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Hatha Yoga


L 'Hatha yoga is the most ancient form of yoga and, over time, gave birth to many other disciplines.  In the West, almost all styles practiced derive from classical Hatha Yoga.


Hatha Yoga teaches to dominate the cosmic energy present in man, manifested as breath, and therefore to achieve control of the mind, restless by its nature. 

Whoever follows the rules is no longer a "common" man but becomes a  Siddha , that is, a "perfect" man with an extraordinary power: the dominion of the elements.

Traditionally, Hatha yoga offered a total philosophy of life, incorporating the way we relate to external and internal experience as a path to inner peace.  


The origins of this discipline can be traced back to the Sanskrit epic (Hinduism) and the Pali canon (Buddhism), up to the borders of India and Nepal.  The ancient Hatha yogis lived as renunciates, engaging in the disciplines of Hatha yoga as a means of self-experimentation and self-realization. Hindu concepts such as reincarnation and karma were at the center of their thinking.


In modern terms, Hatha yoga has been associated with a physical, mental and spiritual practice,  slow, intense, with much more static postures than other styles.

The term Hatha derives from Sanskrit and is composed of two syllables:

  • Ha = which means Sun, symbol of male energy  which flows into the right energy channel of our body  ( Pingala ) ☀️🚹

  • Tha = which means Moon, symbol of female energy  which flows into the left energy channel of the body ( Ida )  🌙🚺

Another meaning of the word "Hatha" is strength , determination. It refers to the strong physical and mental discipline which is necessary for the practice ( Tapas ).


So we could say that the practice of Hatha Yoga aims to keep the two polarities (Sun and Moon) in balance and harmony and that to do so requires physical and mental effort (strength).

When these two opposite but complementary currents are in equilibrium, energy  Kundalini  (which we will talk about) is free to flow through the central Sushumna channel, crossing all the Chakras up to the  Chakra  of the crown, making possible the experience of bliss and union.

The balance of complementary opposites is the key to releasing the energy of awareness and gaining spiritual freedom.


But that's not all. In fact, there is a higher level, a higher evolutionary stage of Yoga, the same that we find in the tra of Patañjali ,  which should lead to the ultimate goal of Yoga: Samadhi, "bliss", the state in which the annihilation of the Ego is achieved, in which the dualities become one, the mental afflictions are silenced and the mind is completely calm .

The highest purpose of Hatha yoga and yoga in general is to eliminate "physical obstacles" to prepare body and mind for the path to bliss.  The practice of asanas, therefore, aims to dissolve tensions in the body and purify the energy channels, allowing the Prana, the vital energy, to flow freely.

The practices of breath control or vital energy absorption ( pranayama ) also allow to calm the mind.

Hatha Yoga classes have a slow and gentle pace, physical effort is reduced but constant and for this reason they are suitable for everyone.

This acts positively on the nervous system, reducing stress, anxiety and, therefore, muscle stiffness, tension and insomnia, thanks to the increase in proprioception and greater listening to the breath and to oneself.

Hatha Yoga re-oxygenates the body, improving its functionality, increasing its flexibility and vitality, improving concentration and quality of breath, teaching how to manage emotions and giving a healthy self control.


From a more "practical" point of view, Hatha Yoga consists of:


Asanas are body postures with which the practitioner amplifies and improves mental characteristics and attitudes. Each posture brings together greater  prana  (vital lymph) towards specific parts of the body, radiating the relative nadis and the chakras involved. The postures, therefore, are not only complex gymnastic exercises, as some define them, but they prove to be precious tools for channeling energy into the different parts of the body.


The  Pranayama  is a set of breathing techniques that allows the accumulation and use of  prana . Through breath control the practitioner is able to purify the body and mind. Learn more here .


Relaxation techniques are an important part of Hatha Yoga. Relaxation according to this type of Yoga consists in a regenerating pause between one activity and another and is a very different thing from laziness and / or idleness, based instead on the refusal of work. Relaxation exercises act both physically and mentally and generally follow the work performed with postures and breathing exercises and are a prerequisite for meditation techniques.


Meditation is the seventh of the eight steps described by the sage  Patañjali  to achieve union with the Whole. Meditation is the step immediately preceding the stage of  Samadhi , when the individual Self unites with the universal Self.



