What is Yoga? Ashtanga Yoga? Hatha Yoga?

What is Yoga?

Yoga means “yoke.” No matter what type of yoga you are practising, the definition is always rooted in the word yoke. It is a union between the mind, body, soul, and supreme higher consciousness.

An important definition of yoga was given in the Bhagavad Gita when Lord Krishna said: “Samatvam Yoga Uchyate.” which means 'The balance of our own existence is yoga'. When everything is truly in balance, not only our body but our thoughts and emotions as well, then yoga is achieved.

Lord Krishna defines yoga a second time in the Bhagavad Gita as “Yoga Karmasu Kaushalam.” Here it means 'Yoga is perfectly skilled action or behaviour'. Yoga is not about putting your body in a certain shape. Yoga is not just about the physical world. It is about being precise, pure, and perfect in your actions and behaviour - both on and off the mat. That is yoga.

What is Hatha Yoga?

The Sanskrit word “Hatha” is the umbrella term for all physical asanas and postures in yoga. In the West, Hatha yoga is deemed to be the classic approach to Yoga.

Hatha Yoga breathing and exercises are usually slower as compared to other types of yoga. It has no set sequences. Improvisation of asanas is up to the teacher. You can expect a full body stretch with usually a mix of standing and seated asanas.

In a Hatha Yoga class, the asanas will always change. There is no order or sequence to follow. Classes are normally focused on holding the pose for a few breaths to really sink into it, allowing the body to stretch and to come back to the breath.

What is Ashtanga Yoga?

In Sanskrit, Ashtanga translates means 'Eight Limb Path.'

Ashtanga Yoga is a relatively new style of yoga. It was only developed in the 20th century by Pattabhi Jois and his guru, Krishnacharya, in India. Together, they came up with four series of asanas. These sequences are specific and do not vary. The Primary series is the sequence that is most commonly taught in yoga studios, shalas, and gyms. The primary series is comprised of standing asanas, seated asanas, back bending asanas, and a finishing sequence.

Classes are normally 90 minutes long. No matter the day, no matter the teacher, the order of the asanas is always the same. The sequence does not change.

As we previously described in another of our blogs, Ashtanga Yoga is known for being very athletic and energetic where asanas are linked with the breath. It’s a highly specific yoga practice where every count, inhale and exhale is accounted for.