Hatha Yoga

What is Hatha Yoga?

Hatha yoga is known as the yoga for the physical body. In Sanskrit, “Ha” represents the sun and “tha” represents the moon,

This alludes to the opposites in our lives, such as yin and yang, light and darkness, hard and soft, vigorous and gentle.

Most forms of yoga in the West can be classified as Hatha Yoga. Hatha simply refers to the practice of physical yoga postures, meaning your Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar, and Power Yoga classes are all Hatha Yoga. The word “hatha” can be translated two ways: as “willful” or “forceful,” or the yoga of action, and as “sun” (ha) and “moon” (tha), the yoga of balance. Hatha practices are designed to align and calm your body, mind, and spirit in preparation for meditation.

Why should I practice Hatha Yoga?

Hatha yoga is about finding balance. Through working with the physical body, releasing tensions and traumas stored in the body, you create space in yourself and, through that space and balance, the opportunity for spiritual growth.

History and Origins

Hatha yoga is known, nowadays, as the yoga for the physical body. The Sanskrit term haṭha refers to “forceful” or “strong”. This refers to the powerful transformational techniques of Hatha and the results it forced to happen… The more esoteric meaning of sun (Ha) and Moon (Tha) is a later addition when elements of subtle body psychology (e.g. chakra) gained prominence. The origins of Hatha are a mixture of various earlier traditions. Though exact dates are unknown the earliest Hatha yoga textual references date 1100 AD but some of its techniques are at least a thousand years older. In the 15the century, Swatmarama compiled the Hathapradipika, based on a collection of eight scriptures, combining several traditions and their methods. Contrary to popular belief, Hatha yoga stresses the importance of meditation (samadhi). Meditation is combined with postures (asana), breathing techniques and energy locks (pranayama and mudra).

Philosophy and Principles

An important principle to understand the philosophy of Hatha is that the Sacred encompasses and penetrates the Mundane. Though now known as physical yoga, an important principle of Hatha is that the physical body comprises both materiality and mentality. The latter being of a more subtle nature or subtle matter than the former.  Hatha yoga aims to transform the body-mind complex in order to obtain supernatural powers (siddhi’s) and Liberation.

Hatha Pose Families

-Warm Ups:

These postures are intended to “wake” the body up. Warmups invite in gentle movements such as neck stretches or gentle spinal rotation to prepare the body for more dynamic movement.

-Sun Salutations:

The Sun Salutations are a set sequence of poses that move in a flow with the intention to gain breath awareness while also increasing strength and flexibility.


Defined as spinal rotation, yoga includes lots of twists to benefit and promote detoxification, digestion, maintain spinal mobility, ease back pain, and act as stress relievers.


Also known as “heart openers”, backbends are an important component in yoga by balancing out collapsed posture that is so commonly seen in the age of screens. Backbends also invite in strength for the arms, shoulders, legs, and back muscles, while improving flexibility in the shoulders, chest, and hip flexors. As a practitioner begins to open the heart in backbends they are often met with more energy and a sense of openness.

-Hip Openers:

Our hips are our center of gravity in the body. They connect our lower half to the earth while holding up the weight of the upper portion. The hips are a place where tension likes to reside and so for that reason yoga invites in postures to release emotional stress from this area.

-Lateral Bends:

These poses create the action of moving the spine up and left or right. This creates opening for the muscles of the back and spine as well as the shoulders. These poses are great to release back pain and tightness in the shoulders as well as improve postural alignment. Often our bodies tend to have a dominant left or right side depending how we sit, stand, drive, and sleep so this pose family works to restore balance.

-Standing Poses:

The standing postures allow for many practitioners to do a wide array of things including grounding, balance, postural alignment and body awareness. These asana are heat poses, so they may allow the body to warm up and increase heart while promoting strength and flexibility.

-Forward Bends:

Forward bends allow the upper half of the body to hinge over the lower half starting at the hip points. These poses allow opening in the hips, hamstrings, and calves while reduce tiredness, stress, and even depression. They encourage awareness of the core and strengthen the thighs, knees, and spine. Forward folds also allow tension to release out of the neck and back.

-Seated Poses:

Any pose that allows the sit bones to be rooted onto the mat are considered seated poses. The focus is on the integrity of a tall spine while working on flexibility and muscle engagement.


An inversion is any pose that allows the hips to be higher than the heart. Sometimes we think of these as the upside poses but they do not necessarily have to be. Inversions flush the head, heart, neck with blood while renewing circulation in the legs. Inversions are important as mood booster and a re-energizer while promoting core strength, balance, and deep breathing.

-Arm Balances

Arm balances really show us what we’re made of! The mind and body must work together to engage total body strength and balance. In these postures, the practitioner’s arms and shoulders are now acting as the legs. For beginners this pose family might look intimidating but there are many mini steps and modifications to build up proper strength.


Often described as the best and sometimes most difficult of all yoga asana, Savasana is considered a reclined meditation. This is the time after all work in a yoga series has been completed in order for the muscles to recover while also allowing for a mind/body connection while new brain patterns and habits are created.

The Practice of  Hatha Today

Hatha today usually is a slowly-paced class, consisting of asanas. It does not have the flow one might find in Anusara or Vinyasa but its a great place to start if you are new to yoga or to advance or deepen your practice.  You get the time and space to become familiar with yoga poses and relaxation techniques. A Hatha Yoga class would most likely include asanas, breathing techniques and meditation. The practice of Hatha historically was used to prepare the body for extreme and prolonged meditation so it is designed to release tension and stress in body and mind.
Hatha Yoga is the basis for all contemporary, physical yoga practices. When you do Iyengar, this is hatha yoga; when you do Ashtanga, as different as this may seem, it’s Hatha too!

Benefits of a regular Hatha yoga practice

– Makes the body stronger and more flexible.

– Release tension and trauma stored in the body.

– Calms the mind.

– Creates space in body and mind and in that space you find ‘balance’ and the opportunity for spiritual growth.