Hatha-Yoga. What is it?
Hatha Yoga is a branch of Yoga. The word haṭha (lit. "force")
denotes a system of physical techniques supplementary to a broad conception of
Hatha yoga is associated with the Dashanami Sampradaya and the mystical figure
In the 20th century, hatha yoga, particularly asanas (the physical postures),
became popular throughout the world as a form of physical exercise, and is now
colloquially termed as simply "yoga".
Hatha yoga has some important principles and practices that are shared with
other methods of yoga, such as subtle physiology, dharana (fixation of the
elements), and nadanusandhana (concentration on the internal sound).
Health benefits ascribed to yogasana practice
Yoga's combined focus on mindfulness, breathing and physical movements brings
health benefits with regular participation. Yoga participants report better
sleep, increased energy levels and muscle tone, relief from muscle pain and
stiffness, improved circulation and overall better general health. The breathing
aspect of yoga can benefit heart rate and blood pressure.
Classical Hatha Yoga
The Hathapradipikạ, also called Hatha Yoga Pradipika, is an important and one of
the most influential texts of the Hatha yoga. It was compiled by Svātmārāma in
the 15th century CE from earlier hatha yoga texts. These earlier texts were of
Vedanta or non-dual Shaiva orientation. From both, the Hathapradipikạ̄ borrowed
non-duality (advaita) philosophies. According to James Mallinson, this reliance
on non-dualism helped Hatha Yoga thrive in the medieval period as non-dualism
became the "dominant soteriological method in scholarly religious discourse in
|18th century female yogis in Rajasthan.
Preservation of life force
In its earliest formulations, hathạ was used to raise and conserve the physical
essence of life, identified in men as bindu (semen), which is otherwise
constantly dripping downward from a store in the head and being expended. The
female equivalent, mentioned only occasionally in our sources, is rajas,
menstrual fluid. The preservation and sublimation of semen was associated with
tapas (asceticism) from at least the time of the epics, and some of the
techniques of early Hatha Yoga are likely to have developed as part of ascetic
practice. The techniques of early Hatha Yoga work in two ways: mechanically, in
practices such as viparītakaraṇī, “the reverser,” in which by standing on one’s
head one uses gravity to keep bindu in the head; or by making the breath enter
the central channel of the body (sushumna), which runs from the base of the
spine to the top of the head, thereby forcing bindu upward.
In later formulations of Hatha Yoga, the Kaula system of the visualization of
the serpent goddess Kuṇḍalini rising as kuṇḍalinī energy through a system of
chakras, usually six or seven, is overlaid onto the bindu-oriented system. The
same techniques, together with some specifically kuṇḍalinī-oriented ones, are
said to effect kuṇḍalinī’s rise up the central channel (which is called the
sushumnạ̄ in these traditions) to a store of amṛta (the nectar of immortality)
situated in the head, with which kuṇḍalinī then floods the body, rejuvenating it
and rendering it immortal.
The 2012 "Yoga in America" survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of
Yoga Journal, shows that the number of adult practitioners in the US is 20.4
million, or 8.7 percent. The survey reported that 44 percent of those not
practicing yoga said they are interested in trying it.
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