Hatha Yoga by Patanjali

Hatha yoga and asceticism

Today we shall talk about Hatha yoga, which is an excellent set of exercises for solving many physical problems, enhancing brain power, and improving quality of life. Let’s have a brief talk about prehistory of hatha yoga. In the ancient texts the word "yoga" partially merged with the concept of "superpower" and the expression "hatha yoga" is often used in the sense of asceticism - when a person isolates himself/herself in the middle of nowhere and remains in an awkward position for a long period of time. Although asceticism and hatha yoga do have something in common, but there is a significant difference between those two concepts: people who are practicing asceticism achieve different goals by different means.

Eight step yoga by Patajali

If you try to find out, what is known about yoga in academic science - you will come across the orthodox systems of India. Scientists have identified six orthodox systems, one of which is called “yoga”, thereby among scientists the word "yoga" means one of the orthodox systems of India.

When we mention the term “yoga”, many people remember the text "Yoga Sutras" by Patanjali - the fundamental source of classic yoga. This small text is the accumulated ancient wisdom. If you collect all sutras together, you will have just a few pages, thereby it is so difficult to understand them. Patanjali highlighted the octal path of yoga - 8 steps to be taken by a person to get to the top level of yoga.The first step - Yama, the second - Niyama, the third - Asana.

Yama means the rules of human interaction with the environment, life within a society. Niyama regulates the inner life of a person, what is he/she trying to achieve, and what personal qualities to develop. The third step later became known as hatha yoga, or to be more specific, there were two steps: Asana and Pranayama, but now we separate them.


The third step in the octal path of Yoga is called “Asana” (which is translated from Sanskrit as a “pose”, but it means the pose for meditation, which is comfortable, and in which you can stay for a long time without any discomfort).

According to Patanjali first of all the word “asana” means a pose for meditation, and the other meaning is all kinds of different poses. However, any subsequent interpretations of this step provide more detailed comments on how is it possible to manage such a stable pose for the meditation. All poses of Hatha yoga are focused on strengthening the body and eliminating any defects in the physical body, so the person could build up the ability to sit motionless for a long period of time, with straight spine, without any discomfort or distraction. The key thing is the straight spine, as in some yoga schools it is considered that the spinal column is a central line and all asanas are rotating around it.

In the Vedic times, yoga came close to asceticism. Later, in Patanjali times, this part of the asanas was identified as the ability to reach poses for meditation. And later, in the treatises of the early Middle Age, the detailed description of different poses was provided not only for meditation, but also for pure development. The most detailed descriptions that have survived until our days remain unchanged in Tantra yoga. In the treatises “Gheranda Samhita ", “Hatha Yoga Pradipika”, “Shiva Samhita", "Goraksha Samhita" provide more detailed description of postures of Hatha Yoga, but all of them are fully impregnated with the influence of Tantrism.

Names of poses

The most popular yoga nowadays is the one which describes mainly practical moments. Actually, the same pose in different books may be named differently, or vice versa the same name is used in different books for different poses. When in the West people started studying asanas, they discovered that there are very few poses with fixed names. Then they took a dictionary of Sanskrit and started naming them, for example, if the pose looked like a tree – they found translation of the word “tree” and added the word “asana” to it. But there are no such names in ancient treatises. That is why in the West there are groups of people who are still fighting about the most correct approach to hatha yoga. Please be careful with the illusions.

First steps in yoga

The first thing you need to learn when you start practicing yoga, - is how to practice independently by yourself. Group classes and workshops will certainly speed up the process, however, you must be able to practice anywhere and not to be dependent on the circumstances, neither emotionally, nor mentally. It is very comfortable to practice in the gym, where the energy of other people around helps you, but at home you need to make more effort for the same exercises. And yogi must be self-sufficient, and he/she should only need a warm area and even surface for the practice. It would also be very good if you emotionally prepare the place where you are going to practice yoga. For example, if it is your home, you could start sweeping away the invisible dust by your hands, away from the place where you plan to start practicing.

Last modified: Sunday, 25 December 2016, 9:44 PM