‘Haṭha’ yoga is the branch of yoga that currently enjoys widespread popularity all over the world and is characterised by an emphasis on physical postures (asanas) and breathing exercises (pranayama.)
Hatha Yoga means means ‘harnessing of force’ and it incorporates a wide array of physical practices such as ‘Shatkarma’ (cleansing techniques), ‘Asana’ (postures), and ‘Pranayama’ (control of the breath and vital energy.)
Hatha Yoga originated in Tantra and asceticism and is at least a thousand years old. Early Hatha yogis such as Matsyendra and Goraknath developed a system focusing on practices that utilize the body as a tool and vehicle for self-realisation. The ultimate goal of Hatha yoga is the awakening and ascension of spiritual energy called Kundalini shakti.
Hatha Yoga exeter
There are a number of traditional texts on Hatha yoga, but the most significant and influencial is the Hatha Yoga Pradpika by Svatmarama (approx 1350.) Other key texts include the Shiva Samhita and Gheranda Samhita.
Within Hatha yoga today there are lots of different schools, traditions and styles: such as Ashtanga, Sivananda, Vinyasa and Anusara. Although these are all slightly different approaches that may incorporate techniques from other yoga paths, they are all essentially Hatha Yoga.
‘Ha’ symbolises Sun and represents the physical body.
‘Tha’ symbolises Moon and represents the subtle mind.
Therefore, Hatha Yoga can be translated as:
‘The Union of the Body with the Mind.’
When mind and body are in harmony we are able to experience a greater sense of peace, clarity and good health. From this platform we are able to work towards ultimate liberation. The goal of Hatha Yoga, as with all paths of yoga is self-realisation and freedom from suffering.
What to expect in a Hatha Yoga class:
A Hatha yoga class will typically involve some breathing practices, some stretching, and holding of asanas (postures.) There will usually be a relaxation at the end. Although there are many styles of Hatha Yoga to choose from, often a class is simply described as being “Hatha Yoga.’ This usually indicates a more traditional approach in which postures may be held for a bit longer but the pace and approach is a little bit more gentle than some of the modern styles.