Hatha Yoga – Origin, Benefits and Asanas
Hatha yoga is the yoga tradition most familiar to Western culture. The term is derived from the Sanskrit ha, meaning “sun,” and tha, meaning “moon.” The practice aims to unite the active and receptive qualities represented by each celestial being.
Hatha yoga is a branch of yoga. In India, hatha yoga is associated with popular tradition with the Yogis of the Natha Sampradaya through its traditional founder Matsyendranath. Almost all Hatha yogic texts belong to the Nath Siddhas and the important ones are credited to Matsyendranath’s disciple, Gorakhnath or Gorakshanath.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Origin of Hatha Yoga
- 2 - History of Hatha Yoga
- 3 - Aim of Hata Yoga
- 4 - Harmony in Body
- 5 - Characteristics of Hatha Yoga
- 6 - How to do Hatha yoga
- 7 - Benefits of doing Hatha Yoga
- 8 - What is Asana?
- 9 - Asanas of Hatha Yoga
- 9.1 - Swastikaashana
- 9.2 - Gomukhaasana
- 9.3 - Veerasana
- 9.4 - Sirsasana
- 9.5 - Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
- 9.6 - Plough Pose (Halasana)
- 9.7 - Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
- 9.8 - Sitting Forward Bend Pose (Paschimottanasana)
- 9.9 - Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
- 9.10 - Locust Pose (Shalabhasana)
- 9.11 - Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- 9.12 - Half Spinal Twist Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
- 9.13 - Crow Pose (Kakasana)
- 9.14 - Peacock Pose (Mayurasana)
- 9.15 - Standing Forward Bend (Pada Hasthasana)
- 9.16 - Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Origin of Hatha Yoga
Hatha yoga has changed a lot since its conception. When Hatha yoga was made, it was a total life philosophy that incorporated how we relate to our world, to ourselves, and how we can attain inner peace. Most people agree that the original writings were Patanjali Maharishi’s yoga sutras, 196 sutras written in Sanskrit in around 400 AD.
Patanjali describes hatha yoga as consisting of eight limbs, or disciplines, and referred to it as the eightfold path. Other texts over the years have referred to hatha yoga, but Patanjali’s sutras are the most recognized. Two well-known schools of yoga were derived directly from Patanjali’s sutras: the schools of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who taught in India from 1924 until his death in 1989, and Swami Sivananda, who died in 1963.
Today’s modern styles, including ashtanga, Iyengar, yin, power, vinyasa, restorative, Jivamukti, Kundalini, moksha, and Bikram, have these two teachers as their origin. Most students are unaware of Patanjali’s sutras, preferring to have yoga serve a more pragmatic function in their lives without having to delve too deeply into its history or philosophy. Modern-day hatha yoga has adapted to this demand, with studios that cater to peoples’ busy schedules by offering most or all of their classes on a drop-in basis and spending much more time on yoga as a physical exercise, and less on the other aspects.
History of Hatha Yoga
Hatha yoga has been around for thousands and thousands of years. Some people believe the tradition to be 5,000 years old while others think it dates back as many as 10,000 years ago. This great disparity in time is due to the fact that when yoga was first being practiced, there was no written word, no paper, no way of transmission other than the spoken word.
Hatha Yoga’s long rich history can be divided into four main periods of innovation, practice, and development such as:
The practice was also quite mysterious and secretive. It’s said that some of the very earliest teachings were written on flimsy palm leaves, which were, of course, not easy to preserve.
We do know that what researchers call “pre-classical yoga” began around 5,000 years ago in northern India among the Indus-Sarasvati people. The “Rig Veda” came to be during this time, and it’s the most ancient text that records the word, “yoga.
We come to what yoga researchers call the “classical yoga” time period. This is when Patanjali and his YogaSutras were written. We reference these sutras often even today and because we do, Patanjali is sometimes known as the father of modern yoga.
This is when what we think of as Hatha yoga made its way into the world. Naturally, the Hatha yoga practice branched off in many different directions and in the past few hundred years. We’ve seen the greatest number of branching off as it has gained popularity.
Another practice that has only happened over the last few hundred years is what we call vinyasa flow, or the threading together of various yoga postures with the breath in a sort of constant flowing movement. This vinyasa type of practice only developed approximately 100 years ago.
Yogis began traveling to the Western world in the late 1880s and this is when the period of “modern yoga” officially began. There was an historic event that took place in Chicago in 1893 called the Parliament of Religions. Swami Vivekananda along with other spiritual leaders from around the world spoke here to a large American audience and from there yoga began its rapid dissemination into the Western world.
