Fish, you say?! Yup. The first documented reference to Hatha yoga was in 1100 AD. It is thought that the concept of Hatha was conceived by Shiva (a Hindu deity) while he sat on a lonely island. Later, assuming they were alone, Shiva explained his ideas to his wife, Parvati, but a fish overheard. The fish later became an enlightened being and saint named Matsyendranath, or “lord of the fishes,” the man credited as the founder of Hatha yoga.
As these ancient stories do, the one of Shiva and Matsyendranath has taken many forms over the years, but it no doubt provides us with a framework for the landscape of the early practice.
Just like all other yoga terms, the word for Hatha comes from Sanskrit. “Ha” means sun, and “tha” means moon. As you’ve probably noticed while practicing your sun salutations, the sun and the moon are common themes throughout yoga representing the masculine & feminine energies. Hatha yoga is the practice of balancing the masculine sun energy with the feminine moon energy within yourself.
Vinyasa yoga, Ashtanga, power yoga, hot yoga – no matter what the class is called, all physical yoga is considered a type of Hatha yoga.
However, usually Vinyasa classes are more dynamic and have a flowing sequence, whereas classes specifically named “Hatha” will focus on holding poses for a longer period of time.
Traditionally, the goal of practicing the yoga asanas was not to build muscle or perfect balance. The physical practice was always a means to ready the body for meditation.
The goal of practicing yoga has traditionally been to prepare the body for meditation. Today we practice yoga for many different reasons – to de-stress, improve flexibility, increase strength – all great reasons.
There are countless pieces of evidence about the benefits of Hatha yoga for our bodies and minds. But perhaps the most attractive benefit for yoga sceptics is its capacity to improve brain function in just 20 minutes a day.
By slowing down, breathing, and getting oxygen flowing, Hatha yoga has been proven to improve your brain function by practicing for just 20 minutes a day. This helps to improve your overall brain cognition, memory, focus, and concentration.