yoga in sacramento:
in Sacramento, California
Hatha Yoga FAQs
Isn't hatha a particular practice style of yoga?
No. Hatha Yoga is just a generic term that encompasses all
styles of physical yoga practice. Some styles are relatively new
derivations (Iyengar, Anusara, Bikram, Ashtanga), some are
more traditional. They're all hatha yoga.
Most styles of hatha yoga practice include breathwork
(pranayama) and meditation techniques in addition to the
Sometimes you'll see "hatha yoga" as a class title on a studio
schedule to indicate that it's an easier class. This usage is not
really correct as "hatha yoga" could be any intensity level the
All styles of teaching yoga (except Bikram yoga) offer classes
of varying intensity depending on the teacher and needs of
Sometimes "hatha yoga" on a schedule implies a more
traditional style of practice. Usually this is telling you what it is
not -- not flow, not Kundalini yoga, not Iyengar yoga, not
The word hatha in Sanskrit literally means force or power,
implying a practice requiring work on your part which is
intended to liberate the dormant energies (shakti or prana)
How does traditional hatha yoga differ from vinyasa
yoga or Ashtanga practice?
The focus is on work in the poses themselves rather than a
flow from pose to pose. You do a pose, come out, do another
one. Maybe combine a couple, but they're not linked together
with breath based movements (vinyasas) like chaturanga/up
dog/ down dog.
The sun salutation-based vinyasa practice, despite its
popularity, probably only dates from the late 1920's when it
was cobbled together by Pattabhi Jois and his teacher
Do you do sun salutations in traditional hatha yoga?
Yes, but it's a different form than in an ashtanga or power
yoga class. It's still timed to the breath but it's a 12 pose cycle
with a number of differences including stepping back into a
lunge to open the hips (rather than jumping both feet to a
In classical hatha yoga, the idea is to get all the major muscle
groups warmed up and working prior to the practice of the
asanas (the poses of hatha yoga) themselves.
In an Ashtanga or other vinyasa practice, the salutations serve
the same purpose at the beginning but a sun salutation-like
sequence continues to be used throughout the class to link
How old is hatha yoga practice?
Yoga itself is ancient but hard to document because it was
until recently (1800's or so) a strictly oral tradition. And also
one that excluded outsiders from instruction.
Hints of early yoga practice in India (largely of a meditative
nature, not the current huge syllabus of poses) are in the Rg
Veda, the oldest scripture in the world.
Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutra of 200 B.C. laid out the currently
observed philosophical underpinnings of yoga practice but he
was largely concerned with the meditative aspects, not the
The best evidence we have for the flowering of the physical
practices (hatha yoga) are texts such as the Hatha Yoga
Pradipika, the Shiva Samhita and the Gheranda Samhita.
These were all late products of the Tantric period exploring a
body - centered yoga practice in the era 800-1600 A.D. Some
of the poses we do in a hatha yoga class today are described
clearly in these texts but many of our practices evolved later.
Why do people do yoga?
Traditionally it was to explore meditation and the quest for
bliss, tranquility and enlightenment. The theory of hatha yoga
is that what we do with the body affects what is going on in the
Even without a specific intention of beginning a meditation
practice, we find that doing the breathwork and poses of any
style of hatha yoga greatly influences mood and perceptions
of well being.
If your journey leads toward a deeper practice of meditation
the process becomes much easier if you're healthy, supple
and relaxed. We can't regard any form of meditation (from any
tradition) as just an activity of the mind. The rest of the body
necessarily needs to come along as part of the journey.
In hatha yoga, awareness during the poses is a meditation in
itself. This cultivation of mental focus also prepares one for
deeper seated meditation practices that are the heart of the
hatha yoga tradition.
Of course many people come to the physical practice of the
poses and breathwork for many other reasons: stress
reduction, relaxation, stretching those hamstrings, fixing the
bad back or just because friends told them it was fun.
What does the tradition of yoga include beyond "hatha
The word "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit root "yuj" meaning
to yoke or join together as in giving the yogi a connection to
the rest of the cosmos - a state said to occur in deep
meditation when all the dualities of our normal existence are
transcended. Hatha yoga is only one way outlined in this
tradition to work toward this state of unity:
- Raja yoga -- the yoga of meditation as exemplified by
Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.
- Karma yoga -- the yoga of selfless service.
- Jnana yoga -- the path of study and intellectual inquiry.
- Hatha yoga -- asana, pranayama and meditation
- Bhakti yoga -- on the path of devotional practice.
Did we mention yoga should be fun?
We try to have a good time with our practice. Come join us!
Are there questions you need answered before coming
Call us at (916) 441-4914. Or just show up! All of our
classes are offered on a drop-in basis.
(A Sanskrit word meaning the higher
consciousness in me salutes the same in you).
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