About Yoga

From Yesterday to today in a few words

Etymology

The word Hatha derives from the union of the two Sanscritic words Ha and Tha which mean Sun and Moon.

It refers to the nadis (energy channels) of the body. The word ha refers to the channel of sun (pingala), whereas the word tha to the channel of moon (ida). It’s about the two different sides, parts of ourselves (Sun: fire, energy, power – Moon: water, concentration, tranquility).

But when these two words combine, then Hatha means dynamic, powerful, suggesting that it is a technique that demands strong will and self-discipline. It’ s the yoga that brings the union, the connection between body, spirit and soul. Harmony in all levels. Hatha Yoga is the most popular system in the Western world where its practice concerns mostly the mental and spiritual health of the practitioner.

History – Origin

Hatha yoga, also known as Hatha Vidya or “the science of Hatha”, is a system of yoga that was introduced by the Yogi Swatmarama, in the 15th century in India.

Swatmarama is also the creator of Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the most comprehensible text of Hatha Yoga and its techniques. The material for the creation of Pradipika derives from older sanscritic texts of yoga but also from the personal experience of Swatmarama. In that, Swatmarama introduces Hatha yoga as the way for someone to reach Raja Yoga, the Royal yoga in other words, as a preliminary stage of physical purification that prepares the body for the exercise of meditation. The asanas (body postures) and Pranayama (breath control) were used by the Hindu Yogis to train their body to hold out during the long meditations.

Today

Since then “some” things have changed.

What most people refer to simply as “yoga” is really Hatha yoga. This specific system of yoga is the most popular in the West and this is the one that other styles of yoga root back to, like Iyengar, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Satyananda, Kundalini,Bikram and Power yoga amongst others.

Many old schools of Hatha yoga come from the school of the great teacher Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who taught since 1924 until his death in 1989.Between his students, the most important who made yoga popular in the West are:

  • Sri Pattabhi Jois, who established the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga style.
  • B. K. S. Iyengar and the homonym style of yoga that emfasises on the alignment and the use of helpful “tools” such as blocks, belts etc.
  • T. K. V. Desikachar (son of Krishnamacharya) and the Viniyoga style.

Another important influence in the yoga schools was also the Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh (1887-1963) and many of his students, some of them are:

  • Swami Vishnu-Devananda, founder of the International Centres of Sivananda Yoga
  • Swami Satyananda, of the yoga school of Bihar and
  • Swami Satchidananda, of Integral yoga.

Benefits

Basic elements of a Hatha yoga session are asanas, pranayama, meditation and yoga nidra (deep relaxation).

Why is it so acceptable and popular in the West?

Why more and more people go to specialized yoga rooms?

Why (in other countries mostly) yoga is used as an alternative and supporting therapy in hospitals, prisons but also as lessons in schools? Of course thanks to the benefits on humans and, therefore, mankind in general. The practitioner who exercises regularly gains muscular flexibility and strength but also and most important develops the ability to concentrate, our psychic strength, our will.. It helps us to see the world from another point of view, reminds us the principles of non-violence (ahimsa) and how we can adopt and apply it in our lives.

More specifically, it can help us to recover from so frequent illnesses like high blood pressure, breathing problems, diabetes, peptic problems, migraines, depression and muscular-skeletal problems (curvature, scoliosis, cervical syndrome, waist problems, arthritis, injuries etc.). Furthermore, it can reduce stress problems that many people face without exception in age, making our everyday life difficult.

Hatha yoga, in other words is a science, poetry, art of body, mind and soul concluding a variety of asanas and techniques. If one observes its practices and goals more deeply, he/she can notice an esoteric research system and a personal development.

If we use the principles that are given to us correctly, respecting our body and oneself in general, if we make yoga a part of our life and not only sparse visits in yoga halls then it’s true, we may succeed in many things! We may balance all the sides of ourselves – body, soul, spririt- all the appropriate elements for an harmonic and full life!

A life that we are lucky to live and we have the obligation to live it as substantially as we can for ourselves and all he other beings in the world.

Namaste