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What is Hatha Yoga?

What is Hatha Yoga?

By: Joanna-MariaComments: 0

Hatha yoga, what exactly is this? What should you keep in mind with this yoga style? How does Hatha yoga differ from other forms of yoga?

Among all the new yoga styles, Hatha yoga keeps popping up. We remove all the riddles surrounding this form of yoga, so that you know exactly what to expect during your yoga class.

The origin of Hatha Yoga

To properly understand Hatha yoga, we must first delve into the history of yoga. Hatha yoga is the most ancient yoga style from which many other yoga styles are derived.

It is not clear exactly where and when Hatha Yoga originated, but we do know that its origins lie in ancient Indian texts, such as the Upanishads and the Yoga Sutras, both of which were written before the beginning of our era.

In the centuries that passed, Hatha yoga was mainly practiced by monks who needed mild exercise in addition to a lot of meditation (and as preparation for meditation). What is special about this is that Hatha Yoga is an open movement without a founder or guru. This almost never happens with the new types of yoga.

In the period between the 6th and 15th centuries, Hatha Yoga took more form. It became an increasingly clear system of lifestyle habits and exercises to promote physical and mental health. The emphasis was mainly on performing physical exercises (asana) and breathing techniques (pranayama).

Around the fifteenth century, important texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Gheranda Samhita were written that further developed this system. These texts form an important basis for practice to this day.

But Hatha Yoga was passed on over the centuries not only through written texts, but mainly through practical instruction and transmission from teacher to student.

T. Krishnamacharya, a 20th century yoga teacher, is considered the father of modern Hatha Yoga, due to his systematic approach and dissemination of the teachings. Today, Hatha Yoga is one of the most popular yoga styles worldwide, with various movements and derivative yoga styles that build on classical traditions.

Hatha Yoga is also one of the first yoga styles to be offered in the Netherlands, around 1946. Although yoga is now more popular than ever, this shows that we have been doing yoga in our country for quite a long time.

Hatha Yoga

What is Hatha Yoga?

Hatha Yoga, which means "sun" (ha) and "moon" (tha) in Sanskrit, is actually a general term for a broad movement of yoga styles that focus on the body and breathing.

  • The sun represents action, fiery and masculine.
  • The moon represents internalization, calming and feminine.

Within Hatha the characteristics of the sun and the moon come together.

In short, Hatha yoga is the basis of sutras three and four within the Yoga Sutras.  Patanjali's yoga sutras can be seen as the golden rules of yoga.  There are a total of 8 rules of life that you should strive for both physically and mentally. Sutra three is about Asana (physical movement) and sutra four about Pranayama (correct breathing).

What is the purpose of Hatha yoga?

The goal of Hatha Yoga is to bring body and mind into balance. By harmonizing the solar and lunar energies in the body, Hatha Yoga helps achieve a deeper state of consciousness and spiritual growth. In essence, it is a path to enlightenment and self-realization.

This is of course a wonderful goal and something we should all want to pursue. Yet many people do not practice Hatha yoga for these reasons. In fact, some don't even know that this is the ultimate goal of Hatha yoga and that you could achieve it at all.

Nowadays, Hatha yoga is mainly known as a yoga style that:

  • Makes you more flexible and physically stronger
  • Helps you learn to reduce stress and anxiety
  • Has a positive effect on your digestion
  • Helps to sleep better
  • Gives more energy
  • Strengthens your immune system
  • Strengthens your sense of well-being
  • Provides inner peace
  • Increases your inner balance and stability

Not bad either of course ;-)

And even if you practice Hatha yoga regularly, without a clearly defined goal, you will notice that you gradually have more balance in life.

Hatha Yoga Blog

Asana – the yoga postures

During a Hatha Yoga class, the teacher's role is to provide direction and energy. The teacher does not teach you to perform the postures perfectly, but encourages you to look inward during the postures and observe what is happening in your body and mind. The poses are therefore performed more calmly than in many other forms of yoga.

This form of guidance is often not what we are used to or even what we would like. You want to know whether you are performing the yoga postures correctly, right? But right or wrong are matters of the ego and within Hatha yoga you want to let go of this.

