The word Hatha comes from the union of two Sanskrit words, “Ha” and “Tha” meaning sun and moon, respectively. But when these two words come together, hatha means dynamic, strong, indicating that it is a practice that requires a strong will and self-discipline. The Sanskrit word Yoga (Yoga) has several meanings, and derives from the Sanskrit root Yuj meaning check, bind, unite. So, yoga means union and coexistence, an infinite union.
Hatha Yoga is the yoga that brings union, the connection between body and spirit. Harmony at all levels. Hatha Yoga is the most widespread system of yoga in the West and practising it ensures the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health of the practitioner.
The most comprehensive text of Hatha Yoga is the "Hatha Yoga Pradipika", by Yogi Swatmarama. This work, however, apart from the individual experiences of Yogi Swatmarama, derives from older Sanskrit texts on yoga. It includes information about shatkarma (cleaning), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing - subtle energy), chakras (energy centers), kundalini (instinct), bandhas (muscle force), kriyas (techniques manifestations of kundalini), shakti (sacred force), nadis (channels), and mudras (symbolic gestures) among other topics.
Many modern schools of Hatha Yoga come from the school of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who taught from 1924 until his death in 1989. Among his students, prominent in popularising Yoga in the West, was K. Pattabhi Jois, famous for showing the intense style of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, B.K.S. Iyengar, who emphasized the alignment and the use of aiding mechanisms, Indra Devi, and the son of Krishnamacharya, T.K.V. Desikachar who developed the style Viniyoga. Desikachar founded the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai, with the aim of placing the cultural heritage of Yoga, as taught by Krishnamacharya.
Another major stream of influence was Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh (1887-1963) and many students, including, among others, Swami Vishnu-Devananda, founder of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta group centers, Swami Satyananda, of the Bihar School of Yoga and Swami Satchidananda's Integral Yoga.
Hatha Yoga is one of the two branches of Yoga that focuses on physical culture, the other is Raja Yoga. Both of these are usually referred as Sadanga Yoga, i.e. Yoga of six parts (“sad” means six and “anga” means points, ends). Svatmarama stresses many times in the text of "Hathapradipika" that there is no Raja
Yoga without Hatha Yoga and no Hatha Yoga without Raja Yoga. The main difference is that Raja Yoga uses asanas mainly to prepare the body for prolonged meditation, and hence focuses on asanas meditation: Lotus position (padmasana), fulfilled position (siddhasana), easy position (Sukhasana) and pelvic position (Vajrasana), while Hatha Yoga uses not only meditative postures but all kinds of positions. Similarly, Raja Yoga is devoid of extensive locks (bandhas) on breathing exercises pranayama. Hatha represents opposing energies: hot and cold, fire and water, male and female, positive and negative, (following a similar concept, like the yin-yang). Hatha Yoga attempts to balance the mind and body via physical postures/ positions or "asanas", purification practices "shatkarma", controlled breathing "pranayama", lockups "bandhas" and the calmness of the mind through relaxation and meditation.
Hatha Yoga is the path which leads to the union of the sun with the moon, the union of masculine and feminine energy, the union of breathing from both nostrils. It has its philosophical roots in Tantra and it uses the body as a tool for inner exploration and it combines surrendering with trying. Furthermore, Hatha Yoga was the first major school that combined physical exercises (asanas) with deep breathing and visualisation techniques as valid aids to achieve union with the universal consciousness through meditation. A classic Hatha Yoga class contains asanas (the yoga postures), pranayama (breathing exercises) and yoga nidra (relaxation).
Hatha Yoga is the most widespread system of Yoga in the western world, especially in the second half of the 20th century. It must be noted that its popularity continues to grow.
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