Hatha Yoga is an ancient system of physical postures designed to condition and purify the body and center the mind. The original purpose of Hatha Yoga was to prepare the body and mind for long, deep Meditations as part of a path toward attaining higher states of consciousness. The word “Hatha” is a blend of the words “Ha” and “Tha”, or “Sun” and “Moon”, a contrast which is meant to express the coexistence of physical challenge and peace of mind.
Hatha Yoga is perhaps the most popular and ubiquitous form of yoga in the West, and many other styles draw from Hatha Yoga’s foundational poses. Because of this, “Hatha Yoga”, “Basic Yoga”, “Level 1/2 Yoga” or “Mixed Styles” are often used interchangeably to describe any generic yoga class that draws on Hatha traditions and does not adhere to a particular signature formula.
What to expect
Hatha Yoga classes make a great introduction to traditional yoga. The practice generally involves slower-paced stretches and balancing poses in conjunction with breathing exercises. The combination of mindful movement and focused breathing helps to relax and tone the body, improve circulation and oxygenation, and relieve stress. Because Hatha is considered a generic of yoga style, classes may vary greatly from teacher to teacher, drawing on different yoga traditions and emphasizing different aspects of the practice.
Hatha Yoga was developed in 15th century India by Yogi Swatmarama, who was a compiler of Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Modern Hatha was developed from the school of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, whose students include the Ashtanga Vinyasa founder, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. The original teachings of Hatha Yoga have since branched out into the variety of yoga styles that exist today.