What is Hatha Yoga?

Hatha is intended to facilitate the yogi’s quest for God-realisation. This attainment is, ultimately, Yoga’s only purpose. Hatha’s mental and emotional side-benefits enhance the student’s general well-being. However, physical, mental and emotional wellness should be regarded as a prerequisite rather than an effect of Hatha. Hatha’s purpose is to improve the yogi’s control of vital energy, calming the brain and mind and thus facilitating the advanced inner practices of Pratyhara (abstraction of attention and energy), Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation).

Hatha consists of Asana (postures); Pranayama (life-force control via breathing techniques); Bandha (energy locks); Kriya (cleansing processes); and Mudra (energy-directing poses and gestures). Many yogis include Hatha in their sadhana (spiritual curriculum).

Most westerners associate Yoga with Hatha, the aspect of Yoga which begins with the physical being. However, the primary goal of Hatha is to ultimately transcend the perceived limitations of the body in order to set the mind free. Yoga asanas (postures) actually balance the chemicals of the brain which naturally facilitates enhanced mental functioning.

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Purpose of Hatha Yoga

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Manuscript of yogis under a banyan tree, 1630, courtesy of Department of Buddhist Studies, University of Berkeley