Opinions differ as to which Hatha yoga school was established first. In 1918, The Yoga Institute was officially founded in Mumbai by Shri Yogendra. Then in the 1920s, the renowned Krishnamacharya started a Hatha yoga school in Mysore.
However, his students were taught in the Mysore Style which is non-standardized. Krishnamacharya taught such famous devotees as Indra Devi, T.K.V. Desikachar, Sri K. Patthabi Jois and B.K.S. Iyengar who all created their own styles of teaching and spreading of the practice throughout the world. In 1936, the Divine Life Society belonged to Swami Sivananda who was founded along the famous Ganges River.
Indra Devi brought yoga to Hollywood, Cali. when she opened the first yoga school there teaching to the actors. Especially, she was teaching actresses at that time.
Aim of Hata Yoga
In order to purify the mind, it is necessary for the body as a complete to undergo a process of perfect purification. Hatha yoga is also known as the science of purification of six types. The body has to be cleaned in six ways for six different impurities. If you clear the body of these impurities, the Nadis function and the energy blocks are cleared. Then the energies move like wave frequencies during the channels within the physical structure, moving right up to the brain.
Therefore, we consider hatha yoga as the practice of
When the rishis found the science of hatha yoga, they did not have yoga therapy in mind. Although yoga has shown to be very effective in the treatment of many impossible and incurable diseases. The main objective of hatha yoga is to create a perfect balance of the interacting activities and methods of the physical body, mind, and energy.
When this balance is built, the vibrations generated give a call of awakening to the central force which is responsible for the evolution of human consciousness. If hatha yoga is not used for the purpose, its objective is lost.
Harmony in Body
In hatha yoga, there is the concept of harmonizing the twofold energies in person, because they normally remain in an unbalanced and unharmonized form. Either the prana shakti is predominant and the mental shakti is submissive, or vice-versa. Due to this imbalance, either physical or mental diseases manifest. The concept in hatha yoga is, therefore, to bring about a harmony between these two great forces Ida and Pingala. In Hatha yoga, first of all, the cleaning of the whole bodily mechanism, the physical system, takes place.
Characteristics of Hatha Yoga
Some of the characteristics of Hatha Yoga are:
- Hatha Yoga’s purpose is to obtain spiritual liberation through mastering the body.
- Asanas are done slowly. They are practiced to achieve better posture, health, and flexibility.
- You learn several ways to perform yogic breathing or Pranayama.
- Mudras, or gestures, also are important.
- Originally, centuries ago, different purification Asanas, Pranayama, and Mudras were performed. Most of these practices are not followed today.
How to do Hatha yoga
Many people begin a Hatha practice naturally when they are first starting their yoga journey. Some of the steps of doing Hatha Yoga ae given below:
The first step of Hatha Yoga is to breathe. You should notice your breath. Once you feel grounded, begin to lengthen the inhales and exhales, and maybe place a hand on your belly to feel it rise and fall. Continue for about 3-5 minutes.
The second step of Hatha Yoga is to meditate. Once you feel completely present through the breath, you can begin to breathe naturally and allow the mind to be at ease. If your thoughts drift, it’s okay! It’s part of the practice! Just bring it back to the breath or present moment.
The third step of Hatha Yoga is Beginner asanas. You should be familiar with any poses, work your way through a few, and hold for at least five breaths. This part of the practice can be as short or as long as your body is comfortable with.
The fourth and the last step of Hatha Yoga is Savasana. At the end of your asana practice, dim the lights, and maybe put on a calming song. Allow your body to completely relax and completely soak up the Hatha practice.
Benefits of doing Hatha Yoga
Some of the benefits of doing Hatha Yoga are presented below:
The dedicated practice of Hatha Yoga postures is effective in controlling the disease of hypertension, one of the major causes of heart problems and heart attacks. The Hatha Yoga improves the blood flow to the heart and decreases the chances of anginal episodes in people resulting in a healthy heart.
The Hatha Yoga system includes several weight-bearing yoga postures like Tree Pose, Warrior Pose, Triangle Pose, etc. Those help in reversing bone loss by building bone density. Healthy bones are extremely important for people of any age to minimize the risk of developing fragile bones medically known as osteoporosis and osteopenia.
Daily Hatha yoga practices can assist in building bone mass in the spine and femur.
Clear and Shiny Skin
The Hatha Yoga Shat-kriya practices deeply purify the body inside-out. Additionally, the postures work as detoxifying agents at some levels eliminating toxins and granting inner glow, lustrous skin, and a peachy glow.
