What is Hatha Yoga?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 August 2019
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Hatha yoga is a physical yoga discipline which trains the body so that the practitioner can work on his or her spirituality. When most Westerners think of “yoga,” they are actually thinking about hatha yoga; yoga is actually a huge and complex spiritual and physical discipline with a number of branches. A variety of physical disciplines are descended from hatha yoga, including bikram yoga. Chances are very high that a hatha yoga class is being offered in your area.

The most famous aspect of this type of yoga is probably the postures or asanas which are used to strengthen, stretch, and tone the body as part of yogic practice. During a session, the practitioner will move through a number of these poses, holding them for varying amounts of time and working in a set order to ensure that muscle groups are slowly warmed up and evenly worked. Many poses are quite demanding, requiring focus, strength, and agility.

Another important aspect of hatha yoga is pranayama, or breathwork. During a yoga session, yogis and yoginis are very mindful of their breath, and they may take breaks during the session to focus specifically on breathing. Control of the breath is said to be vital to the control of the body, and it also encourages an inward focus which can help to develop one's spirituality.


The practice of meditation is also deemed to be an important part of hatha yoga, although not all people engage in meditation. The practice of yoga tends to promote a calm, still state which can be conducive to meditation, and this is part of the goal of yogic practice. In India, this also includes a number of moral precepts which people are expected to follow, including principles of nonviolence and truthfulness. These precepts are not always integrated into Western practice of hatha yoga.

The goal of hatha yoga is to achieve a balance between mind and body. Yoga practitioners tend to be in good shape, because their bodies are repeatedly put through a series of demanding exercises, and their minds are also said to be clearer than those of people who do not practice yoga. The practice can help people focus on self-improvement, and it encourages people to take the experiences and emotions of their yoga sessions and classes with them into the outside world.


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Post 3

I think hatha is similar to the concept of yin and yang in Chinese philosophy, where opposites complement one another to make balance. "Ha" meaning sun and "tha" meaning moon. These represent opposites just as night and day does in yin and yang.

The main goal of yoga is to bring back into balance our imbalanced bodies, minds and emotions. Daily stresses, bad habits and poor food choices wreck havoc with these and practicing yoga can bring them back to balance.

Post 2

@ZipLine-- That is a common misconception. Hatha isn't actually a type of yoga. It's rather the sequences of postures that are done during yoga. So any type of yoga that involves a series of physical exercises, called asanas, involves hatha.

I think the reason why this is misunderstood is because in the West, yoga has come to mean physical exercise. But yoga is a whole philosophy that is spiritual and the physical exercise is merely one of the means of achieving unity and balance, just as meditation and breathing exercises are as well.

Post 1

So this is just regular yoga that we're all familiar with? It's funny, I've been doing yoga for a few years now and had not heard of this term until now. It's clearly not used often.

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