Hatha Yoga originated in the 15th century, and is credited to the Indian sage, Swami Swatmarama. Literally, ‘Ha’ means ‘sun’ and ‘tha’ means ‘moon’. It also refers to the Sanskrit ‘nadis’ or channels of subtle energy starting at the base of the spine and culminating at the crown of the head. Through a series of physical exercises (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama), Hatha yoga cleanses these channels of toxins and negativity, so as to awaken the divine power (kundalini) in all beings.
Hatha Yoga is the most widely practiced school of yoga, worldwide. Its gentle exercises make it ideally suited to beginners. The benefits of Hatha yoga are manifold. It promotes and sustains flexibility of the joints through a series of graduated exercises. Adult beginners are often astonished at the level of flexibility they are able to attain through regular practice of the prescribed asanas. The muscles are gradually strengthened; endurance builds up too. The asanas benefit internal organs and glands, while pranayama improves lung function and induces a deep sense of calm. Thus, all aspects of a being, physical, psychological and spiritual, stand to gain from the practice of Hatha Yoga.
Over the years, practitioners of Hatha Yoga have diversified their techniques and created their own schools. Some of the best known schools are B.K.S. Iyengar’s Iyengar Yoga, T.K.V. Desikachar’s Viniyoga and K. Pattabhi Jois’s Ashtanga Yoga.