Hatha Yoga: a complete guide to understanding it

Hatha Yoga: a complete guide to understanding it
Written by Medhaavi Mishra

In the West, yoga is technically referred to as Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga (ha=” sun” tha=” moon”) unites the mind, body, and spirit via the use of asanas (yoga postures), pranayama (yogic breathing), mudra (body gestures), bandha (energetic locks or seals), and shatkarma (internal cleansing). These physical activities help to awaken the kundalini. It increases physical stamina and cleanliness and develops prana (life force energy) (dormant spiritual energy). Modern hatha yoga, which prioritizes the physical aspects of yoga above the majority of these esoteric techniques; does not emphasize any of them.


The Sanskrit word Hatha has two different English translations: “sun” (ha) and “moon” (tha). It refers to the active path of yoga, and “willful” or “forceful,” which refers to balance-based yoga. When viewed as a totality, hatha yoga can be described as a system of intentional movements. It is designed to achieve harmony and balance between the mind, body, and spirit. This form of yoga also referred to as “the vigorous approach,” combines physical postures with breathing techniques. Hatha yoga is the most popular form of yoga practiced in the West. The majority of the prominent yoga styles taught in yoga studios are based on this methodology. It typically indicates a gentler tone.

The type of yoga that is most popular in the West is built on three pillars:

  • Meditation,
  • Body,
  • Breathing, too.

Together, asanas (physical positions) and pranayama (breathing techniques) improve flexibility, endurance, and all-around body awareness. Yoga is much more than just a means to gain muscle and lose weight, despite what many people believe.

Hatha yoga is a fantastic option for beginners because it contains poses for every age group and level of fitness. Anyone can start practicing Hatha yoga. Though new students shouldn’t go immediately into more challenging poses like the crow.

History of Hatha Yoga

In the yoga tradition, Hatha yoga is a relatively new approach. It evolved from the principles and practices of Tantra Yoga. Through their acceptance of the physical body as a means for gaining enlightenment; the performance developed the physical-spiritual links and body-centered practices that gave origin to Hatha Yoga. However, the main goals of Hatha Yoga are to change the physical body through purification and the development of subtle energies. 

The ultimate purpose of this type of yoga; is to draw essential energy up into the central channel and the crown chakra. Most modern classrooms hardly ever teach the profound breath-holding, bandhas, and mudras. This would channel and boost one’s energy levels high enough to achieve enlightenment. Only when all of the techniques are utilized in this type of yoga; one can enter the deeper regions of meditation and illumination found on the raja yoga path.

The earliest and most widely used ancient literature on the physical practices of Hatha Yoga is the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. This book, which Swami Swatamarama wrote in the fifteenth century CE, was inspired by ancient Sanskrit literature. It includes the teachings of well-known figures and Swatamarama’s own yogic experiences. The main goal of this book is to blend the higher spiritual goals of Raja Yoga. It is with the physical disciplines and practices of Hatha Yoga.

Swatamarama begins by comparing the two, noting that Raja Yoga requires Hatha as a foundation. He explains that developing self-control and self-discipline is much easier; when we start with the physical and energetic bodies rather than trying to directly control the mind as in Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga allows us to quickly develop capacity. So that to manage the mind through the mastery of pranayama, or the energy of the body.

The Six Elements of Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga consists of six limbs (Shatanga Yoga). The six limbs are as follows:

  • Asana: A calm, steady state of the body and psyche
  • Pranayama: Enhancing the holding power of prana.
  • Pratyahara: Withholding oneself from sensory input.
  • Dharana: It is a mental-centering practice.
  • Dhyana: Self-awareness
  • Samadhi: Freedom from the Maya

As a result, the Yamas and Niyamas, the first two limbs of Raja Yoga, are not practiced in Hatha Yoga.

What takes place in a Hatha Yoga session?

A Hatha yoga class

These days, yoga that is not connected to a certain school is referred to as “Hatha” or “Hatha Yoga” (in a broad and generic sense). A typical lesson will be somewhat relaxed, slow, and appropriate for beginners. But it may not be possible to forecast the features of a certain class before registering. This exercise routine often starts with some light stretches. Progresses through a series of poses, and ends with 5–10 minutes of relaxation in the dead position.

To begin and end a class, a brief seated meditation is usually employed. As the lesson comes to a close; several students bow and say Namaste while clasping their hands in a position of prayer. The majority of the classes run for 60 to 90 minutes. Pranayama breathing exercises may be practiced individually or in conjunction with the yoga postures.

Recognition of Hatha Yoga

In the past, hatha yoga was thought of as a secret, sacred practice. Only priests and the male successors of the priest cast had access to it. As a result, the general populace thought it was a sinister magical ceremony. Numerous miraculous stories have been written about yoga practices. Hatha Yoga gained popularity in India in the 14th century when monks began performing asanas in front of the public. At the end of the 18th century, British photographers published pictures of monks indulging in dangerous activities in Western magazines. It is when it first got attention.

