What is the difference between Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga?
Hatha vs Ashtanga Yoga
Yoga goes beyond just physical practice. It combines the strength of both the body and mind. This kind of exercise requires focus and concentration, mainly on breathing. Those who practice yoga know how effectively conscious breathing can impact their experience of yoga. Yoga has many different forms; this article is going to look into two of its forms so you can better decide which one you want to follow. Read on to enlighten yourself about Hatha and Ashtanga yoga!
Which one is right for you?
If you are a beginner, or someone who is wondering whether yoga could be your thing or someone who just wants to experience what it’s like to do yoga, you should start off with the origin of this fabulous exercise.
According to philosophers such as Bhagavad Gita and Patanjali, yoga is a triad of the body, mind, and spirit. The ancient scriptures of Hinduism teach that in order to practice an effective yoga routine, you must combine yoga poses or ‘asanas’ with meditation and deep thinking that will help you discover and understand yourself, and get closer to God. In the modern world, yoga is just another exercise to get the body in shape, but in Hinduism, yoga is a journey of self-discovery and communion with God.
However, do not worry. You do not have to follow any religion to practice yoga. This life-changing exercise is for anyone and everyone who opens up their mind and heart to it. All you need is a yoga mat, and the passion to learn. It is such an incredible workout that you can enjoy it whether you do it on your own, or in a group led by an instructor.
Breathing dictates the practice of yoga. If you really want a rewarding experience, you have to focus on the inhalation and exhalation. You can seriously feel the stretch in your body and muscles when you focus on the breath going in and out. The physical exercise is just a means of training and strengthening your body so you can engage in meaningful and deep meditation for hours.
With time and effort, you will see your concentration improving. By combining meditation with asanas, you will start to witness the balance between your body and mind. Yoga is responsible for activating areas of the brain that help you feel content, calmer, and positive. Focus on your breath, stretch your body, and feel the magic of yoga.
Now, is there more than one type of yoga?
First, let’s look into hatha yoga. The common belief is that hatha yoga is balancing the body and mind. The ‘ha’ represents the sun, and ‘tha’ represents the moon, therefore it means joining and balancing the energies of the sun and moon. However, the literal meaning of the word ‘hatha’ is force; therefore, it refers to a set of physical techniques.
These physical techniques include asanas or poses, pranayama or breathing techniques, mantras or motto, mudra or hand gestures, shatkriyas, and shatkarmas or cleansing techniques, and visualization. In the Western world, hatha yoga is understood as a set of physical postures that help shape and tone the body. But, actually, hatha yoga is much more than just a physical practice. It means integrating ethics, proper diet to cleanse the body of impurities, positive thinking, and gratitude to cleanse the mind of negativity, meditation for spiritual development, in your life so that you can become a calmer and optimistic individual.
According to Gheranda Samhita (a text about yoga written in Sanskrit), hatha yoga is a sevenfold yoga that helps you cleanse your body, strengthen and balance your body, calm your mind, liberate yourself, and find inner peace and light. The text itself is divided into seven chapters, and each one of them describes the seven aspects of hatha yoga in detail.
Hatha yoga serves as a foundation for all the other forms of yoga that have evolved. Although the origin of hatha yoga still remains slightly mysterious, its practice can help you release stress and feel more positive and calmer.
On the other hand, Patanjali, a renowned philosopher of yoga, wrote about the eight limbs of yoga, or Ashtanga (asht: eight, anga: limb). Patanjali’s eight steps are meant to help you lead a purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for blending ethics and discipline in your life.
The first limb is yama, and this is a behavioral step of Ashtanga; it deals with integrity and ethical standards. The second limb, niyama, deals with spiritual observances and discipline. The third limb is asana, which as mentioned before, means body postures. In Hinduism, the body is considered a temple which must be looked after in the best way possible. The fourth limb is pranayama, which refers to breathing techniques, as yogis believe that they can actually extend their life by practicing focused breathing. The fifth limb is pratyahara, which means detaching oneself from the surrounding while being aware of it. This practice gives us a chance to step back and observe ourselves. The sixth limb is dharana which means concentration. The seventh is dhyana, which means contemplation and meditation. By practicing all these, we finally achieve the eighth limb, Samadhi, which means ecstasy.
So, what is the difference?
The basic difference between hatha yoga and Ashtanga yoga is that the former involves seven limbs whereas the latter involves eight limbs. Hatha yoga starts off with physical postures that eventually lead you to a better meditation practice, whereas ashtanga yoga first focuses on self, and then moves on to physical postures and meditation.
Which style is right for you?
The answer to this question depends totally on your preferences. If you are aiming to lose weight and tone your body, you should practice hatha yoga as it involves incorporating a healthy diet for cleansing the body, asanas to tone the body, and meditation to clear the mind. It can help you feel calmer and positive by influencing your mind and activating its ‘happy’ cells. However, if you are looking for something much more meaningful and deeper, and you want a total transformation of yourself, you should opt for Ashtanga yoga. That starts off with changing yourself ethically first and then moving on to physical postures and meditation. Even reading educational yoga books can help you learn and decide which one is best for you. Whichever you choose, be sure to take a beginner’s lesson first.
Visit your nearest yoga class, talk to the instructor, and decide what approach would be best suited to you. You will also be surprised to see the diversity of students that attend a yoga class. Yoga class is for everyone, even the ones who are mentally or physically challenged. The beauty of this exercise is that it has modifications for all body types.
Stay strong. If at first, you don’t feel like you are flexible enough to do the postures, don’t lose heart. Yoga is not about the destination, but about the journey itself. Keep doing it and you will finally get to the point where you can bend it like Beckham.
Focus on your breathing. We take breathing for granted. If you focus on the breath going in and out of your lungs, you will simply be astounded at this miracle. Breathe in the positivity, and breathe out the negativity.
Blog Courtesy by Christine Hirlehey