JULY 2011
Khaas Baat : A Publication for Indian Americans in Florida

Introduction to Hatha Yoga



Perhaps the most well-known form of Yoga - Hatha Yoga - is also called Hatha Vidya. It was introduced by the Hindu Sage Yogi Swatmarama, who lived between the 15th and 16th centuries in India. He is most widely known as the compiler of the “Hatha Yoga Pradipika,” an ancient scripture that introduced Hatha Yoga.

Hatha Yoga refers to the physical aspect of yogic practice that focuses on the purification of the body, which leads to the purification of the mind, referred to as “Ha” and the vital energies or “prana” that are referred to as “Tha.” “Ha” also means “sun” and “tha” means “moon.” The practice of Hatha Yoga therefore harmonizes the processes in our body by balancing the masculine aspect represented by the sun, which is hot and active and the feminine aspect of
the moon, which is receptive and cool. We all bear the energies of sun and moon or ha and tha within us. So, the practice of Hatha Yoga is a prerequisite for the practice of meditation, the most important Yoga Asana.

The term “Hatha” also implies “putting effort,” A Hatha Yogi takes full responsibility for his/her own health and is also prepared to reorganize his lifestyle or to do all that it takes to ensure good health and wellbeing. For, Hatha Yoga refers to the body as a temple in which the soul resides. Therefore, the body has to be taken care of with much caution and effort. But, at the same time, we need to realize that the body is not the most important part of our being.

Nevertheless, Hatha Yoga views the human in a holistic way. As mentioned above
Hatha Yoga does not only work on our physical body but also unfolds our energies within. For example, the practice of Hatha Yoga stimulates our sheath of vital energies, called pranamaya kosha located in our astral body. It is like a composition of energies that form a body composed of unites of energy. Therefore, Hatha Yoga also kindles our mental and emotional sheath called the manomaya kosha. This aspect is important because our human body not only survives on food and air, but also needs a cosmic energy or life force called prana, that runs through the whole cosmos as well. It is what makes every entity alive. Prana is a life force that links our astral body with our physical body. Therefore, as long as prana is in our body, we are alive.

For this reason, the practice of Hatha Yoga is helpful for the human body: Regular practice of hatha Yoga helps us withstand infections and illnesses. Its therapeutic effect helps the body to heal and stay healthy. Hatha Yoga also works wonderfully against stress and helps to keep it off. In addition, with regular practice of Hatha Yoga, a practitioner develops telepathic and intuitive awareness. Finally, Hatha yoga helps us practice spiritual and ethical discipline.

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of the most important and classical scriptures of Hatha Yoga, states that the main goal of Hatha Yoga is to make the practitioner fit for the practice of Raja Yoga that controls and harmonizes our mind and thought patterns. Thus, Hatha Yoga is the basis of all other paths of Yoga.

Although many people practice Hatha Yoga for physiological reasons, regular practice of Hatha Yoga unfolds our inner world that gradually leads to deep and subtle experiences, which can arouse an interest for spiritual aspects of life.

The main forms of Hatha Yoga practice are:

Hatha Yoga also advices the practice of kriyas or exercises that help release the body of its impurities and toxins.

Regular Hatha Yoga practice helps an individual to stay healthy, discover his own potentials and to withstand the stress and negative forces that daily life offers. However, this does not mean that Hatha Yoga totally prevents a person from falling sick or having any problems. We can fall sick and have problems and need to seek professional help. Nevertheless, by regular Yoga practice, we can improve the quality of our life so that we may – at some point – be the masters our own destiny and not victims of our own downfall.

Deepa Malavalli is a teacher of yoga and meditation from the Sivananda Yoga lineage. She teaches Writing and Advanced Grammar at the USF College of Continuing Education in Tampa. She can be reached at malavalli_deepa@yahoo.com

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