Patañjali in his Yoga Sūtra text does not explain how to actively carry out the practice of Yoga, so Svâtmârâma, who lived around the fifteenth century, decided to compose a practical manual: the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, in which he collected all the yogic practices treated up to that moment orally or in unknown texts. In this sense, Hatha Yoga is the descriptive part of Raja Yoga practices.

With  Hathapradipika , I am  two relevant texts of Hatha Yoga: Gheranda Samhita and Shiva Samhita.

Svâtmârâma Swami 's Hathapradipika is among the most important works governing Hatha yoga. To be clear, it is what countless generations of yogis have considered and consider as an indispensable source of reference,  useful to understand that Hatha Yoga is not only a physical practice, as it is often presented, but an integrated science that leads to spiritual development.

The text contains various Slokas (verses) dealing with different topics, divided into 5 or more chapters:

  • Book I: Asanas, rules of behavior and observances (Yama and Niyama), place of practice, nutrition

  • Book II: Pranayama, breath control and retention; Shatkarmas, the practices of internal purification (Krya)

  • Book III: Mudra, Bandha, Nadi and the awakening of the Kundalini

  • Book IV: Pratyahara, the retraction of the senses; Dharana, the concentration; Dhyana, meditation; Samadhi, the ecstasy

  • Book V: Therapy and Damage Caused by Bad Yoga Practice


The work was first published in India, in 1893, in Sanskrit, with the commentary of Brahmananda, from the English translation of Shrinivas Yangari. It is probable that this text is based on the reconstruction and expansion of an older text which dates back to the 2nd or 1st BC and which is attributed to Gorakha-Nath, (mythical character founder of the Tantra-vidya tradition) and of which only some fragments.


Svatmarama lives in 16th century India, in the period of maximum philosophical and religious syncretism (fusion of doctrines of different origins) known as Vedanta. His name means "He who takes delight (rama) in his (sva) self (atman)", confirming his dedication to the path of yoga.

The written work fulfills the function of maintaining the original tradition, especially when it is neglected and is about to be forgotten. The merit of Svatmarama is to have systematized a certainly pre-existing discipline and to have made it accessible both to the scholar and to those who intend to practice it.

Hathapradipika adopts as the basis of liberation ( Moksa ) the physical body and the energy body, closely interconnected in a single existential structure. The two bodies are interdependent, this means that what happens to one is immediately reflected in the other. By acting on the physical body, effects are produced on the energy body and modifications of the energy body modify the physical body.

Svatmarama offers in his work the description of a set of physical practices whose purpose is liberation. Freedom from pain is what man desires most. The author, while focusing the practice on the physical body, believes that Hatha yoga and Raja yoga are complementary and interdependent as are the body and mind (HPII, 76).

The yoga described by Svatmarama consists of only four components: Asana; Pranayama; Mudra; Samadhi.


The Sanskrit word Hatha  it refers to the union (yoga) of two alternating currents in a single flow of energy.

Pradipika is the clear lantern that lights up when the Sun (Ha) and Moon (Tha) and the two channels Ida and Pingala (within which the energy flows alternately) come together activating and pushing the Kundalini energy into the central Sushumna channel.  

Sounds like a simple concept, right? 🙈

Svatmarama is not interested in the subtleties of the mind, but rather in the path of the forces that imply states of consciousness.

The practitioner, who sets out on the path of yoga, performs sequences with the physical body that seem not to have immediately a mental and spiritual counterpart. But, if the practice is constant and prolonged over time, the awareness of that mental and spiritual dimension that is typical of yoga will emerge.

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L 'experience  it is the basic requirement of yoga as it leads to a deep awareness of oneself and one's "functioning".  

The body is the first object necessary to be able to experience our existence .  

"Shariram adyam khalu dharma" .

In Sanskrit: Sharira = body,  adyam = first,  khalu = everything and dharma = life sustaining entity.

Let me explain:

The experience of the body can be done either directly or through some of its functions. Let's take an example.

Imagine yourself driving your car. It happens while driving to be lost in one's thoughts or to be concentrated in driving or on the functioning of the engine.

Regarding the latter, for everything to work  necessary  from time to time do a good cleaning.  A very important concept in Hathapradhipika is related to the purification of the body : Ghata Shuddhi = the cleansing of the psycho-physical complex

Practices inherent to "washing the engine" ( Ghata shuddhi )  I'm:

  • Deha Shuddhi for cleaning the structure

  • Nadi Shuddhi for cleaning the energy channels

  • Prana shuddhi for the correction of the functioning of vital energy

Cleaning and keeping the vehicle in order is in the interest of both the car owner and the driver. For a healthy and good functioning of the body, however, according to yoga, the following come into play: the breath, or rather the breathing techniques ( pranayama ), the asanas , the  mudra and  bandha.  


