What is Hatha Yoga, and what are its benefits?

Whenever I’m asked what kind of Yoga I teach, I always struggle to find the right term and end up saying, “Well, classic Hatha Yoga.” But what does that even mean? What is Hatha, and how is it different?

Hatha Yoga, by its definition, is not a type of Yoga. Hatha Yoga can be any Yoga where you practice both asanas and breathing together.

Yup, that’s right. The range is wide, from Anusara to Ashtanga and Yin Yoga, and even Bikram Yoga. Hatha Yoga is the umbrella term for all of these!

What does “Hatha’ even mean?

Hatha is a word that originally meant “force,” “effort,” and “violence.” These words, which include peace, surrender, or freedom, are not normally associated with yoga.

In the West, the most common translation is “Ha” (sun) and “Tha”, which means moon. This suggests that the goal of Hatha Yoga is to balance our masculine and female sides, or yin-yang, yin-yang, etc. But I’m here to tell you that’s not the case.

Michael Lloyd-Billington, in his “Living Yoga Blog,” correctly points out that the words ha and that are not related to the sun (Surya) or the moon (Chandra). This is a complete and utterly incorrect translation! Hatha Yoga is not based on these aspects.

Hatha Yoga in a ‘Modern’ Sense

Let’s be honest: we’ve modified a lot of the original Yoga philosophy, and it’s not all bad.

Hatha Yoga is now synonymous with “slower” and “breathier” Yoga outside of the motherland. It’s the opposite of Power Yoga. The poses are held for longer periods than, say, Ashtanga, where a pose can be held for up to five breaths.

These classes are great for beginners who want to learn the basics of Yoga. These classes allow beginners to learn the basics of the practice, including Warrior Variations, Sun Salutations, and Pranayama.

But that doesn’t mean they are any less difficult or boring. Prepare to sweat and breathe!

Does it matter what the correct translation of Hatha means for your yoga practice? It’s unlikely, but it doesn’t hurt knowing what we are talking about in a field where learning never ends.

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