Hatha Yoga has been dated back to around 6AD in the Upanishad scriptures
Hatha Yoga (according to The Hatha Yoga Pradipika) was practiced as preparation for higher states of consciousness - ultimately through meditation.
Yoga aims to create balace between the 'gut self' and the neuro-motor self; balance within the Autonomic nervous system, biomechanical and biochemical systems.
When developed Hatha Yoga excluded the Tantric (Kundaliini energy practices) from the practice.
Founders (of teh Hatha Yoga Pradipika) Svatmarama) also felt that Yama and Niyama codes of practice from Patanjali's Raja Yoga *The Eight Limbs of Yoga were unattainable before the body was purified.
Therefore practice focused on Shatkarma/Shatkriya and Asana initially and then progressed.
Asana - the physical postures is only one part of yoga, yet the best known aspect of Yoga known and practiced in the western world.
The changes you see within your physical muscular flexibility are due to the changes within your nervous system. So it is not how hard you pull on your hamstings or how deep you go into a backbend
but how you approach your practice (without harm) and learn to utilize the breath with your movement.
Everyone’s body has it’s own history of lifestyle and trauma; emotional, physical and mental. These traumas are held and visible in our body through our individual alignments, weaknesses and strengths.
When practicing asana yoga, you move the body through a range of postures that stretch and contract the muscles. HOWEVER, to make your practice fit your body, you must know where you might be compensating, where your muscles might be overworking and learn to use the physical asana practice to re-balance these areas.
The Breath-work (Pranayama) is the effective ‘bridge’ between body and mind. Control of the breath, respiratory rate and style can alter the body temperature, energy consumption and brain waves. Harmonizing the breath flow creates a balancing affect of the sympathetic and parasympathetic (Autonomic) nervous system to stimulate and balance both body and mind.
Traditionally, the first step towards a balanced system of body and mind within Hatha Yoga is to ‘purify’ the body through cleansing practices known as ‘shatkarma’ (neti, dhauti, basti, kapalabti, trataka and nauli). If you research these you may be pleased to hear I do not ask you to practice Shatkarma in class!!!
Asana and pranayama practices also include Mudras - physical holding postures of body, hands and fingers which has a strong energetic influence on the mind. These practices can lead to the other practices of Pratyahara (sense withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (bliss-state).
*The Eight Limbs of Patanjali’s ‘Raja’ Yoga include:
Yama - Moral codes/Ethical disciplines
Niyama - Self observation or restraints
Pranayama - Breath control
Pratyahara - Sense withdrawal
Dharana - Concentration
Dhyana - Meditation
Samadhi - A state of joy and peace
Explore Patanjali Yoga Sutras for more information.
The Yama's include:
The Niyama include: