Hatha Yoga Asanas: A Step By Step Guide
Hatha Yoga has its records thousands of years ago and has been modified in various parts of the world.
In the west, Hatha Yoga is taught as gentle hatha yoga, a form of classical yoga, which is practised mostly as hatha yoga for weight loss.
However, contrary to popular belief, Hatha yoga is not just an asana practice. It is a modest practice of Dhyana, Dharana, Pranayama, and Asana. It focuses on achieving the state of samadhi, which is a state where the yogi is free from time, space, and form.
Hatha Yoga has been altered by many people through these years. However, the principles of Hatha Yoga have always remained the same.
Hatha is a Sanskrit word that means stubborn. Hatha Yoga is an unyielding practice of yoga without involving the five senses and our mind.
Hatha is also bifurcated as ‘Ha’, which means the sun, and ‘tha means the moon. Hatha is balancing the sun and moon within ourselves, which means balancing our body and mind. Hatha Yoga is also said to purify our solar (Pingla) and lunar (Ida) channels.
Hatha Yoga is a simpler version and originated from Raja Yoga, and there are various types of hatha yoga
Hatha Yoga originates from Raja Yoga. It is the simpler version (without Yamas and Niyamas) of Raja Yoga. In simple words, you can say all the yoga poses and pranayama exercises can be classified as Hatha Yoga. So if you practice any yoga asanas or pranayama exercises, you are practising Hatha.
Table of Content
History of Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga is now performed to switch off from busy lives. However, it started as Yogis renouncing their lives, families, and responsibilities to walk on the path of being ascetic.
The Hatha yogis practised extraordinary actions such as emerging in cold water or standing on one leg, hanging upside down to refine their body and mind, and also to centre their thinking.
The breathing techniques or the Hatha Yoga practices are traced to the 1st Century in Hindu texts. However, it was just 1000 years ago that yoga postures, asanas came into existence. All these postures and asanas help enhance vital energy.
Some studies also state that the origins of asanas and yoga practice can be dated back to 5000 years ago. A Pashupati seal was found showing a figure sitting which resembled a padmasana.
The breathing techniques of Hatha Yoga are traced to the 1st Century in Hindu texts.
Classical Hatha yoga was a concept that was developed in the 15th century. The concept of mudras, hand gestures, and pranayama was developed as an ode of personal spiritual growth.
Swami Swatmarama and Hatha Yoga
As mentioned above, Hatha Yoga was practised by monks and ascetics only. However, it was Swami Sivananda who made Hatha Yoga more accessible to the common man.
He introduced Hatha Yoga to improve physical and mental health. Swami Sivananda taught simple yoga sequences known as the ‘Rishikesh sequence’.
He put together five points- five practices of Yoga without getting into the depth of the philosophical aspect.
These 5 points guide towards a balanced and yogic lifestyle:
Exercise:– Healthy mind requires a healthy body, and with regular practice of yoga, steadiness, ease, flexibility, and strength are achieved.
Breathing:- We can get control over our mind with the help of conscious breathing
Rest:- It is important to rest the body regularly, allowing it to obtain the energies within.
Healthy Diet:- The Yogic diet supports mostly a vegetarian diet which provides nutrition to body, mind, and energy.
Positive Thinking and Meditation:- Meditation and positive thinking is food for a healthy mind and sets as a base to cultivate thoughts.
Evolution of Indian Hatha Yoga
Swami Vivekananda introduced Traditional Hatha Yoga to America in 1893 to practice spirituality.
Swami Swatmarama advised starting the physical aspect of yoga at first as most people may find it easier to master the mind through the physical form rather than the Yamas and Niyamas.
Decades later, it was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (spiritual advisor of The Beatles) who made yoga mainstream when he combined transcendental meditation and yoga. This was the time when the popularity soared high and reached the peak.
The next discovery of yoga after the Pashupati seal was in the ancient text the Atharva Veda. This discovery suggests yoga didn’t even exist until 1000 BC.
Postures that we see today or that are practised today did not exist until the past 50 years. This was the time the postures were developed with the popularity of yoga. Ancient ananas could be deemed as mudras which were about sealing and directing the energy within the body.
A famous text on Hatha yoga – The Hatha Yoga Pradipika can be thought of as a base or collection of the Hatha texts together. This is where 84 Hatha Yoga postures were developed. It includes seven sitting positions, eight non seated, and 15 primary postures, along with a combination of other additional postures, making it to 84 asanas.
Now, 84 is a uniform number that is used nowadays, and that is a set as a base for the spiritual practices to develop the connection of the body with the universe.
With just one asana in the thirteen-century to 84 hatha yoga postures in the 20th century. Hatha yoga has evolved tremendously. We now have various levels of Hatha yoga as per their difficulty.
Basic and Advanced Hatha Yoga
aking into consideration the difficulty, flexibility, and strength that is involved in practising these asanas. Hatha Yoga postures are sequenced as Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced. They can also be sequenced as per the body part to focus upon.
The courses are classified as hatha yoga for beginners as per the difficulty level involved.
