The Essence of Hatha Yoga

More than 2000 years ago sage Patanjali created a guideline for Yogis and spiritual seekers by writing his Yogasutras. Meanwhile Hatha Yoga has arrived in almost every gym and sport club without people guessing what deeper sense could be hidden behind the fancy names on the course schedule.

Hatha Yoga as a harmonic balance

The term Hatha can be translated with power. In this content there can be differed between the masculine sunpower known as HA and the more female moon energy which is called THA. Hatha Yoga aims on creating a harmonic balance between those two energies by using physical methods which can be basically distincted into asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (in this content described as breathing exercises). The main tool for those practices is the physical body. That is why nowadays Hatha Yoga is used to describe diverse physical forms of Yoga or the acrobatics we might perform on the mat.

Hatha Yoga as a spiritual upgrade

Every traditional yoga form aims on spiritual growth which should guide the practioner to illumination. While other ancient yoga forms like Karma, Bhakti oder Jnana Yoga emphasise on personal development, god prayers or intellectual knowledge Hatha Yoga uses the body to expand the spiritual conscious.

As a pre-stage of Raja Yoga the flow of life force called prana is stimulated by breath control and practising asana. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is known to be one of the benchmarks in yoga history and also focuses on shatkryias (cleansing techniques) in order to protect the body from diseases. The main message of Hatha Yoga is that the body should be seen as the home of the soul which must be maintained clean and  pure.

Hatha Yoga as meditation warm up

Anyhow Hatha Yoga should not be treated as a replacement for sports or gymnastics. Of corse the complex postures in Yoga demand for a but still the intention is to prepare the body for meditation. Only if we are able to sit in silence the mind can calm down and create space for spiritual growth.

If you have ever sat more than five minutes in a meditation seat you probably know how quickly you’ll notice pain or discomfort in your legs and the back. An undisturbed meditation therefore requires flexibility in the hips and a strong spine so you can sit in a straight seat for a longer period of time.

Hatha Yoga as a mat workout

In the ancient literature you’ll find only few asanas which are clearly aiming at this purpose. But where do all the fancy poses that we know from Instagram come from? One of the pioneers who is significantly responsible for the development of the modern Yogaworld is known as BKS Iyengar. Even a whole yoga style was named after him. Iyengar Yoga is well known for its precise adjustments. That is why they use a lot of probs such as blocks, belts or even special chairs in class. In general sun salutations and other forms of modern Yoga movements are aiming at a flexible spine, open hips and a strong back.

The postures Iyengar presents at his book Light on Hatha Yoga might seem utopian to the average westerner. Nevertheless this should not hold one back in terms of personal development since those asanas have once been created on the model of an Indian conditioned body. One of my favorite quotes from Swami Vivekananda the author of the collected book The Complete Book of Yoga claims: “There is no teacher but your own soul.”

 

 

Literature:

Hatha Yoga – Das komplette Buch. Martina Mittag.

Light on Hatha Yoga. BKS Iyengar.

Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Swatmarama.

Patanjalis Yogasutra.

The Complete Book of Yoga. Swami Vivekananda.

 

Photos from:

Hatha Yoga – Das komplette Buch. Martina Mittag.

Erschienen: Mai 2018 im Meyer & Meyer Verlag.

Soon available in English!

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