A Concise History of Hatha Yoga

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A Concise History of Hatha Yoga

online yoga instructor trainingBy Sangeetha Saran

Although many forms of yoga training have existed for thousands of years, Hatha (the yoga of physical mastery) is a relative newcomer in comparison to the other main systems of Yogic methodology in India. Hatha dates back as recently as the 15th century with Svami Svatmarama and is the base for many popular styles today such as Iyengar, Bikram, Kundalini, and Ashtanga. Svatmarama is considered to be the founder of the Hatha system of yogic methodology, and his writing of the “Hatha Yoga Pradipika,” which laid out the basic foundations of the Hatha system.

Hatha has always encouraged relaxation while increasing flexibility, endurance, and muscle tone. Many beginners prefer to practice Hatha yoga as the pace of the classes are not rapid and the overall tone of the class is more laid back than other forms of yoga. Hatha can be broken down into two Sanskrit words: ‘ha,’ meaning sun, and ‘tha,’ meaning moon. This is a great representation of the type of yogic method, which Hatha has become through the centuries. It encourages both mental relaxation and physical awareness of the body, and this uniting of polar opposites is a beneficial way to view one’s practice and life in general. Hatha yoga encourages the proper skeletal alignment and correctness of a posture, or asana, more than most exercise systems do. The flow of the routine, or how quickly a person moves from one asana to another, is down played in Hatha classes in exchange for the proper form. This is another reason Hatha provides a good introduction to beginning students.

Seasoned students also come back to basic Hatha style classes as well to ensure proper alignment in poses they have done for years or decades, enjoy the relaxing nature of a class, and to work on clearing their minds for longer periods of time while in an asana than some other schools may offer. In addition to the focus on proper posture and alignment, attention is constantly drawn to the breath and the controlling of it during postures. While some postures are easier than others, it is the difficult ones that breathing may become labored or stressed. It is especially important to keep the breath constant during these times, just as in life keeping calm and breathing through the rough times will help everything transition much more smoothly.

The centuries that Hatha yoga has had to develop and evolve has not changed it much. Students of today still basically rely on the same instruction given by Svatmarama as laid out in his fundamental guide. These time honored traditions have encouraged millions of people from all around the globe to be more active, fit, and aware of their bodies. Hatha yoga has transformed and created the yoga that we know and love in today’s modern world.

© Copyright 2013 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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