Hatha yoga is by far the most popular style of yoga in the West and several other styles of yoga originate from it including Power Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, and Kundalini Yoga. The word “hatha” comes from the Sanskrit terms “ha” meaning “sun” and “tha” meaning “moon”.
Thus, Hatha Yoga is known as the branch of Yoga that unites pairs of opposites referring to the positive (sun) and negative (moon) currents in the system. It concentrates on the third (Asana) and fourth (Pranayama) steps in the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
Hatha yoga is an ancient Hindu system of working with the human nervous system. Because Hatha yoga releases tension and endows one with renewed energy, too many people, yoga teachers included, have mistakenly come to look upon the venerable Indian physical science as solely an exercise for health and vitality of mind and body.
It is that, but it is also much more. Hatha yoga practices are more spiritual than physical, more subtle, more a means of understanding than a way to relieve stress or limber up the body.
The sages who developed Hatha yoga designed it as a way to gain conscious control of our life energies, a way to go within, to harmonize the external so the innermost Self could be encountered. To them, it was about states of consciousness, about living a divine life, and it was a preparation for meditation.
As you perform the Asanas, concentrate on feeling the energies within the nerve currents. Sensitize yourself to knowing when the body has been in each position long enough to tune the nerve currents involved. Then shift smoothly into the next Asana. It’s like a dance, a deliberate, fluid dance.
During all postures, inhale using the diaphragm, not the chest muscles. Do not stretch unduly or force the body. Relax into the poses. Don’t worry if you can’t perform them all perfectly. In time, you will find the body becoming more flexible and supple. Free the mind of thoughts and tensions. You will be more aware, more alive, more serene.