Hatha yoga is about letting go of your thoughts about how things should be, observing and letting what happens happen. If the yoga teacher is too present, you will be taken out of concentration and you will be more concerned with the outside world than with your own inner self.

Pranayama – The breathing techniques

You bring together and create a connection between body and mind by combining yoga postures with breathing exercises and techniques (pranayama). The breathing techniques ensure that you are aware of your breathing and what it can do for you. You will also learn:

  • To provide energy
  • Streamline energy
  • Or just release energy

During Hatha yoga, for example, you learn the difference between abdominal and chest breathing. You will also learn more about the levels of the breath, how to control it and how you can pause here. These breathing exercises and techniques ensure a good balance between our two hemispheres.

Hatha Yoga

The difference between Hatha and other yoga styles

Hatha yoga is not a clearly defined yoga style, but can be seen more as a broad river from which many other yoga styles are branches. The big difference between Hatha yoga and the more modern (flow) yoga styles that you often encounter today is that with Hatha yoga the emphasis is (even) more on inner peace and the focus inward.

Because the teacher will give you few external adjustments and instructions for each posture, Hatha Yoga is a style that you can practice easily and comfortably at home. (You do need your own yoga mat for this).

With other (flow) yoga styles, you get a lot of strength and energy from the group by practicing flow together, and you usually also need more physical instructions from the teacher.

Hatha Yoga is the mother of many types of yoga

Many yoga styles have emerged from Hatha Yoga, especially in the last century, that you encounter today in all kinds of yoga studios. They each have their own focus and identity, and often also their own founder.

Some well-known derived styles are:

  • Iyengar Yoga: Made famous by B.K.S. Iyengar. This style emphasizes precision and alignment in asanas using props such as yoga blocks, straps and blankets. The focus is on refining postures to achieve optimal benefits and heal and prevent injuries.
  • Ashtanga Yoga: Originally developed by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. This powerful yoga style follows a fixed set of asanas in a structured order. Ashtanga Yoga's six series become increasingly challenging, making it a popular choice for experienced yogis looking to take their practice to the next level. Ashtanga is more intense than most other Hatha Yoga styles, making it a good workout.
  • Power Yoga & Vinyasa Flow: Inspired by Ashtanga Yoga, Power Yoga emphasizes strength, endurance and fluidity of movement. The classes are usually vigorous and energetic, with a focus on building muscle strength and burning calories.
  • Yin Yoga: Unlike more dynamic yoga styles, Yin Yoga focuses on deep relaxation and connective tissue activation. Postures are held passively for extended periods of time (often 3-5 minutes), releasing tension and achieving deep rest.

In addition to these examples mentioned, there are numerous other yoga forms derived from Hatha Yoga, each with their unique focus and style. From Hot Yoga, Restorative Yoga and Jivamukti Yoga to Acro Yoga and even Goat Yoga, there is sure to be a Hatha Yoga variation that is perfect for your needs and preferences.

Hatha yoga is seen as the basis of all these other yoga styles. It is actually a bit like the mother of yoga. No matter how many children and grandchildren she has, ultimately the foundation lies with her.

How can you start Hatha Yoga?

If you are looking for an accessible and effective way to strengthen your body and mind, Hatha Yoga or one of its many derivative yoga forms may be the perfect choice for you. The only way to find out is to give it a try!

The best thing is if you can learn it directly from a teacher: From a good teacher you will receive personal guidance, motivation and feedback on points that you may not be aware of. And you have plenty of opportunity to ask questions.

Hopefully you have someone like that nearby.  But is that unexpectedly not the case, or have you become so curious that you want to try out Hatha Yoga right away? Fortunately, there is also a lot to be found online. All you need is your laptop (or tablet) and a yoga mat.

For example, this is a great lesson to get started with right away.

We hope that with this blog we have inspired you to give Hatha Yoga a try. And who knows, this might become 'your style'!  With regular practice and dedication, you will enjoy the many benefits of this ancient yoga tradition.


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