Hatha Yoga is called physical Yoga. It is one of the oldest and most popular types of Yoga.
Yoga is divided into two great groups: Hatha and Raja. Hatha is physical Yoga, and Raja is mental Yoga. Both are ways to achieve liberation and realization. Hatha Yoga states one must learn to master the body to master the mind. We use Asanas to master the body. Raja Yoga, on the other hand, states one must master the mind to control the body.
Knowing Hatha Yoga’s premise, we can define Hatha Yoga as the set of exercises that seek liberation through mastery of the body by (or including) performing asanas and controlling the breath (Pranayama).
Benefits of Hatha Yoga
1. Increases strength and flexibility for the whole body.
2. Improves lung capacity.
3. Relieves stress.
4. When practiced first thing in the morning, it fills us with energy for the rest of the day.
5. When practiced at the end of the day, it helps us to relax and enjoy a good night sleep.
6. It improves posture.
Hatha Yoga focuses on healing and strengthening the body. There is even a branch of Hatha called therapeutic Yoga which includes postures to eliminate or relieve sciatica pain and correct scoliosis.
General Features of Hatha Yoga
1. Hatha Yoga’s purpose is to obtain spiritual liberation through mastering the body.
2. Asanas are done slowly. They are practiced to achieve better posture, health, and flexibility.
3. You learn several ways to perform yogic breathing or Pranayama.
4. Mudras, or gestures, also are important.
5. Originally, centuries ago, different purification Asanas, Pranayama, and Mudras were performed. Most of these practices are not followed today.
Hatha Yoga Asanas
According to one of the most important books on this branch, the Pradipika, “asanas are practiced to achieve a stable posture, health, and flexibility.”
They are practiced slowly. It is not vital to perform asanas perfectly. It means we can progress slowly at our own pace and do only what we feel comfortable with. What is important is to try and perform as well as possible to get their benefits.
Through time and evolution, the way we do the asanas has changed. In the twentieth century, Iyengar created a method within Hatha Yoga which did seek the perfection the postures.
Some of the most important asanas are:
1. Padmasana (Lotus Pose)
2. Virasana (Hero Pose)
3. Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)
4. Gomukhasana (Cow Pose)
5. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
6. Matsyendrasana (Lord of the Fishes Pose)
7. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend Pose)
8. Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Hatha Yoga Pradipikai
Pradipikai is a classic book and probably the most important book about Hatha Yoga. It is also the oldest Hatha Yoga book known. Pradipikai was written by Swami Suatmarama in the fifteenth century. It was based on his personal experiences and what his teachers to him. It consists of 389 sutras that are divided into four chapters. These are some of the subjects covered in Pradipikai:
1. Asana Collection.
2. What is Pranayama and how to prepare to practice it.
3. Suatmarama talks about how to awaken kundalini, mudras, and bandhas.
4. The chakras.
Types of Hatha Yoga
There are different styles that have been born from Hatha’s practices and principles. These are:
2. Ashtanga: This style is the precursor of Vinyasa Power Yoga