing cycles.
Forward Bend Pose
Also known as the foot base, step to the front of the work area.
- Place your feet at a hip-wide. While inhaling, extend the spine and then exhale while you bend your hips.
- If possible, place the hands beneath the feet so that your toes are touching your palms.
- Tuck the chin and relax your shoulders while performing the asana.
- Hold each posture for 30 seconds to 60 seconds and then repeat it all over again.
There are three different phases of the Warrior pose. The Warrior I is the basic poses. You being with the mountain pose with hands over the head and feet together.
- Now, spread the feet so that you make a gap between them of 3-4 feet wide. Turn the foot (any of them) to 90 degrees.
- While inhaling, relax the shoulders and then start extending the arms to the sides while your palms face the earth.
- Bend the same leg 90 degrees making sure that your knee is not extending the ankle and look over the same arm as the leg that you have bent.
- Hold for a minute and exhale while you release the pose and switch to the opposite side. Repeat the asana for 3-4 times.
Downward Dog Pose
A very prominent Sun Salutation pose, it puts all the parts of the body in work. It is a bit challenging especially when you perform it for a longer period of time.
- Spread the fingers of all the hands and knees on the surface.
- Turn the toes under and start exhaling while you lift the knees from the floor.
- Bent the knees slightly and focus on pushing the heels to the floor.
- Hold for three minutes or at least try to hold them eventually before you bend the knees while inhaling.
Cross Legged Pose
This pose is also known as the Easy pose as it is the easiest that can be practiced.
- Sit on the surface and then cross your legs so that each of the opposite foot is on the knee.
- Relax the feet soon after and put your pelvis in the neutral position.
- Place the hands in the lap with the palms either on the knees or facing the sky.
- Focus on straightening the spine and tailbone while exerting force towards the floor and start taking repetitive deep breath cycles.
- In the second cycle, alternate the legs on the top and the bottom.
Seated Twist Pose
Useful for the increase in circulation, strengthening of the oblique muscles, it also stretches the hips and shoulders. Initially, sit on the floor and extend your legs towards the front.
- Cross the left foot over right thigh and try to place it flat so that each inch of the surface touches the floor.
- Now, bend the right knee and move the right arm towards the extension of the left knee while the right elbow touches the left thigh.
- Twist the entire body towards left and hold the pose for an entire minute while you inhale and exhale.
- Switch to the opposite side, next time.
Staff Pose (Dandasana)
Known for lengthening of the spine, it not only stretches the legs and the back but also helps in cleansing the chest by opening or releasing it.
- Sit on the floor and then extend the legs to the front.
- Place the hands behind precisely at the hip level and point the fingers away from the body.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed while you press the whole chest forward.
- Push the heels away while you pull the toes inside.
Bound Angle Pose
Mostly called as the Butterfly Pose, this pose improves the flexibility of the body.
- Sit on the floor and then start bending the knees.
- After the knees are bent, place the feet close and make sure that your soles are touching each other.
- Now, pull the heels towards inside so that they are close to the pelvis while you keep pressing the knees down to the floor.
- Sit straight, relax the shoulders and then hold the pose, say for a minute while you inhale and exhale.
Bridge Pose is used to stretch the body parts and is best recommended to practice in the morning. It stretches the neck, spine and the chest.
- Lie on your back while you keep your knees bent and make sure that your arms are firm at the sides.
- The soles should be placed flat with every inch touched to the ground.
- Move the heels closer to the glues and while exhaling, press the same feet and arms to the ground while you push the hips upward.
- To gain support, clasp the hands below the pelvis level and lift the chin a bit.
- Keep the shoulder blades pressed down and hold this pose for one minute while you release it on an inhalation rolling the whole spine to the floor.
As mentioned earlier, Hatha Yoga has been in existence for centuries now dating back to the first millennium BCE, but it only gained prominence in this century that there are few apps available on the Google Play Store including a third party app called Hatha Yoga App which enables you to practice the Yoga anytime and anywhere as if there's someone to guide you right beside. Focused more on the physical exercise, one should also know about the other practices of Hatha Yoga that are often forgotten in the western world where the roots are indicated in the spirituality and also the meditative perspective.
The Hatha Yoga forces the person to be in various physical positions that help in release of chakra blockages and allows an enhanced flow of energy which is why people prefer it before they proceed with more evolved or difficult Yoga types. There are many videos available on the internet that can give you a brief idea of the Hatha Yoga and if you subscribe to our website, you can receive more intensive and deeply researched Hatha Yoga Poses, postures, techniques and routines right away.