Builds Core Strength
Adopt the Hatha Yoga for fortifying your core. The core is the midsection of the body consisting of the traverse Abdominis, erector Spinae, obliques, and lower Lates. To stay away from the injury, to perform well in sports, and to manifest a robust body, it is essential that your core is strong and flexible.
The Hatha poses: boat posture, downward dog, plank asana strengthens the external obliques.
Lubricates the Joints
The Hatha Yoga effectively works on the multiple joints of the body helping them get their full range of motion. In a sedentary lifestyle, the joints are not worked to their full capacity. As a result, they tend to stiffen up. So, greatly improve your mobility in joints with the Hatha Yoga.
Treats a Backache
According to several types of research, the performance of Hatha Yoga poses along with its variations and modifications are potent in treating the symptoms of lower back pain and many other back problems. This natural science is highly effective in treating backache and providing long-lasting relief.
Improves Balance and Posture
The improved posture benefits of Hatha Yoga are highly alluring. The Hatha Yoga poses facilitate balance and a sense of proprioception. The Hatha Yoga practices stretch the spine making you look taller and confident.
A natural way to ward off the stress is to show up on a yoga mat and to perform some Hatha Yoga poses. Every Hatha Yoga asana directs individuals to mental peace and positivity. Practice for gaining the mental health benefits of Hatha Yoga.
Enhance Quality of Prana
Regular practice of Hatha Yoga enhances multiple aspects of physical, mental, and spiritual being honoring the practitioners with an efficiently working healthy body, mind, and spirit.
What is Asana?
An asana is a posture. There are innumerable postures your body can take. Among these, certain postures have been identified as “yoga asanas” or yogasanas.
“Yoga” means that which takes you on to a higher dimension or higher perception of life. So, that kind of posture which leads you to a higher possibility is called a “yogasana.”
Asanas of Hatha Yoga
The classical Hatha yoga asanas have been designed for the systematic movement of every part of your body in a balanced way that can enhance your pranic force and keep you away from stress and lifestyle diseases.
You need to take rest between the yoga postures during the session and at the end of the session to feel more energized and to provide your body with enough rest. Corpse pose or Savasana provides you a better relaxation.
You can bring variations into each pose mentioned above after mastering the basic asanas completely to deepen your practice.
- Swastikaashana (auspicious pose)
- Gomukhaasana (cow Face Pose)
- Veerasana (Hero Face Pose)
- Sirsasana (Head Stand Pose)
- Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand Pose)
- Plough Pose (Halasana)
- Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
- Sitting Forward Bend Pose (Paschimottanasana)
- Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
- Locust Pose (Shalabhasana)
- Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
- Half Spinal Twist Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
- Crow Pose (Kakasana) or Peacock Pose (Mayurasana)
- Standing Forward Bend (Pada Hasthasana)
- Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
Sit cross-legged and bring the feet up between the thighs and calf muscles. Place the hands in Jnana Mudra (Chin)
This is a steady sitting position, it affects the whole body. Prana shakti is directed in a particular manner suitable for meditation. Nadis at the back of the legs are stimulated. The specific points of stimulation can be found by pressing along the acupuncture meridians. These nadis carry energy to centers in the spinal column and the energy is dispersed from there. When you sit in a meditative pose you are stimulating the main nadis.
The sciatic nerve is gently massaged in this posture, thereby influencing the lumbar region. The abdominal muscles are also influenced and the inner body temperature is affected. Swatmarama does not neglect to state that the body should be straight, i.e. in alignment.
This is of top importance in any asana practice. For meditation, it is essential that the spinal column is straight so that nervous impulses can pass easily to the brain. The symbol of the swastika designates fertility, creativity, and auspiciousness.
Bend the right knee and put the right foot so that the left heel touches the side of the left buttock. Then bend the left leg up on the right thigh so that the heel is placed close to the right buttock. This gives the form of a cow’s face. Then connect the hands behind the back. Stretch the left arm up and bring it down behind the head and back. Stretch the right arm downward and take it up the back. Clasp the two hands together.
In this position, the back is itself straightened. After practicing for some time, alter the position so that the right leg is underneath, the left leg is on top, the left elbow is pointing up and the right elbow pointing down. Alternatively, the hands rest on the upper knee, one on top of the other. In this position, the eyes can be open or closed, or shambhavi mudras may be performed.
Although gomukhasana is not a meditative posture, longer the position is held the better. Gomukhasana tones the muscles and nerves around the shoulders and the cardiac plexus. The nadis in the legs are pressed and the nadis connected with the reproductive organs and glands are also affected, thus regulating the hormonal secretions.