This inspired a desire for mystical eastern rituals in Western seekers of the spiritual. To learn yoga and meditation, many travelers visited India. However, the practice of yoga saw a rise in popularity when some masters traveled to the West. And taught Western students these yoga asanas.

Indra Devi and B.K.S. Iyengar, two teachers who popularised Hatha Yoga. They authored books that sold millions of copies in the middle of the 20th century.

Benefits of Hatha Yoga

Yoga began as a spiritual practice. But it has become more well-known as a way to support both physical and mental wellness. You may already be aware that yoga can improve your flexibility and muscle tone. But there are a lot of other health benefits to practicing Hatha yoga.

The benefits of regular Hatha yoga practice for your physical and mental well-being include the following:

Hatha yoga strengthened your core muscles 

By practicing Hatha yoga poses like plank pose and warrior, you may develop your core muscles. It includes the muscles in your stomach, sides, pelvis, and back. Core muscle strength is crucial for good body function in general. It helps improve balance, prevent lower back pain, and lower your risk of sustaining a musculoskeletal injury.

Yoga can be a good alternative for people who want to strengthen their core. But are unable to partake in more demanding sports like running or powerlifting. It includes older people or people with certain disabilities. Hatha yoga strengthens your core muscles since holding poses for long periods activates muscles like your glutes and abdominals.

Hatha yoga helps you sleep better at night

The practice of Hatha yoga helps reduce cortisol, a hormone linked to your sleep cycle. Since low cortisol levels signal your body that it is time to sleep. Practicing yoga before bed will help you fall asleep more quickly. Some experts believe that yoga also aids sleep. Because it focuses on mindful breathing and meditation. It can help you unwind your body and mind before bed. After practicing yoga, people’s ability to fall asleep more quickly and have better sleep overall.

Hatha yoga can assist you in reducing stress

Despite its potential for physical exhaustion, Hatha yoga may also be relaxing and calming. This is because yoga affects your nervous and reproductive systems. It controls biological processes like hormone release and changes in blood pressure. When you are under stress, your blood pressure and cortisol levels both frequently rise. However, it was shown that practicing Hatha yoga before engaging in intense exercise; resulted in lower cortisol levels and blood pressure than did not. Hatha yoga practitioners said they felt more capable of finishing the difficult exercise.

Aids in the development of self-control and discipline

Regularly, a lot of focus is placed on yoga’s effects on physical wellness. However, the workout is mostly mental. Holding a yoga pose involves pushing the body beyond its normal comfort zone while maintaining a cool, collected mindset. This can help us overcome small cravings and addictions, and develop self-control and discipline in daily life. Also, it even improves our relationships with others.

Enhances Balance

Our sense of equilibrium and balance are closely related to our feelings of freedom and security as we age. Hatha Yoga is a powerful technique for gaining long-lasting balance and natural mobility. Since it gradually adjusts the body’s supporting muscles and tests our body awareness with balancing poses.

The stimulation of the immune system

Hatha Yoga increases the efficiency with which the body’s cells work, clears waste, and transports antigens and white blood cells. It is to fight infection and outside attackers by enhancing blood and lymphatic circulation throughout the body.

What, in Brief, is the Use of Hatha Yoga?

With an emphasis on physically reaching the poses, hatha yoga is often taught as a beginner’s course. Hatha practices are intended to harmonize, purify, and calm your body, mind, and spirit. It is to access higher realms of meditation and spiritual realization. Among many other therapeutic benefits, regular practice can improve balance, flexibility, motion range strength, endurance, stress reduction, and mental tranquility. The many Hatha Yoga schools and styles offer more specific benefits. For instance, if you want to increase your strength and cardiovascular health; try a more challenging kind of yoga like vinyasa, ashtanga, or power yoga.


Without a question, first things first. Hatha yoga is the perfect beginning of the discipline. It is practiced by newcomers and seasoned practitioners of all levels and ages. Yoga positions can only eliminate blockages and have a long-lasting soothing effect. It is when you actively engage in thoroughly analyzing your mind and body. Only a yoga mat and loose, comfortable clothing are required.

Beginners should pay close attention to their bodies above anything else. Right away, try to finish the exercises as neatly as you can, and then purposefully find your limits. Please remember that yoga is not a competition that you have to win by performing incredibly challenging asanas. Once you keep this in mind, you can start!

Hatha Sequences in Yoga

Despite how often this subject is raised, there is neither “right” nor “wrong” in this situation. It is just as there is no “ideal Hatha Yoga practice sequence.” The sun salutation is a well-known pattern to follow. We provided a more thorough introduction to this in our blog post on sun salutations.

In the part that follows, we’ll walk you through a few more popular exercises one at a time. But always be aware of your inner self and practice just those advantageous asanas naturally.

HATHA Yoga: Flow exercises for homea

All you need for a yoga session at home is a yoga mat or other soft surfaces. Your attire should allow you to move about easily.


Although not necessary, a flow—or a flowing series of simply one Hatha posture. It often organically happens in yoga courses. The three aspects of a normal yoga practice are the warm-up, the flow portion, and the closing relaxation. But how does that seem in practice?

