The word Hatha comes from the Sanskrit Ha, which means Sun and Tha, which means Moon. Hatha Yoga is usually defined as the practice of various postures or asanas to achieve the balance between our masculine energy (Ha) and our feminine energy (Tha).
But what is authentic Hatha Yoga?
We should not stay on the physical plane of Hatha Yoga. It is not just a series of postures, more or less complicated, that gives us flexibility and muscular firmness. Hatha Yoga is much more. It is the preparation of our body to increase its energy level. By practicing this science, one can change and improve his/her way of thinking, feeling and experiencing life. Through Hatha Yoga it is intended to create a body that is not an obstacle in your life but a springboard for spiritual growth.
Literally, Hatha can be translated as tenacity. And it is precisely this, the indispensable quality to achieve the fundamental objective of this practice: transform and adapt our body to increase its energy capacity.
It is difficult to establish the exact origin of Hatha Yoga. Nath's school is commonly considered as the initiator of this practice. It was created by Adinath in the third century A.D. According to tradition, it was Shiva himself who transmitted the basics of Hatha Yoga. The practices evolved over time, and Goraksha, from Nath's own school, is considered the forerunner of what we now consider Hatha Yoga.
The practice of yoga is an ancestral tradition in the East, but it was not until the end of the 19th century, when it was extended to the West. It was without a doubt, thanks to Swami Vivekanda, who, fulfilling his vital purpose, was responsible for spreading the practice of Hatha Yoga throughout the rest of the world.
Currently, Hatha Yoga has derived some styles such as Yoga Iyengar, Kundalini Yoga, Bikram Yoga and some more, which although it may have different approaches, everyone has in common the fundamentals of Hatha Yoga as it always has been.
Origin of Hatha Yoga
The ascetic tradition arose at the borders of India and Nepal, and the aspects that became part of the Hindu tradition, such as reincarnation and karma, were fundamental to his thinking.
These ascetics were the first original Hatha yogis, and their practices were oriented to two fundamental purposes: burn past karma and refine the body and mind. In order to perfect the body and the senses, these Hatha yogis performed extraordinary practices, such as holding their arms in the air for hours, immersing themselves in cold water, never sitting down (even to sleep), staying on one leg, or carrying out what is known as the "penance of the bat", hanging upside down.
Benefits of Hatha Yoga
The benefits of practicing Hatha Yoga are countless. There are scientific studies that ratify many of the benefits provided by its practice.
Hatha Yoga practice provides greater mental control, which improves our ability to react to stress situations.
Reduction of anxiety and depression:
It gives us a sense of calm that helps us mitigate the states of anxiety or depression.
Improvement in body health:
The transformation that our body experiences with the practice of Hatha Yoga, results in the better functioning of all our organs and an improvement in our lymphatic system.
Improving the quality of sleep:
It has been shown that people who practice yoga improve the quality of their sleep, thanks to the energy balance it provides.
Undoubtedly one of the best known benefits of its practice is the physical improvement that it brings us, thanks to the toning and strengthening of our muscles.
Improvement of flexibility and balance:
The different postures that are performed give us better control of our own body, gaining elasticity and increasing our balance.
Strengthening of the spine:
The spine is the way of distributing of our energy. That is why, the practice of Hatha Yoga is oriented in it’s strengthening to improve the distribution of energy throughout our body. This is achieved by reduction in frequent back and neck pain.
Hatha Yoga postures
Most of the Hatha Yoga postures that we know today, did not exist until the popularization that yoga experienced in the last 50 years. The ancient asanas were not simply postures of the body, but mudras, intended to channel the energy within our body.
The texts collected in Hatha Yoga Pradipika can be considered as the anthology of the first positions of Hatha Yoga. They identify the three fundamental elements of Hatha Yoga: asanas (postures), pranayama (breath control) and dhyana (meditation).
Fifteen main positions are included, seven of which are seated and eight are not seated, in addition to a set of additional positions, up to a total of 84 asanas.
This is the first time we know that an asana reinvents itself as more than a sitting position to meditate. After all, the word asana means "seat," specifically a seat for meditation. The number 84 is frequently used in spiritual practices, representing a connection between the person and the rest of the universe.
These sacred positions have evolved during the last years, and today we have a multitude of positions, from the simplest to the most challenging for our flexibility.
Another fundamental element of Hatha Yoga is breath control, known as Pranayama. The word Prana refers to our vital energy and the word Yama means to charge. And that is exactly what we do when practicing Hatha Yoga, charging our vital energy. This is why it is essential to run the asanas with the proper breathing cycles.
But let's not forget what the ultimate goal of Hatha Yoga was, to connect with the universe. All practices focus on preparing our body and mind to reach a state of energy that facilitates this connection with the rest of the Universe. And this is exactly what we do during meditation, connect and merge with everything around us.
Hatha Yoga entails transformation
Although the origin of Hatha Yoga is not known precisely and even despite the multitude of ways in which yoga has evolved during history, one thing is certain: hatha yoga practices produce changes. This has always been its foundation.
Hatha Yoga modifies how we feel not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. It can improve feelings of happiness and well-being, help release sadness and grief, and encourage relaxation and dynamism.
Although not all of us can become ascetics and renounce worldly responsibilities in favor of the practice of yoga, we can use our yoga practice to be more connected, vital and committed to the world in which we live.
Is Hatha Yoga for everyone?
Hatha Yoga can be practiced by anyone, but it is very important to stay in the hands of an experienced teacher who is responsible for guiding you during the exercises to avoid the appearance of injuries.
In addition, as previously mentioned, Hatha Yoga is more than postures, so you do not have to worry about your level of flexibility, since the meditation and breathing part is equally relevant.
In the courses of yoga teacher in Kavaalya in Goa (India) you will learn, from the hand of native teachers, the basics of Hatha Yoga. These programs are intended for those who want to develop their career as yoga teachers or also for those who simply want to deepen their practice and knowledge.