One of the most popular forms of yoga practiced in the United States, with over thirty million practitioners, hatha yoga involves movements that are accompanied by controlled breathing in an attempt to achieve greater flexibility, stronger balance, and increased tranquility. The name hatha comes from the sandskrit words for the sun and the moon.
First spread by Swami Swatamarama in India during the Fifteenth Century, hatha yoga is used to find the energy center within the body and activate them. Tradition says that hatha yoga came straight from the gods, but Swami Swatamarama authored a comprehensive book that made this type of yoga renowned. Yogi Swatamarama created this form of yoga to prepare the body physically for greater spiritual enlightenment during meditation.
Hatha yoga is performed in an attempt to balance the mental stream, known as ida, with the physical stream, called pingala, so that the powerful inner spirit will rise. All of the poses done during a hatha yoga session are so slow and exact that many students find them tedious. The goal is to perfectly maintain each pose before moving on to the next. The pace of hatha yoga makes it one of the most peaceful forms.
Other than the physical positioning of the body, hatha yoga includes eight areas of discipline. These include the way a person treats others, or Yama; treatment of self, Niyama; the yoga positions, Asanas; rhythmic breaths, or Pranayama; withdrawing internally, Pratyahara; the ability to concentrate, Dharana; enlightened meditation, or Dhyana; and ultimate joy and understanding, Samadhi.
The controlled breathing technique learned in hatha yoga results in a greater intake of oxygen and release of toxic elements from the body. Students find that hatha yoga increases agility and helps release negative thoughts.
This form of yoga is a great place for beginners to start because it allows time for perfecting each asana. Hatha Yoga is also excellent for the elderly or people with health conditions that would make the more athletic types of yoga impossible. With a good teacher, Hatha yoga can also work well for advanced students because the slowness of movement often brings greater enlightenment and self-knowledge than that found in other yoga variations. By incorporating variations of the standard poses, even accomplished students achieve great physical benefits.