Do you know what the word Hatha means?
Updated: Dec 23, 2022
Hatha Yoga is a practice of using the body to transcend the body.
In the approximate 5,000 year history of Yoga there was an evolution, or a branch, in the Yoga tradition which started about 1,000 years ago - Hatha Yoga. Up until that point Yoga was more oriented toward working with the mind for transcendence and union with the divine.
Hatha Yoga created more of a focus on working with the body through physical Asanas (postures), Pranayama (breath), Mudras (gestures), Bandhas (energetic locks), and Kriyas (cleansing techniques), as an extension of Patanjali's 8 limbs to eventually reach Samadhi (enlightenment).
Up until that point there were only a handful of documented Asanas which were primarily seated positions used for meditation. Later, text called the Hatha Yoga Pradapika (11th to 15th century) documented 84 Asanas.
Of course, Asanas have evolved tremendously since then (with well over 1,000 documented Asanas nowadays!) but essentially ALL of the physical Asanas we do today are dervied from Hatha Yoga.
In modern studios you will see classes called Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin, etc which tend to describe a certain style, pace, or energetic output of practicing Asana. We tend to associate Hatha Yoga nowadays as a more gentle, slow paced style of Asana, Vinyasa as a more energetic flowing style of Asana, and Yin as a slow, restorative, and nurturing style of Asana.
However, the word Hatha has been defined as ‘Ha’ representing the sun, and ‘tha’ the moon and Hatha yoga is about balancing the body and mind with the duality of energies. Literally, Hatha actually means ‘force’ and is more traditionally defined as ‘the yoga of force’, or ‘the means of attaining a state of yoga through force’. So Hatha yoga can be considered as anything you might do with the body.
According to Sadhguru, "Hatha yoga is just one more doorway to ultimate liberation, but it is physical in nature. If you are in good physical condition, it is an effortless and beautiful way to go. If you have asana siddhi, which means you can stay in a posture comfortably and stably for long periods of time, meditation will be effortless. If you struggle with meditation, it is because certain parts of the body and certain aspects of the mind do not cooperate as they should."
Whether you're practicing Yoga in Wollongong or in an ashram in India, there are so many styles and modalities to practice Yoga, but one thing they all have in common is an intention to connect with the deepest levels of the Self.
About the Author:
Jason has been teaching Yoga in Wollongong since 2019 and began teaching Yoga after his teacher training at Yoga Six in San Diego California in 2017. He has since completed a Diploma of Remedial Massage Therapy and is passionate about creating and facilitating space for growth, transformation, and overall wellbeing. He primarily teaches Vinyasa Yoga, and offers Massage treatments designed for Yogis to embody their breath, improve posture, and soothe the nervous system.