When you think about Hatha Yoga, it is rare that two people will come up with the same definition based on their experience in modern-day classes. However, yoga as we know it today owes a lot to the original Hatha Yoga discipline.
In a world filled with hundreds of different kinds of yoga practices, we can often be confused or misled by contrasting articles and frivolous Instagram posts. There are so many studios that take their own creative spin to a certain style of yoga that it may only loosely resemble the foundation and roots of it. This can be confusing and often times frustrating when trying to find a style you may love and enjoy.
From personal experience, I entered one studio expecting a traditional Hatha yoga class only to find myself in a class that was more similar to a Bikram-style class than anything else. Fear not, because there are still studios that stick to the traditional, tried and true styles of yoga. If you call a studio ahead of time to ask about their classes, they will often be able to describe how they interpret a particular style.
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The Hatha Yoga Tradition
Hatha is a deep practice that has been traced back to India as early as the 15th century. Though many kinds of yoga trace back to India, Hatha is one specific kind. The Hatha Yoga practice also serves as a basis for many other types of yoga.
When the word Hatha is broken down in Hindu, it has two meanings: Ha, meaning sun, and Tha, which means moon. Hatha yoga is a balance of male and female, light and dark, aggressive and intuitive. The idea is that the male aspect is the physical component to the practice. It is hot and aggressive in action just as the male gender is perceived to be. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is the woman. Just as the female gender is seen, it is all absorbing and intuitive.
For many, the mental aspect of Hatha yoga is more challenging than the poses themselves. By balancing the two contrasting elements, it is said to opening up pathways within the body to help the practitioner go into another world, and more spiritual and worldly one.
What is Hatha Yoga?
The Hatha style is one of the most widely practiced and well known styles of yoga. Most classes of the Western world are of the Hatha style or are loosely based on it. A key aspect of Hatha Yoga is the focus on locating and opening chakras. This in turn, connects you with a higher spiritual power which can clear the body of blockages and ailments which may disrupt energy flow.
This style of yoga balances emphasis on the psychical practice as well as a mental one. The use of postures, also known as asanas, are combined with mindful awareness of breath to create a full and whole practice. The physical poses encourage the yogi to practice patience and endurance while on the mat. Simultaneously, the focus of breath and clearing of the mind keeps the ones psyche active without losing focus on the task at hand.
A key component of Hatha Yoga, as well as many others, is staying focused on the present rather than thinking about the pile of work you may have waiting for you at home or the grocery shopping you may have to do.
Modern-Day Hatha Yoga
In the west, Hatha Yoga is widely popular, but is often seen more as pure exercise rather than a mental release and focus. As a result, Hatha is not quite what is originally was. A revised version of Hatha has crept into studios and is known as Hatha Flow. Because this term is so open, it is often used to describe any flow that breaks off from a traditional practice. However, often times it closely resembles what is known as Vinyasa, despite most studios offering both classes separately.
Most of the time, Hatha will be the gentler of the two. While Hatha can be a good practice to get your sweat on, it is often suggested to be best for beginners or someone who is exploring many different kinds of practices to see which they like best. All in all, the Hatha practice has the purpose and goal to align and calm the body in. No matter what kind of yoga you may chose, it is all based on mindfulness and being aware of your surroundings with yourself as a small part of it rather than the main idea. Not only will you gain harmony mentally, but physically as well.
Though yoga’s original purpose was not to lose weight and look aesthetically better, it is something that can be a result of doing yoga. If you feel confident in your own skin, and feel good when you’re awake and active, you’ll think clearer and will have an open mind that is ready for hurdles and challenges you may face in day to day life.
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