The basis of Hatha Yoga is Shuddhi , or the purification of the body on the surface and in depth.


The yogic term that defines the body is Ghata (Deha or Sharira) which means container. The body, therefore, must be seen as a container that gradually becomes dirty and impure as it is used, and impurities must be removed. Hi this when you say: Do I need to detox?


Hatha Yoga is proposed as a support to explain to us how and with what techniques it is possible to experience our body and understand its impurities in order to remove them, or at least try.


Do you know why when you approach Yoga you start from the body?

To my students I always say: "It is easier to tell you to contract the abdomen. What happens, however, if I ask you to listen to your soul or your energy?"

From an anatomical point of view, the human body is made up of different tissues that form apparatuses and systems, but the only structure that we can truly experience and use voluntarily are our muscles. So we can say that the concept of the body is linked to the concept of muscles and our ability to control them.  Talking is a muscular activity as well as walking, breathing, gesticulating. Urinating is also a muscular action. Aside from sensory functions and glandular activities, everything in the body is related to the functioning of the muscles. During any type of activity we carry out the muscles are always affected: to lift an arm there is a muscle contraction, to take a step there is a muscle contraction.


We can therefore say that "body" also means muscles, since what we can experience of our body is muscle activity.

When we have pain, most of the time it means that our muscles are in an altered state. Maybe a contraction does not always follow a relaxation. Often the tensions remain, perhaps at a deep level, and this is how the body becomes "dirty".

How do we cleanse the body? Releasing tensions, thus intervening on the muscles.


This action of relaxation of muscular tensions is a sort of reversal of the situation (Viparita Karani): that is, we do the opposite of what happened before. If before you had not contracted the muscles accumulating tension, this time you will try to relax them deeper and deeper to trigger a reverse process.


The opposite of contracting is releasing. The opposite of stretching is stretching, stretching, doing "passive stretching".

We get back into our car.

With use, the body becomes impure (muscular tensions), impurities accumulate and make the experience we have of our body become more and more negative, like the machine: when it is clean it gives us a good feeling, when it is dirty gives us an unpleasant feeling.

When we experience the impurities (tensions, cramps, pains, tremors, spasms, colic) of the body, instead of accepting them passively, we should try to get rid of them, perhaps without external aids (drugs).


Yoga could be defined as a natural means of removing impurities / tensions (Deha Suddhi)  through muscle elongation (stretching), whatever the type of practice chosen, the muscles will never be contracted, but only relaxed. Ditto with the mind.

One of the definitions of Asana  is "to be ".

How do we experience our being? Are we able to give us an answer?


We often experience only the tensions of our being and we tend to identify with them. But when the muscle (and our mind) begins to relax, to lengthen, the impurities that held it contract begin to disappear, so you can finally begin to experience your existence in a purer state.


What purpose would the practice of asana have if not to bring us back to a state of balance and stability ?

Balance indicates stability and well-being, it means union of the body with the mind . And this union is yoga.

The mind is always attracted to the outside, stimulated by sensory activity, activated by thoughts, memories, anchored to the past and / or projected towards the future. Yoga wants to bring back the union between the body and the mind, passing from the cortical activity (dynamic practices) to a subcortical activity (cerebellum and medulla oblongata).

Only when the union between mind and body is consolidated, the physical functions begin to occur with spontaneous rhythm, in a completely natural way.

As when the machine is in the washing tunnel, it lets itself be transported, there is no more voluntary action.

CURIOSITY and myth

The myth tells that the practice of Yoga was born from the God Shiva . The story goes that near the bank of a river, the God Shiva taught his wife Parvati the secrets of the practices of Hatha Yoga. His wife, not very interested in the subject, falls asleep irritating Shiva.


His anger ceases as soon as he realizes that someone else had followed his teachings carefully: he was a little fish who, hidden among the rocks of the river, listened with great interest. The God Shiva then decides to transform him into a human being, giving him the name Matsyendra, the Lord of Pisces. With this transformation the fish became a yogin, Matsyendra became the Guru, "the master" of Hatha Yoga, the one who learned the discipline of Hatha yoga directly from the lips of Shiva. 

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