Hatha is a broad term that generally has to do with any of the physical yoga styles. In modern yoga practice, it is used to describe a gentle and slow-paced method of practicing yoga. As a beginner, you can start with hatha classes because it introduces you to the basis poses in yoga in a simple setting. Hatha yoga can be used to describe any type of yoga asana from Ashtanga to Iyengar, and so on.
Origin of Hatha Yoga
In Sanskrit, an ancient language in India which most terminologies used in yoga originates from, Hatha means forceful. According to a yogic literature by Ellen Stansell, the term Hatha have been in existence since the 12th century. Even though Hatha is considered these days to be simple or gentle, Ellen Stansell postulates that the term seemed fierce when comparing it to subtler practices available back then.
The first gurus from India who introduced the Western part of the world to yoga mid-19th century took pains in separating themselves from Hatha yoga, they associated this with yogins – wandering street mendicants.
Mark Singleton mention in this book “Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture Practice” mentioned that Hatha yoga became part of teachings offered to Westerners during the international popularity of the physical culture movement that happened late 19th century.
Modern Hatha Yoga Classes
What should your expectations be when you attend a Hatha yoga class given that the term has a universal meaning in the yoga sphere? Currently, the term Hatha is usually used in describing slow, gentle, basic yoga classes without flow between each pose.
You should expect a class that focuses on stretching on a slower pace with some breathing exercise (basic pranayama), and probably meditation in a sitting position at the end. This yoga style is suitable if you want to improve your body alignment, learn techniques that will help you relax, and also if you want to be comfortable while practicing yoga to improve your flexibility and strength.
Hatha Yoga Flow Classes
Some studios may get you confused by introducing Hatha flow into the classes. But if you can remember, we mentioned that hatha is not a flow. Vinyasa is used to describe routines where you transit from one pose to another yoga pose in a sequence without relaxation periods.
To confuse you more, you may see a combination of Vinyasa and Hatha flow at your local yoga studio. In this situation, you should expect a more vigorous Vinyas, but a lot depends on the yoga instructor and their methods; the only way you will know for sure is by taking specific yoga classes.
You can ask the yoga studio or instructor how the classes are different from one another for more clarification or figure it out by yourself when you try them.