Hatha yoga represents a form of yoga, where the word hatha (stubbornness) talks about the system of various physical techniques which undergo the term of yoga itself. It is a part of Hindu origin and tradition. There is a belief that Shiva himself has found hatha yoga and that he was the first practitioner. In 20th century, the hatha yoga has spread around the world and it has become a good way to physically exercise.
According to the Hindu legend, Shiva himself is credited as a founder of hatha yoga. The legend says that Shiva gave a knowledge of hatha yoga to Goddess parvati, assuming that nobody esle would listen to their conversation. Suddenly, a fish heard the discourse and remained still throughout the whole conversation. The fish caled Matsya later became a form known as siddha and afterwards came to be called Matsyendranath. He then taught the hatha yoga to his students, disciple Gorakshanath and a limbless man called Chaurangi. Afterwards, hatha yoga has spread among the people and so has the hatha yoga became practiced.
Even the historical evidences talk about the hatha yoga practice, and most of the pictures and texts could be traced back in Pali canon and different epics. The Pali canon is consisted of three passages, where Buddha describes the meaning of tongue pressing agains the palate, in order to controll the mind or hunger. The earlier texts had less systemized texts which could be taken for a serious practice of hatha yoga, but mediaeval systematization has a significant number of texts essential for hatha yoga teaching. Some of the most popular texts about hatha yoga could be found in Amrtasiddhi, Dattatreyayogasastra, Sarngadharapaddhati, Dattatreyayogasastra, Vivekamartanda, Goraksasataka and Khecarividya.
Classical hatha yoga
After the mediaeval systematization, the hatha yoga as we know has been fully formed in early modern and modern era, known as classical system. Such practice is still practiced today with minor differences when compared to earlier origins. The principal texts of classical hatha yoga could be found in the three texts of Hinduism, according to Rosen and Burley.
These texts are Hatha Yoga Pradipika written by Yogi Swatmarama in 15th century, Shiva Samhita written by an unknown author in late 17th century and Gheranda Samhita written by Yogi Gheranda in late 17th century.
The first text has been composed in 15th century, as a unique compilation of the earlier texts about hatha yoga found in earlier times. It describes a good preparatory stage for the physical purification that each body has to undergo for the higher meditation, known as yoga. It is based on pranayama or breathing techniques and asanas or postures. The first text has a list of 35 hatha yoga siddhas or masters. The information about the purification or shatkarma is included, about pranayama, asana, kundalini, chakras, krivas, Shakti, bandhas, nadis and mudras, as well as the other topics essential for hatha yoga practice.
According to the classical teaching popularized in 15th-17th century period, the modern school of hatha yoga, especially in the western countries, have been derived from the School of Tirumalai Krischnamacharya, who was the teacher of hatha yoga from the period of 1924 to 1989. Among his most notable students there were B.K.S. Iyengar, Indra Devi and K. Pattabhi Jois, who have popularized the hatha yoga and its variations as we know them today.
The major influence of hatha yoga practice could be also found in the teachings of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh and his disciples, among which are the most popular Swami Vishnu-devananda, Swami Satyananda and Swami Satchidananda. The mentioned students have also popularized variations of hatha yoga which could be learned in both Hindu and western schools nowadays. One of the most popular hatha yoga masters is Baba Ramdey, who has popularized the hatha yoga among the masses in India in 21st century. A significant wave of hatha yoga could be also found in Sierra Leone, where the organization is headed by Tamba Fayia, who teaches yoga everywhere: in the slums, in the schools and on the streets for all those who need it.
Hathya yoga consists of various important practices and principles that are shared and could be found in other yoga methods, such as the subtle physiology, fixation of the elements and concentration on the internal sound.
The main practice of hatha yoga is concentrated on six limbs and such a scheme represent the six limbs of hatha yoga as asana, pratyahara, pranayama, dhyana, samadhi and dharana. Additionally, it has various disciplines, postures known as asana, purification procedures known as shatkriya, gestures known as mudra, breathing known as pranayama and even meditation. In the western countries, the hatha yoga is mainly practiced for the asanas, where the asanas are understood as different physical exercises. It could be also recognized as a form of stress-reducing practice.
The earliest formulations of hatha yoga, it was important to conserve and raise the physical essence of life, where in both women and men have the different form but the same meaning. The sublimation and preservation of such energy leads to asceticism, where the main purpose is to preserve the bodily fluids from dripping, in both men and women. So it is no wonder that in earlier time, it has been developed as the part of certain ascetic practices.
The later formulation of hatha yoga have represented the Kaula system, where the serpent goddess Kundalini is visualized as the rising energy which flows through the chakra systems, usually found in six or seven parts of our body, depending on the system. The proper flow of energy through the chakras could even lead to the storing of nectar of immortality in the main chakra in head. It means that the life force can flood the body and rejuvenate it, making it immortal.
The practice of hatha yoga can benefit your body in many ways, so it is important to have proper instructor and to be dedicated to the exercises. Hatha yoga can improve your being in general, so starting a good practice of hatha yoga can be very rewarding.