What is Hatha Yoga? What is its relevance to Asnas? How is it related to other forms of Yoga? Hatha means two things-if we break up the word into ha and tha it stands for the sun and the moon. And as a single word Hatha-it stands for will power, disregarding physical pain, lethargy and discomfort completely.

So taken together the word Hatha means strong, wilfull effort to balance the sun and moon energy within the body. The Sun,  as everybody knows is the source of all energy on planet Earth and in our Solar system. Without the Sun no life can exist anywhere in the Solar system. So all life owes its essential existence to the tremendous and constant energy of the Sun. Each one of us as well owes our existence to the energy of the Sun and this energy is constantly entering our  body through the food we eat(which owes its existence to the Sun) and the Sun rays that pass into our body energising the cells within. The Moon on the other hand is not taken so seriously because it does not seem to be such a tremendous force as the Sun in our lives. But the mass of the Moon and its orbit around the Earth helps us to maintain our own orbit around the Sun. Everybody knows that the Moon controls the tidesof the oceans in our planet. Imagine the mass of the combined oceans. The Moons gravitational pull is strong enough to move this huge mass in massive tidal waves. If the Moon can do this to the oceans,think about the effect it has on our capillary and arterial systems in the body and how powerful the Moons effect is on the liquid blood flowing within the body, from the brain to the toes. The balancing of this energy, of the Sun and the Moon within us is the art of Hatha Yoga and it leads to perfect calm and steadiness-of the body and the mind.

Though Hatha practices were developed over a period of many centuries, separate from other yogas and within its own lineages, Hatha became a yoga only when it was utilized as one of the 8 parts in the Raja Yoga system devised by the ancient sage Maharishi Patanjali.

Doing a headstand or Surya namaskar or any other  physical asana/position is simply doing physical exercise -it is not  Yoga. In order to transform the physical exercise into the Yoga, one must have the 8 part view of Raja Yoga.

Hatha Yoga is not just Asanas

Hatha Yoga is not just Asanas

There is no other way. Without the view of Raja Yoga, all Hatha practices remain only as Hatha action(Hatha Karma). But when practised with the view of Raja Yoga, the Hatha Karma or Hatha action becomes Hatha Yoga.

So,in fact, all the yoga studios and even many yoga ashrams, do not teach Hatha Yoga, they teach Hatha Karma or physical exercise. No doubt, physical exercise is good for the body but we  must not be under the illusion while exercising that we are actually practising yoga.

The eight parts of Raja Yoga are the Yama (actions and thoughts which should not be engaged in) Niyama (actions and thoughts that should always be engaged in), Asana (Body and hand postures), Pranayama (Universal Force control) , Pratyahara (Internalization of the Force of senses and the mind) , Dharana (Unifocussed imagination), Dhyana(Singularity) and Samadhi (That which is not spoken of).

All these 8 parts are to be practised simultaneously while engaging in any Yoga. Hatha Yoga too is comprised of these 8 parts which when practised simultaneously create the arena within which evolution takes place-evolution of our body, our energy field and our mind.

Check this article on Hatha Yoga by Sivananda Ashram to know more about ‘What is Hatha Yoga?

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