history of hatha yoga

Yoga has its beginnings in ancient India but this discipline has spread throughout the world due to the mental and physical benefits it offers. A survey shows that there are more than 20 million people who practice yoga in the United States alone. (New Study Finds More Than 20 Million Yogis in U.S. – Yoga Journal)

There are many varieties of yoga and each type has its own distinct history, traditions, and methods of practice. (Learn more about types of Yoga MindBodyGreen)

One of the more popular and better-known types of yoga in the West is called Hatha Yoga. The Sanskrit word hatha literally means “force” and thus refers to a system of physical poses. (Source: Wikipedia) In the West, it’s the most popular style of yoga especially for beginners because hatha yoga classes are paced slower than other yoga styles and poses are easier to achieve.

History of Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga, which was first introduced in the 15th century by Yogi Swatmarama (Source: Wikipedia), was meant to help yoga practitioners start off with purifying their bodies before proceeding to a higher level of meditation. It is said that Hatha Yoga is similar to Raja Yoga which follows the principle of yama which refers to moral self-discipline or control. However, there are sectors who believe that Hatha Yoga has its origins as early as the 10th century.

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American yoga followers usually practice Hatha Yoga style to improve their physical and mental health. Most of the Western practitioners of the Hatha Yoga focus on the asanas or yoga poses and exercises but it is really a unified yoga discipline veering not only on the physical but also in Pranayama which consists of breathing and meditation techniques.

Hatha yoga aims to achieve a balance between the physical and the mental powers of practitioners. The body and mind are prepared for a higher level through the execution of the asanas.

Hatha Yoga makes use of Yama or moral control, the Asanas or the poses, Pranayama, Niyama, specific exercises known as Mudra which aims to improve the breathing technique and Nadanusandhana. All the six limbs work together to help the practitioner achieve a higher level of Kundalini or concentration and meditation.

Most Yoga practitioners strive to follow moral discipline or yama to live a virtuous life. According to the yoga discipline, a person can live a virtuous life by following the eight limbs of yoga that form a moral or ethical code to help us live happier, more meaningful lives. (Source: DoYogaWithMe)

The other yamas include Satya or the ability to stick to the truth, Asteya which prohibits a person from stealing or incurring debt, Brachmacharya which requires celibacy for singles and faithfulness for those who are married, Kshma which refers to the virtue of patience, Dhriti or the principle of commitment, Daya which prohibits cruelty to all beings, Arjava or the promotion of honesty, Mitahara or keeping a moderate food intake and Shaucha or purity in thoughts and words.

Hatha Yoga has been referred to as physical yoga because of the use of poses or exercises to achieve unity in body and mind. Some people equate yoga with Hinduism but yoga is simply a discipline that aims to achieve physical, mental, and spiritual balance and should not be attached to any religion.

Hatha yoga is a discipline that helps yoga practitioners to achieve unity of body and mind in order for them to reach spiritual perfection. In addition to achieving balance, yoga poses can also help develop muscles and improve flexibility.

In US, most yoga practitioners take up Hatha yoga in order to improve their physical well-being. However, in addition to physical benefits, the regular practice of hatha yoga has been shown to also improve your mental and emotional health. (Health Benefits of Hatha Yoga – American College of Sports Medicine)

By practicing yoga on a regular basis you will gain many benefits that will help you lead a healthy, happy and joyful life.


Image by evitaochel on Pixabay 

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