By Swami Premajyoti
Hatha Yoga has been practiced and prescribed for those who seek a fuller, more energized and harmonious life, since the times of the early Indian Yogis and Sages.
It is an ancient, continuously taught and practiced system of postures, cleansing techniques, breath-work and meditation that brings about ongoing purification and balance to the entire human being.
The Brain, nerves, organs, tissues and muscles are all toned and strengthened through Hatha Yoga practices. It is considered by many to be a foundation of their health, growth and creativity. It may be practiced as a daily personal routine or simply once a week in a class. Both approaches are highly beneficial.
One of the wonderful things about Hatha Yoga is that its benefits are stored in each person’s system and those benefits add up in a cumulative way. It has been said that ‘in yoga, nothing is ever wasted’. Basically, any and all sincere practice adds up to something good!
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a term that encompasses a great depth and breadth of physical and spiritual practices and it translates to mean ‘Yoke’ or to unite. When true yoga is occurring, the practitioner experiences a deep connection both within and outwardly to nature, the universe, source, all that there is. The field of yoga always has, and continues to evolve and there are sometimes strong opinions shared about what constitutes ‘yoga’ and what may not. However, yoga has been birthed from unchanging universal principles, the ‘truth’ of yoga alway remains – ready to reveal itself to those who seek it most sincerely. As the great Yogi, Paramahansa Yoganada once said, ‘The truth is not afraid of questions’
So, what is ‘Hatha Yoga’ ?
‘Hatha’ is a Sanskrit word made up of two sacred syllables. Ha – Relating to sun energy – mental energy and Tha – Relating to the moon energy – vital energy. In yoga, sun energy is considered masculine and moon energy is considered feminine. According to yogic science, all human beings hold both masculine and feminine energy and when we as human beings are in a state of harmony, this is largely due to a good balance between our sun/masculine and moon/feminine energies.
The power of Hatha Yoga
At a very refined level, Hatha Yoga works to purify, enliven and strengthen the two main mental and vital energy systems. These very subtle energies within us move through channels even finer than our nerves called Nadis, and they are the background power source responsible for the way the rest of our more detectable energetic system operates. Hatha Yoga is masterful, systematic, and for many a spiritual practice. It works simultaneously on many layers of our system. For example, when a classical Hatha Yoga posture such as Sumeru Asana (Downward Facing Dog) is held for a period of time and includes a full concentration and awareness of breath, the practitioner is working
- Strengthening their bones (due to weight baring)
- Purifying the subtle energetic system through breath awareness
- Toning the lungs through the depth of breath
- Improving concentration through focus
- Uniting with the inner workings of the self, which would be the ‘Yoga’ of that posture.
In our present time
In our post-moderg age, rather than being a style of yoga as such, Hatha Yoga describes any kind of yoga where poses (asanas) are practiced, this would include Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Iyenger yoga to name a few popular styles.
Hatha yoga has developed in the western world into a style of yoga that is widely practiced. Classes described as Hatha Yoga would tend to be approachable posture based practice, with a focus on alignment, the breath, and physical and mental benefits of each pose – making Hatha a great choice for a novice yogi.
Hatha Yoga can be enjoyed by everybody as it can easily be tailored to the individual needs of each person. All people can have a profound experience of yoga no matter what their age, level of experience or level of fitness. Hatha Yoga is for anyone and everyone who wishes to enhance their health, strength and reach deeper levels of balance, harmony, joy and bliss. A thoroughly approachable yoga practice with ancient roots that continues to stand the test of time.