May the Real Hatha Yoga Please Stand Up

May the Real Hatha Yoga Please Stand Up



Hatha Yoga in America or “the west” is known as a “general” Yoga practice that can be had by anyone- a Yoga that is the practice of casual asanas and breathing techniques (Pranayama) which prepare the body for meditation. This, of course, could not be further from the truth. Just the actual pronunciation of Hatha suggests otherwise.




This is one of those Yoga facts that has truly gotten misrepresented. The word Hatha pronounced HA-Tah (emphasis on the Tah) means hardcore, forceful, and willful. “Union through the discipline of force.” As the great author, James Mallison says, “It is described like something you really really want unlike anything ever… meaning hardcore, really meaning hardcore.” Hatha asana practice is a set of postures and sequences that are hard lined designed to align the body including the skin, muscles, and bone. In Jim Mallison’s written accounts of Hatha Yoga, there are two forms of Hatha, one that follows the eight limbs and one (Kripalu) that follows the eight mudras. I will focus on the eight limbs.






To break down Hatha into its root translation is Ha = Sun and Tha = Moon. This suggests that the practice would unite both the active and receptive qualities in each of these celestial bodies. This idea encourages the union between opposing forces like strength and flexibility, emotional stability and mental clarity, rest and activity. This union also becomes about the uniting of the body and mind (fleshy organic selves) to the greater universe. These are concepts that are about discipline and not just about a series of exercises that help us physically. Hatha Yoga in one account embodies the eight limbs of Yoga to achieve these balances. 






The Eight Limbs of Yoga are:

Yama: Ethical behavior

Niyama: Spiritual practices

Asana: Physical Activity or Postures

Pranayama: The Practice of Breathing | Breath Control

Pratyahara: Turning off outside influence:

Dharana: Concentration

Dhyana: mediation

Samadhi: The ultimate state of consciousness and the goal of Hatha Yoga




One of the most practical texts to read is the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which is a fifteenth-century manual on Hatha Yoga written by Yogi Swatmarama. There are several versions of this book with full instructions on the practice including the size and shape of the room to practice in, what to eat and what company you should keep. In many manuals, Yoga is an individual daily practice, Asana being the first “accessory” to that practice. The original practice being advised on the floor with a towel or animal skin rug. We now have environmentally friendly mats that serve that purpose. 





Much of any Yoga Practice was written for men and was exclusive to men in India until the 20th century. Things certainly have changed. The western explosion of Yoga practices are dominated by women and Yoga is now open to all in most places. But do not be surprised while reading the manuals that you come across lines in the texts for Yogis to avoid salt, sour, travel and women. Keep in mind the times they were written. I find myself grateful for the surge and change. 







So the real Hatha Yoga, in closing, is hardcore in dedication and practice. A practice that when followed can be achieved in one year according to the 15th century Yogis.






Now, ladies and gents let’s get Hardcore with Hatha!


To your good health!

Sat Nam ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ

Soorya Kirti Kaur


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