Hatha Yoga works on physical, psychophysical and psychological aspects and also known as the Physiological Yoga the Ghatsya Yoga. Gorakshnath, a disciple of Matsyendrantah is considered as the reformist Hatha Yogi of his era. He travelled across India to teach systematic Yoga—now known as the system of Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Sanskrit manual on Hatha Yoga was written by Gorakshnath’s disciple Swami Swatmarma. Lord Shiva, however, is regarded as the originator of Hatha Yoga.
The term Hatha is derived from two Sanskrit root sounds ‘ha’ and ‘tha’. The sound Ha represents the solar flow in the right nostril (Pingla Nadi) whereas Tha stands for lunar flow in the left nostril (Ida Nadi). These sounds signify two opposite forces; positive and negative respectively. Asanas, Pranayamas, Mudras, Bandhas and Satkarmas are together forms the system of Hatha Yoga.
Asanas (comfortable body postures) are developed to induce a new life and energy in every cell, glands, joint, muscle, gland and organ of the body. According to HathaYoga Pradipika, asanas should be practiced gaining steady and correct posture, health and lightness of the body. It is said that with the mastery of each asana, the body and the mind both experience a rebirth. And that’s why individuals practicing Yoga regularly look and feel more younger than their peers. Asanas improves concentration, co-ordination, and body awareness. Gorakshnath, one of the famous advocate of Hatha Yoga regarded the health and awareness of the body essential for the success in the world. He said, “A person cannot understand the world if he is not aware of his own body.”
Pranayama is a combination of two words—prana means breath and aayam means regulation; so pranayama can be translated as the regulation/training of the breath. Pranayamas bring about quick purification of nadis which is considered as the base of successful meditation. A person who breathes slowly and deeply is likely to have a long lifespan than a person who breathes quickly and shallowly. Yogis breathe slowly, rhythmically, and more efficiently than the average man, therefore they live longer. Animals like rabbits and dogs breathe fast, hence their life lasts for10-15 years whereas tortoises and elephants live more than 100years who breathe very slowly and deeply. The Yoga tradition divides prana in the body into five parts—termed as Pancha Pranas; prana vayus (involves in functions like inhalation and respiration), apana vayu ( Governs exhalation, ejection of urine, reproduction), samana vayu (plays a vital role in the processes like digestion and assimilation of nutrients), udana vayu (speech, nervous systems and thoughts) and vyana (consolidation of vital energy and blood circulation).
Bandhas (energy locks) massage the internal organs, remove toxins, improves blood circulation and stimulates nervous system. Bandhas hold significance in awakening the kundalini shakti and also have a nourishing impact on subtle energy channels. There are four types of bandhas—Mool Bandha (Pelvic Lock), Udhiyana Bandha (abdominal lock), Jalandhar Bandha (chin lock), and Mahabandha (Three Bandhas performed together called Mahabandha).
Mudras (body gestures) develop awareness about flow of prana (vital energy) which is subtle body and consequently help him to achieve control over cosmic forces. The system of mudra includes many types of practices ranging from gestures of the hands to the complex methods of concentrating mind. Some of the important mudras are Gyan Mudra (gesture of knowledge), Yoga Mudra (psychic union), Yoni Mudra (symbolically shutting down your five senses and concentrating inward), Khechri mudra (tongue lock), Mahamudra (great attitude), Vayu Mudra (gastric control posture), Prithvi mudra (the energetic posture), Surya Mudra (sun gesture) and Vajrolimudra (thunderbolt attitude).
Satkarmas (six purifying techniques) are designed and developed to cleanse and take care of organs which are not involved in performing of any asana—Dhauti, basti (Enema), neti (jalneti and sutraneti), nauli (churning out of stomach), kapalbhanti (skull Shining) and trataka. Dhauti can be further classified into vaman dhauti (vomiting), vasra dhauti (special kind of thread used to cleanse your food pipe), kapalrandhradhauti (forehead massage), karnrandhradhauti (ear cleansing).
Trataka means a continuous gaze at a specific object without blinking eyes is known as the Tratak—the practice improves eyesight, concentration and memory. Sun gazing, moon gazing, star gazing, candle gazing, thumb gazing, look at any tiny object and eye-to-eye look are few simple techniques of Tratak.