Chances are, the Yoga you and everyone else you know who is into yoga, have been practicing some style of Hatha yoga. In fact, any type of yoga that includes bodily postures and/or breathing techniques is Hatha Yoga.
What is the meaning of Hatha?
The word Hatha in Sanskrit literally means force or power, implying a practice requiring work on your part which is intended to liberate the dormant energies inside you. Also, the word Hatha is a combination of two separate "bija mantras" or single syllables. "Ha" represents the vital life force, pranic energy or sun/stimulating energy, "tha" represents mind, mental or moon/calming energy according to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of the oldest and primary texts on Hatha Yoga. Yogis also translate "Ha" as the masculine or solar energy and "tha" as the feminine or lunar energy. Regardless, the point is that through this practice we bring balance to two opposing forces.
Nature of Hatha Yoga Class
Most Hatha Yoga classes focus on asana or physical posture. Some with a strong emphasis on physical alignment to keep your body safe and injury free. Others focus on flowing from one asana to another to build stamina, strength and heat. While others have a more mellow approach to restore the practitioner and reduce the wear and tear of life on the body.
History and Components of Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga comes from Nath sect of Shaiva Agama/Tantric tradition started around 1000AD. There are few authoritative scriptural texts available on Hatha Yoga. Based on personal experiences and teachings of his masters, Swami Svatmarama (1600AD) realized that, it was not easy for everyone to sit into meditation. So, he compiled a book called “Hatha Yoga Pradipika”. This was a Tantric approach to yoga. In which first 2 limbs of classical Yoga - Ashtanga Yoga were ignored. Asana of Hatha Yoga is much more than just the literal definition of Asana (to seat) of Raja Yoga. Today, Hatha Yoga is more popular in many different style and forms which works as a ladder to climb the lofty heights of Raja Yoga. All practices of Hatha Yoga are for the attainment of Raja Yoga.
Hatha Yoga means forceful yoga or Yoga by force. The book has four chapters - 1. Asana 2. Shatkarma and Pranayama 3. Mudra and Bandha 4. Samadhi, but it covers 10 different topics or components of Hatha Yoga. They are the following
1. Asana - Yogic positions or postures
2. Pranayama - Breathing exercises
3. Chakras - Nexus of Metaphysical and/or biophysical energy
4. Kundalini - Coiled up energy originating from base of the spine
5. Bandhas – Binding of energy from leaking out
6. Kriyas – Literal meaning is action, but different school of yoga defines it differently
7. Shakti – Potential to produce or use energy
8. Nadis – Literal meaning is nerves, veins constitute channels of flow of vital force
9. Mudras – Gestures made with the hand or fingers (Just imagine Buddha)
10. Samadhi – Super-conscious state leading to salvation