The oldest form of yoga that goes by many names in your yoga classes, is hatha yoga. Unfortunately, modern-day western culture has turned an ancient practice of mind, body, and soul science into an exercise. To get back to the roots of hatha yoga, you must understand its spiritual value and original intention.
Hatha Yoga Origins
Developed by Hindu culture, hatha yoga was the physical act of connecting the consciousness with the divine spirit or essence of god. The postures or asanas used in hatha yoga were not meant to be a physical challenge and definitely not a workout routine. They were used to access a force deep inside you; to make you aware of the oneness that surrounds you. Once you balance your inner self with the outside pressures and stress you face every day, your mind becomes quiet and your spirit rejuvenated.
In a sense, hatha yoga is a mechanism to prepare you for deep meditation. Calmness and concentration are needed to meditate, so a balance must be acquired before you attempt successful meditation techniques.
The word hatha, “Ha” meaning the sun and “tha” meaning the moon, brings two cosmic forces together as one; the ultimate equilibrium.
The Purpose of Asanas in Hatha Yoga
There are 84 different postures in hatha yoga, each with a different purpose of directing energy. This is why breathing, or pranayama, is so essential when performing each asana. Our breath also directs currents of energy as it is our life force and key to activating our divine consciousness beyond the physical. The body, in its movements and breathing motions, takes control and is used like a machine to reach a higher state of being. Think of the body as a car, the driver as the mind, the exhaust as your breath, and your destination as your soul.
Use each asana, not as a physical challenge but as a vehicle. Take your time, feel how far your body takes you, and what direction it takes you with each new pose. Do not try to be perfect or mimic someone else in your yoga class. If possible, take a private lesson or start in your home doing simple asanas. This way you can learn the pose, move at your own pace, and truly experience each sensation.
It is easy to get caught up in the commercial hype of yoga especially when there is so much information and forms of the practice in western culture. Studying the origins of yoga and its purpose as a spiritual gateway is needed to truly benefit from it. You might as well join a cross fit class if all you would like to do is get fit or lose weight. Yoga will do more than that; it will provide you with an overall sense of well-being from the inside out.