Did you know that Hatha yoga means the yoga of effort?

It means physical yoga, as opposed to the other 4 types listed below.  Some people are interested in why Yoga is different to any other form of exercise.  Its origins are ancient, and from India, both of which can make it seem unusual and exotic.   But the system of Iyengar Yoga has taken a lot of this information and adapted it for western consumption.  However the underlying concepts are still the same- they have not been diluted in Iyengar yoga as they have been in some ‘new age’ therapies.

There are 5 types of yoga:

  1. Jnana Yoga, the Yoga of Knowledge, using meditation for Self-realization.
  2. Bhakti Yoga, the Yoga of Devotion, seeking union with God as the Divine Father or Divine Mother.
  3. Karma Yoga, the Yoga of Service, emphasizing ritual worship of the Divine and service to living beings.
  4. Raja Yoga, the Royal Yoga of higher techniques and methods, mainly of mantra and meditation.
  5. Hatha Yoga, the Yoga of Effort or of lower techniques and methods, mainly asana and pranayama.

Whilst we can follow any of these 5 paths, westerners tend to be drawn more to the ‘lower methods’!  All 5 paths are supposed to eventually guide the practitioner towards ‘Samadhi’ (union with the divine).  In real terms, for most of us, this translates as feeling more ‘at one’ with the world around us and feeling less stressed as a result.

Hatha Yoga is more suited to our busy modern lives than the other 4 methods.  The daily home practice may seem more accessible than sacred study, for example.  So, Yoga classes tend to follow the 5th…HIMG_0046atha yoga or ‘the yoga of EFFORT’…….this means that we need to actually challenge ourselves, not just lie down and fall asleep!  So,  it really is necessary for us to work hard, to put in this effort, within our limits, in class and at home in our own practice.

Once we commit fully to our Yoga practice, we can gain far more than any gym routine.  If we perform half-heartedly or without concentration, we cannot expect to yield full results.   I hope that understanding that Hatha Yoga means the Yoga of effort may help you to fully commit to your own practice.