Lady practicing the yoga posture gomukhasana

What is Hatha Yoga?

November 19, 2021

What is Hatha Yoga?

Hatha Yoga is a traditional form of yoga. The words translate from Sanskrit in the following way Ha – Sun, Tha – Moon and Yoga means to join or fuse. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root word yuj which translates to mean to yoke. “With force” is another translation of the word hatha. However, bearing both these translations in mind, it is widely accepted that hatha yoga is the practice of balancing all opposing forces within the body through the physical practices of yoga.

Traditionally all physical practices of yoga fell under the hatha umbrella. A hatha class brings many benefits through regular practise, this style of yoga develops breath awareness, mindful movement, relaxation techniques and meditation practices.

Hatha yoga usually contains all the elements that form a traditional yoga practice. It is not unusual for hatha to be regarded as a gentler practice suitable for all levels including beginners. It is usually less demanding than a vinyasa style yoga class, partly because a vinyasa class focusses on continued movement throughout the class as much as possible. Hatha moves slowly through a selection of postures taking time to hold each posture and bring awareness to both breath and alignment. It is possible to incorporate vinyasa within a traditional hatha class, however, this is usually done within the standing postures and would not be the only focus of the session.

There are four main paths of yoga these are Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga.

  • Karma Yoga is the yoga of action and selfless service.
  • Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion.
  • Jnana Yoga is the yoga of wisdom and knowledge.
  • Raja Yoga is the yoga of meditation.

Hatha yoga falls under the Raja yoga path. The early Sage’s and Rishi’s engaged in the practise of hatha yoga to help them meditate for extended periods of time. Lengthy meditation was required to obtain higher levels of awareness and a sense of connection with the universal energy. Hatha yoga helped these early practitioners to free the body of aches and pains, eliminate minor illnesses and clear the mind so that meditation was more achievable.  Hatha yoga also aims to integrate The Eight Limbs of Yoga, which are recorded in yoga’s earliest written record of yoga “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”.

Although hatha yoga today might seem like a physical practice, the roots of the practice extend back thousands of years to the early practitioners. This is why today a hatha practice is regarded as a traditional practice containing asana (postures), pranayama (restraint and expansion of vital life force), dhyana (meditation) and of course relaxation helping body and mind reach and maintain optimum levels of health and vitality.

The Yoga 2 Hear Hatha Yoga Volume 1 introduces some of the practices of Hatha Yoga it is a general level class suitable for all.

This blog article was written by Sue Fuller creator of the Yoga 2 Hear range of audio yoga classes and yoga teacher training courses. 

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