Few Basic Hatha Yoga is:
- Tadasana Vrikshasana Paschimottanasana
- Few Intermediate and Advanced Hatha Yoga Asanas:-
- Natraj (Dancers Pose)
- Parvartita Trikonasana (Twisted Triangle)
- Virabhadrasana (Warrior I), (Warrior II), (Warrior III), (Warrior IV)
(Warrior V) (Warrior VI)
- Parvartita Trikonasana (Twisted Triangle)
Know more about all the 84 poses of Hatha Yoga Asanas here
Along with Hatha Yoga, another popular form of yoga is Vinyasa Yoga. It is often asked which yoga is more beneficial.
Let us just brief you about Vinyasa Yoga and its benefits before we read further.
So, both forms of yoga are extremely beneficial, but it is your fitness level, the goals that you want to achieve, which need to be recorded to determine what is beneficial.
Hatha Yoga is a good fit for
- The people who are newly introduced to Yoga
- who want to focus on posture and core strength,
- reduce stress and prefer slow speed
Vinyasa yoga is a good fit for
- the people who have a good fitness level
- want cardio inculcated in their yoga session
- and those who are familiar with yoga poses
Also with these there is another type worth the mention which is Kriya Hatha Yoga. It focuses on decarbonizing human blood while recharging it with oxygen.
Benefits of Vinyasa Yoga
Vinyasa Yoga has more challenging poses that need to be done in fewer intervals of time. It is a form of yoga that builds strength in muscles along with improving the fitness level.
Vinyasa Yoga can also be deemed as a light intensity cardio workout.
Along with it, it also lowers stress and anxiety level as well.
Difference between Ashtanga Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga
Ashtanga Yoga is often interchangeable with Vinyasa Yoga as they are similar in approach. However, the difference is that in Vinyasa yoga, you move from one position to the other at the yoga instructor’s discretion. At the same time, Ashtanga Yoga repeats the poses in the same pattern every time.
This changes in coordination with your breath. It is done on the movements of inhaling and exhaling, giving you a feeling of breath moving in your body.
Principles of Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga is associated with six branches of yoga (Shatanga Yoga). These six are:
Samadhi:- Becoming free of worldliness
Samadhi is the final stage of yoga. There are eight folds, and it is considered the 8th stage. This is a conscious stage where the awareness is dissolved for the greater good.
Dharana:- Getting released from Maya
Dharana is the sixth stage of eight folds of Yoga. Dharana is an ability to concentrate and rather hold the concentration on one object.
Pratyahara:- Pull out from the sensory input.
Pratyahara is a combination of two Sanskrit words Prati and Ahara. Prati means moving away, and Ahara means taking into themselves. Pratyahara means simply ingestion.
Dhyana:- observing self
Dhyana is also known as Ekagrata in Sanskrit, which means one-point. It means a continuous flow of attention on an object.
Pranayama:- Control of breath
Pranayama is a Sanskrit word where “Prana” means vital energy and Ayama means to control; together, it means control of breath.
Asana:- Comfortable state of both body and mind
Asana is a sitting posture of the body, which was extended as an exercise in hatha yoga and modern yoga.
Benefits of Hatha Yoga
Since ancient times, yogis have developed calming and wellness qualities by practising yoga. Today, even the medical world supports and backs that yoga is directly proportional to reducing stress and anxiety.
Read ahead to know the general benefits of Hatha Yoga.
Anxiety and Depression: Hatha Yoga helps relieve everyday anxiety and stress. It is also known to decrease the symptoms of depression. Hatha yoga is also effective for managing issues related to PCOS and PCOD.
Back Pain:- Hatha Yoga is also known as a non-drug method to treat low back pain. The effects of Hatha yoga are similar to other types of exercise targeting back pain itself.
Menopause: Yoga can help relieve symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes
Mindfulness: Hatha Yoga improves the state of mindfulness. It helps stay in the present. It also enhances mood and also raises an urge to eat healthier.
Benefits of Hatha Yoga on the body are:
- Mobility in the joints is improved
- Metabolism is improved
- Improves mobility and flexibility in the body
- Improves and stretches the fascia
- The functioning of all the organs are improved
- Rejuvenates the ligaments
- Increases the energy levels
- Improving the functioning of lungs and heart
- Cleanses the body
- Brings balance to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
The mental benefits of Hatha Yoga are
- Helps in calming the senses.
- Improves the level of concentration
- Helps sharpen the focus
- Maintains emotional balance
- Removes mental fatigue
- Improves creativity and learning abilities
Can everyone do Hatha Yoga?
Hatha Yoga is an extremely beneficial style of Yoga. But, it cannot be done by everyone.
Hatha Yoga can be found too challenging for following people.
- Senior Citizen
- People getting recovered from Injuries
- Spinal and Neck Injury
- Severe Knee Issues
Hatha yoga helps you unwind and relax, along with providing physical and mental benefits.
Hatha Yoga is a simple practice that you can implement in your life. It will change the way you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Happiness and wellbeing are dynamic, and Hatha Yoga helps attain that thoroughly.
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