Hatha Yoga is part of Raj Yoga, yoga of control, one of the four paths of yoga. Hatha literally means ‘stuborn’ and hatha yoga is all about the stubborn practice of controlling the mind and the body.
Hatha Yoga consists of 6 parts: asana (yoga poses), pranayama (breathing exercises), mantra (chanting), mudra (hand gestures), bandha (locks) and kriya (cleansing). Classically Hatha Yoga has been practiced since more than 5000 years.
It was originally practiced by monks who would spend their days meditating. Because they were sitting all day long they lacked movement and they needed some physical exercise to keep their body healthy without exhausting them too much and without requiring extra food afterwards.
They developed some yoga asanas focusing on the stimulation and development of the internal body. Nowadays we know these asanas as ‘Classical Hatha Yoga asanas’, focusing on the intestines, glands, heart, etc. Some examples are Headstand (Shirshasana), Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana), Plough pose (Halasana) and many more.
Over the years this classical practice of Hatha Yoga was developed and the focus shifted from the internal body to the external body. The practice of asanas was now more focused on making the body strong and flexible.
In a Hatha Yoga practice the poses are held for certain duration with focus inward, observing the body and the breath and eventually trying to disconnect from the physical body. Sthiram Sukham Asanam means Steady Comfortable Pose and that is the aim in a hatha yoga practice: holding a pose steadily and comfortably.
In Hatha Yoga you move in a controlled way, without jerks and always gentle for the body. In between poses there is a regular relaxation to allow the body and the breath to recover from the asanas.
Swami Sivananda has developed a fixed sequence, called the Sivananda sequence, but you can also make your own sequence according to your body and your needs.
Since Hatha Yoga is the oldest yoga style there are many hatha yoga teacher training courses in India. Following a Hatha yoga teacher training course can help you to understand more about the philosophy and background of this fascinating yoga style.