  1. Warm-Up

Warming up the muscles before strength exercise is recommended. There are two traditional yoga positions for stretching out: Cat-Cow and Downward Facing Dog.

Pose 1

Sit: Cat Cow

Start by bending down and placing your hands on the floor. Inhale as you assume the cat position. Arc your back upward while bringing your stomach in close to your spine. Think of a cat’s back arching to get into this pose. In the cow pose, breathe out as you drop your belly toward the mat. Looking up at the ceiling while lifting your head and chest. Alternate between the cow and the cat for a few breaths.

Pose 2

Dog facing down

As you start on all fours, make sure your knees are just a tiny bit behind your hips. Put your hands shoulder-width apart with your fingers spread widely. Take a deep breath in and gently tuck your toes under. Press your hands into the mat. Next, carefully pull your entire body into an inverted V position. Maintain the pose for a few seconds after finding a comfortable position. You can then begin flow exercises or return to Cat-Cow.

  1. The flow portion

These exercises are just a small selection of what Hatha Yoga has to offer; you are free to modify or enhance them as you see appropriate.

Exercise 1


Starting on your hands and knees; extend each leg backward individually before placing the balls of your feet, firmly on the floor to create a push-up position. From the top of the head to the bottom, draw a line. The position is easier if you tighten your abdominal muscles and breathe slowly. After a few breaths, slowly lower yourself.

Exercise 2

The Child pose exercise

This pose is often known as a child’s resting stance. Sit on the soles of your feet and extend your upper body toward the mat; while you stretch your arms out in front of you or rest them close to your thighs behind you. Return to all fours and enter Downward Facing Dog after a brief moment of relaxation and looking downward. Bring your feet to meet your hands one at a time this time; while you are in Downward Dog and stand firmly on both. Lower the fingertips back down to the feet after standing up briefly on a tabletop.

Exercise 3

Forward fold

While having your upper body still bent forward, lower your body toward your toes while lowering your neck. Alternatively, you can cross your forearms in front of your head. Let them drop loosely while holding onto your lower thighs or your feet. After a few breaths, place the hands back on the floor and return to all fours.

  1. The closing relaxation

There are numerous positions for the last relaxation. But “Savasana,” commonly referred to as the body posture, is the most recognizable. With your arms and legs out to the sides, you lie on your back in this position. The feet point outward and the palms are downward. Spend a minute relaxed and breathing in and out. No matter the tempo you choose or the length of your practice, hatha yoga gradually improves balance and promotes tranquility. The effect on the body and mind is certain. Even though it could take some getting used to. I’ll meet you on the mat then, to that goal!

Swami Sivananda and hatha yoga

Yoga asana was only practiced by ascetics and monks until India gained its independence. In 1936, Swami Sivananda wanted to increase the accessibility of Hatha yoga to the general public. It is to improve their mental and emotional health. In Swami Sivananda’s well-known “Rishikesh sequence,” simpler postures and a brief hold duration are used.

Without taking into account the intricate intellectual foundations of yoga, Swami Sivananda created the idea of five practices. All of these concepts support a healthy yogic lifestyle:

  1. Appropriate exercise

A healthy body is necessary for the mind to be in balance. By holding yoga positions steadily and pleasantly, you can increase your strength, energy, and flexibility. We simultaneously practice ancient teachings and (re-)balance the nervous system.

  1. Adequate breathing

To control the mind, employ conscious breathing. As a result, several breathing strategies are used when practicing yoga. The breath is plentiful and natural when it is under control.

  1. Appropriate rest

Regular body relaxation is essential to help the body recover from exercise. Both the physical body and the senses are at ease.

  1. Proper diet

Eating healthily is crucial for providing the body and mind with the energy they require. It must be sufficient without being hurtful or disturbing. Vegetarianism makes up the majority of the yogic diet since it may be produced without needless harm.

  1. Positive thinking

The way we think affects how we feel mentally. Because of this, it’s essential to meditate and think positively to achieve mental balance.

What sets Hatha Yoga apart from other types of yoga?

Hatha Yoga is an older style of yoga. It is very different from other styles of yoga practiced now in the following ways:

  • During a Hatha practice, asanas are held for one to five minutes constantly. Modern approaches tend to be dynamic and only briefly retain positions.
  • Hatha yoga slows the metabolism compared to other types of yoga.
  • Asanas in Hatha focus on the spine and internal organs, whereas asanas in other varieties focus on the muscles and joints.
  • Hatha poses fewer physical demands on the body than other forms of exercise.
  • Hatha requires less oxygen than other techniques.
  • Hatha focuses on stillness more than movement, both physically and mentally.

Key Takeaways

  • Hatha yoga benefits include better sleep, stronger abs, lessened depressive symptoms, and help with stress management.
  • The emphasis of the Hatha school of yoga is on holding poses for protracted periods.
  • It consists of three fundamental practices physical positions, breathing techniques, and meditation.

You can improve your physical well-being and lessen stress by practicing Hatha yoga. If you’re considering starting a yoga practice, find a certified yoga studio or instructor to do it safely.

About the author

Medhaavi Mishra