When we go to yoga shalas / yoga studios to practice yoga; mostly we all practices are Hatha Yoga. Many of the practitioners doesn't know where is this Hatha Yoga originated and how it transform to become modernised Hatha Yoga practices in our era. Hatha Yoga lineages comes under the Raja Yoga practices or we can tell that Hatha Yoga practices are the upgraded versions of Raja Yoga itself only.
So, first of all we need to know that what is Raja Yoga is about?
Raja Yoga practices are the practices which is based on Sage Patanjali's Raja Yoga Sutra scriptures and raja yoga practices; which are simply teaching the different techniques to do meditations. The beauty of Raja Yoga Sutra and Raja Yoga practices attracted tremendous amount of practitioners to jump into these practices in that era. As the number of practitioners increased, they begin to face tremendous amount of obstacles in the Raja Yoga practices. Mainly that obstacles were under two sections: Body & Mind. Whenever Raja Yoga practitioners (Raja Yogis) sit for meditations they begin to feel the body is not steady or it creates discomfort which disturbs their state of stillness in the meditations. Also, they faced second obstacle as mind is not easy to be steady as they sit in meditations. Mind begin to think tremendously as they still themselves.
Raja Yoga begin to develop through hundreds of years and turned to become Hatha Yoga. That practices compressed in another scriptures by Swami Swatmarama as Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Hatha Yoga practices are based on Hatha Yoga Pradipika; which speaking about preparations / purification of physical body is important before we try out meditation to find stillness in the body.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika gives Kriyas (Cleansing Techniques), Asanas (Yoga Postures) and few Pranayamas (Breathing Techniques) to prepare / purify the physical body which can help finding stillness in the body during the meditation. Also, Hatha Yoga Pradipika gives Pranayams (Breathing Techniques), Mudras (Yoga Gestures) and Bandhas (Energy Locks) to control the Prana (Vital Force / Life Force / Chi); which are techniques to control the mind.
So, what is Hatha Yoga is about?
5 Practices together is called is Hatha Yoga
1. Asanas (Yoga Postures)
2. Pranayamas (Yogic Breathing Techniques)
3. Mudras (Yogic Gestures)
4. Bandhas (Energy Locks)
5. Kriyas (Cleansing Techniques)
If you enters a Hatha Yoga; then these 5 practices must to be learnt in one single section. It doesn't matter whether that section are 60min or 75min or 120min. These 5 practices must to be included to fulfill the Hatha Yoga1. ASANAS (YOGA POSTURES)Asanas are consider as Yoga Postures which helps to keep healthier the all the body systems (including skeleto-muscular system; respiratory system; digestive system; cardio-vascular system; endocrine system; nervous system; etc) and all the body joints (a healthy joints steady the body upstraight and it helps all body circulations - including blood circulations, nerve circulations, etc. A tight joints restrict these all circulations to accumulate toxins). Technically we can say that Asanas are not gymnastic postures to improve flexibility. It's a technique to maintain the health & harmony; so the self can sit comfortably and achieve the ultimate goal of life through meditations.
2. PRANAYAMA (YOGA BREATHING TECHNIQUES)Pranayamas are techniques to improve the lungs capacity and to regulate the breathe. Breath - Prana (Chi / Life Force) - Mind; these three components are interconnected. We uses the breathe control to control the prana; control of the prana to control the mind; which is the ultimate goal of meditation - Control the thoughts or mind. Hatha Yoga Pradipika gives tremendous number of techniques to control the breathe - Pranayamas
3. MUDRAS (YOGA GESTURES)Mudras are the yoga gestures to divert the energy into different parts of the bodies with purposes. Mudras also consider as seals which encloses the secrecy of the practices too. Most of us very well known is gestures which are made by hands. But, it's more than gestures which made by hands. Gestures are classified as Hastha Mudras (Hand Gestures); Mana Mudras (Head Gestures); Kaya Mudras (Postural Gestures); Bandha Mudras (Lock Gestures) and Adhar Mudras (Perineal Gestures).
4. BANDHAS (ENERGY LOCKS)Bandhas are the energy locks; which also are techniques to divert the prana (life force / chi) to different parts with purposes. Also, Bandhas are the root practices which helps to increase the pressure to the lungs and classically believe that it's a closed boundary where we train our internal energy before we let this energy to take into the higher dimensions. Same as we training a wild horse in a closed surrounding first for a long period of time; then one day we open that doors and ride the horse out from it for a beautiful and comfortable ride. That's what Bandhas are about.
5. KRIYAS (CLEANSING TECHNIQUES)Kriyas are internal body cleansing techniques to maintain the health in physical body. There are Shat Kriyas (6 Cleansing Techniques) mentioning in the Hatha Yoga Pradipikas; some of the practices sounds very weird; but the benefits behind them are tremendous. Hatha Yoga Pradipika clearly mentioning that a body which is with impurities from inside will bring discomfort in physical body during meditations and which will disturb the progress in meditations too. Hatha Yoga Pradipika mentioning that if we want to self-realise then first we must have to purify the body and then begin to control the mind through pranayama and meditation. If we want to experience the beauty of a stone which resides in a river then the river must to be clean without dirts (which is body) and the water layers must to be still (mind must to be still).
These five beautiful practice together is called is Hatha Yoga; which is developed through thousands of year's yogis effort from Raja Yoga to Hatha Yoga. In our era, we begin to manipulate these practices as gymnastic yoga postures alone and we believe that yoga postures are just to make body flexible or to remove fat or to sweat or to feel good to kill time. Hatha Yoga practices are well scientifical practices which developed through great yogis and it's purpose are simply prepare the body and mind for Raja Yoga practices. Next time when you will be on the yoga mat; remember each of the contents and importance of it before you do it. Practice meaningfully and mindfully!
Our Studio LocationsRoom 8 A, No 121 Jiangsu Lu Room 10 A, Xin An Mansion Jing’an District, Shanghai上海市静安区镇宁路200号（欣安大厦） 西楼10A