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Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga

Why are there different Yoga traditions?

In the previous articles on the basics and limbs of yoga, we explained that the concepts around yogic culture have evolved a lot since their beginnings. It is a combination of scriptures and texts written by a vast population of seers, sages, and philosophers that composes yoga as it is now known.

Many traditions exist, and many new ones will develop in the future. Yoga has been and will be a moving concept.

Some traditions have more popularity than others, sometimes because of their accessibility and requirements, and other times because of the acknowledgment of their creator. Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga are two yogic traditions that we consider essential for both of these reasons.

Hatha Yoga

Where does it come from?

Hatha Yoga is considered the origin of yogic culture. It is said that it comes directly from Lord Shiva, but the exact date of its appearance is not known. All other yogic traditions come from Hatha Yoga.

As we saw in our article on the limbs of yoga, many sages participated in its development. We can see approaches of Hatha Yoga with four, seven, or eight limbs.

What is Hatha Yoga's philosophy?

The philosophy of Hatha Yoga is based on the belief that there are three nadis, or energy channels, in the human body. One of them is called Ida and is related to the right nostril. It is the sun's channel. The second nadi, called Pingala, is the moon energy related to the left nostril. The third nadi is called Susumana and connects the two previous ones.

The philosophy says that Sun and Moon's energies are always imbalanced. Hatha Yoga is the way to balance the energy channels in the Susumana nadi. That way, the student can reach the body-mind-soul unity. The word Hatha comes from the Sanskrit of "Ha" for "sun" and "Tha" for "moon." It is the union of the Sun and Moon energy.

There are no special requirements to start practicing according to Hatha Yoga philosophy. A good Hatha Yoga session is simply about giving the best of yourself while being focused on your practice. It is believed that if the student practices with focus and regularity, he will progressively get better and closer to the unity of yoga.

Who is the Hatha Yoga practice for?

Hatha Yoga contains all postures and gives many options to progress from easy to challenging poses. It can be adapted to the capacities of each person. For this reason, it is highly accessible to any level or health condition.

Hatha Yoga helps reduce stress and tension and improves strength and flexibility. When practiced regularly, it can improve concentration.

A Hatha Yoga practice can benefit various people, from a general adult population to kids or seniors. It can also be adapted to people with chronic pain, neurological conditions, or cancer. It is an excellent way to promote women's health. We described the various health effects of yoga in our article about its basics and benefits.

How is a Hatha Yoga session?

Hatha Yoga practice generally lasts from 45 to 90 minutes and combines elements of pranayamas, asanas (mainly static), mudras, and meditation.

It generally starts with prayer and "Om" chanting and progresses towards asanas adapted to the participant's needs. The session will end with pranayamas, mudras, and meditation techniques.

Ashtanga Yoga

Where does it come from?

As seen in our article about the limbs of yoga, Ashtanga Yoga comes from Patanjali's eight limbs. It is also called the "Yoga of Patanjali."

The word Ashtanga comes from the Sanskrit words "Ash," meaning "eight," and "Anga," meaning "limbs." This tradition is created exclusively by Maharshi Patanjali in his Yog Darshan.

What is the Ashtanga Yoga philosophy?

Ashtanga Yoga is about repeating the same sequence of postures over time and in different mental and physical conditions. That way, students learn acceptance and self-observation and slowly head towards unity or global consciousness.

It is believe by Ashtanga Yogis that it's a practice that allows students to observe the changes in their body and mind as they progress.

It comprises six series of postures, the first one being the easiest. Anyone who wants to start practicing Ashtanga Yoga has to begin with the primary series, even if they have years of experience in other types of yoga.

Who is the Ashtanga Yoga practice for?

Ashtanga is a dynamic type of yoga. It is suitable for people in good health who want a challenge in their practice.

It's not as accessible as Hatha Yoga. Still, it has various health benefits, including improving non-judgemental self-consciousness and mental clarity, reducing blood pressure, and relieving stress. It also enhances the strength and flexibility of the whole body.

How is an Ashtanga Yoga session?

As explained before, the practice of Ashtanga is about repeating a specific set of postures for a recommended six days/week frequency. It is better to practice in the early morning before the mind gets busy with other daily thinking.

Ashtanga Yoga, Primary series
Ashtanga Yoga, Primariy Series

The six series are composed of the same steps: 5 rounds of Sun Salutation A and B, standing postures, sitting postures, and advanced poses. The postures of a series are always the same and are linked fluidly through jumps and transitions.

The practice of Ashtanga Yoga focuses on synchronizing Ujjayi breathing with movement and uses a Drishti (or focal point) to fix the attention and improve concentration. It also uses body locks for stability in poses.

The Ashtanga Yoga student is encouraged to accept the condition in which he is in the moment of his practice and focus on giving the best of himself no matter how he feels.

To resume.

Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga are two different yogic traditions that have great importance in the yogic culture around the world.

Whereas Hatha Yoga is created by many sages, is accessible, and includes a variety of poses, Ashtanga Yoga is designed by Patanjali only and is more complex, specific, and dynamic.

At Japam Yog, we teach Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga. The classes are all done under the active supervision of our teacher. They include multiple feedbacks to ensure a safe practice.

We also provide Yoga Therapy and Medical Therapeutic Yoga for people with specific health conditions.

Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or want to participate in one of our classes.

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