Sit on the left heel, bend the right knee, and place the foot beside the left knee. Put the right elbow on the right knee and the palm against the right cheek. The left hand should be put on the left knee. Close the eyes and concentrate on the breath. Hold the position for a minute or two.
Sit with the left foot behind the left buttock, big toe under the buttock as in Vajrayana.
Veerasana maintains the energy flow to the reproductive organs and enables control of the sexual energy. It strengthens willpower and strengthens the body. As in the other sitting positions, particular nadis in the legs which are attached to the sex glands, sex organs, and associated brain centers are incited.
This asana is also known as the king of all asanas. Headstand flushes fresh nutrients and oxygen to the face, creating a glowing effect on the skin. Due to the increase in the blood flow and nutrients into your head and scalp, hair fall gets reduced. Since the adrenal glands are also flushed and detoxified with the regular practice of this pose, you can create positive thoughts. Depression, stress, and anxiety will reduce as you get upside down and smile will come to your face. This pose develops strong core muscles and eliminates the chances of strokes.
An intermediate yoga pose in which the whole body is balanced on your shoulders. Sarvangasana is also called as the mother or queen of all asanas since it is one of the oldest asanas and addresses every organ and chakra in your body. This asana helps to cure sinusitis, asthma, infertility, and relieves the symptoms of menopause. It stimulates thyroid glands, parathyroid glands, the abdominal organs and helps to relieve stress, depression, and calms your brain. To know more
Plough Pose (Halasana)
An inverted back-stretching pose which provides your entire back with a good stretch and brings flexibility and strength to your back muscles. It stimulates the reproductive organs, thyroid glands, and strengthens the immune system of our body. This pose helps women during menopause. Moreover, it provides flexibility to the spine and effective for weight loss also.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
This is a back-bending sleeping pose that opens the chest, throat, abdomen, and helps to cure thyroid disorders. Regular practicing of this pose can be a great way to regain the balance and flexibility of your neck and spine. It also helps to relieve constipation and menstrual pain.
Sitting Forward Bend Pose (Paschimottanasana)
This is a sitting pose that helps to calm your mind and relieve stress. This pose is generally practiced later in a sequence when the body gets warmed. Regular practice of this asana gives your entire body a good stretch and is effective for diabetes and high blood pressure.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
This is a back-bending yoga pose that stretches muscles in the shoulders, chest, abdominals and opens up the neck, and tones the abdomen and buttocks. It increases the flexibility of the spine and stimulates abdominal organs and thus improves digestion. This pose heals the diseases and awakens Kundalini which is the divine cosmic energy that brings self-realization.
Locust Pose (Shalabhasana)
An intermediate backbend poses which provide your entire back with a good stretch and bring flexibility and strength to your back. This pose stretches out your spine, chest, and helps to feel more energized. It stimulates internal organs and enhances blood circulation in the body.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
This is a back-stretching pose that helps to stimulate the reproductive organs and relieves the mensural discomfort with regular practice. It strengthens the back and abdominal muscles, tones legs, arm muscles and helps to open up your neck, chest, and shoulders. The function of the liver, pancreas, intestine problems and diabetes can be improved with the practice of this pose.
Half Spinal Twist Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
A powerful seated twist poses which provide various benefits for the entire body. When you twist your body in this pose, it increases the flexibility of your spine, relaxes the nervous system and calms our brain, tones the abdominal organs, and improves digestion. This asana brings many benefits to your body, mind, and soul.
Crow Pose (Kakasana)
An arm balance poses which requires strength in arms and shoulders to perform this asana. Kakasana strengthens the muscles of arm, cores and promotes a good posture. It also tones and strengthens the upper arms, forearms, abdominal muscles, and wrists.
Peacock Pose (Mayurasana)
This is an effortless balancing pose that helps to build your arm strength, abdominal muscles, and concentration. It helps to detoxify the body, tones the digestive organs, and removes constipation problems.
Standing Forward Bend (Pada Hasthasana)
An intense forward stretch pose that provides your entire back muscles with a good stretch and brings flexibility and strength to your back. It helps to alleviate menopause and menstrual problems. Moreover, it also cures asthma, osteoporosis, sinusitis, infertility, and high blood pressure.
Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
This is a standing pose that helps to tone the legs, reduces stress, and increases mental and physical equilibrium. This pose strengthens the legs, knees, ankles, chest, arms, and stretches and opens the hips, hamstrings, groins, calves, shoulders, chest, and spine.