For our second Sanskrit Saturday, we’ll explore the term Hatha yoga.
The six branches of yoga are Raja (meditation, discipline), Karma (destiny, action), Jnana (wisdom, the path of knowledge), Bhakti (spiritual participation), Tantra (sacred rituals) and Hatha. When people in the United States say they practice yoga, they almost always mean they practice Hatha yoga.
Hatha comes from the Sanskrit words “Ha” and “Tha”, meaning the sun and the moon. Hatha yoga attempts to unite these opposite energies. Somewhere many centuries ago, solar energy came to be seen as masculine and active, while lunar energy took on feminine and receptive qualities. While practicing Hatha yoga, we mirror this dynamic tension between the sun and the moon by striving to create dynamic tension in our bodies.
This dynamic tension is why our limbs and our bodies are never limp during practice. In Triangle pose, we reach our fingertips apart, stretching towards the sky and towards the earth simultaneously. In Mountain pose, the crown of our head reaches towards the sky while our feet press firmly in the earth. We may be standing still, but we never stop moving.
If the imagery of sun and moon don’t work for some students, any pairing that represents balance and opposition will work. I’ve listed some common examples here, and I’d love to read more ideas in the comments!
ying : yang
inhale : exhale
male : female
night : day
hot : cold
fire : water
dark : bright
ground : sky
positive : negative
giving : receiving
pushing : pulling
When we unite these opposing forces, we create balance and strength within ourselves. This is the essence of Hatha yoga.
If you’d like to learn more about the other five disciplines of yoga, this website is a very helpful, if distilled, account.
I teach my second class this morning at 9:15!