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| When people mention
the term Yoga, they usually refer to Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga is the most
popular branch of Yoga from which a lot of the styles of Yoga originated
including Kundalini Yoga
and Bikram Yoga.
Hatha Yogis consider the body as a vehicle for the soul. They use physical poses or asanas, breathing techniques or pranayam and meditation in order to bring the body in perfect health and for more subtle spiritual elements of the mind to emerge freely.
Hatha Yoga came from the words "ha" which means "sun" and "tha" which means "moon". It is often translated as the branch of Yoga that brings union of the pairs of opposites referring to the positive (sun) and negative (moon) currents in the system. Taken together, the term stands for 'union of force'. Hence, central to Hatha Yoga disciplines is the harmonizing of its positive (sun) and negative (moon) currents.
Hatha Yoga concentrates on the third (Asana) and fourth (Pranayama) steps in the Eight Limbs of Yoga. It uses the Physical Postures and Breathing Techniques in order to energize and clear the energy channels called the Nadis, removing the obstacles for the other Limbs - Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.
Asanas are designed to improve health and bring energy to the body and mind, which is necessary in opening the Nadis. It can also serve as a Meditation pose that can make you feel perfectly comfortable for a longer period of time. Mastering the Asanas can help develop your will power, concentration and self-withdrawal or not bothering too much about the input of the senses. These Asana benefits directly open the path to Prathyahara and Dharana.
Pranayam, on the other hand, is highly vital in the practice of Hatha Yoga. One needs to master his breathing patterns before he can master his mind. Pranayama regulate the flow of Prana or vital energy in the body, which is needed to take further steps toward Samadhi. The practice of Pranayama can also lead to the awakening of the Kundalini Energy.
Practicing Hatha Yoga can help you recognize that a divine light shines within you. It can also help you become stronger, more flexible and relaxed. The relaxation exercises involved in practicing Hatha Yoga opens the energy channels allowing your spiritual energy to flow freely. Certain Asanas also massages and tones internal organs, which facilitates in the prevention, management and treatment of certain ailments such as diabetes, arthritis and hypertension. Breathing Exercises can also help patients of asthma and bronchitis. Hatha Yoga practice is also a great way to cope with stress, relieve tension and deal with anxiety and depression.
The school of Hatha Yoga attaches a lot of importance to the perfect physical form, believing it to be a way of attaining spiritual perfection. And to this end it takes the help of pranayama (breath-control exercises) and mudra (hand gestures) to attain self-realization.
Often seen as part of Raja Yoga, the origins of Hatha Yoga can be traced to Gorakhnath, the 12th-century founder of the Kanphata Yogis.
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