Yet, the simplest yoga term for a physical practice all starts with the term Hatha.
Frankly sorting out all the different yoga styles can be confusing, especially since there are a lot of styles that range from an instructor creating their own style and accompanying term, to a simple noun descriptor – Ashtanga, Bikram, Family, Pre-natal, Dog yoga, Iyengar, Vinyasa yoga, Yin, Kriya, Kundalini, etc. The list is long. Sometimes the style is based on a particular instructor (Iyengar, Bikram) or on a sequence of poses (Ashtanga, Vinyasa) or practising yoga with our babies or even our pets (baby and me yoga or dog yoga.) Whatever the style that makes them unique in their own way, the focus on the physical means they all are an evolution or extension of Hatha yoga. Personally, I found this confusing initially.
Hatha at its core means a practice that works toward balance – the goal to transcend duality. Sounds good but what does that mean? For instance, yin and yang are a great example of duality but together they represent harmony and balance. Like the sun and moon on the surface, apart they denote separation, opposites and duality. They have there own paths and own cycles, yet together they create a full cycle of a day in union and balance in nature. The practice of yoga is all about harmony. Hatha is also said to be a beginner friendly yoga or introductory practice, yet not easy. Maybe people say that to make it more approachable? Like many other disciplines, it can take a lifetime to master.
Hatha yoga with its primary focus on the physical is one of 6 types or paths of yoga, which are commonly referred to as the branches of yoga. The others are raja (meditation), karma (service), bhakti (devotion), jnana (intellect), and tantra (ritual and it isn’t all about sex) yoga. They are the other types of yoga. You don’t need to practice one main branch, they all can overlap and often do.
Although hatha yoga is associated with a focus on the physical, it does not exclude the mental. The simple definition –
Hatha – where your physical and mental bodies unite through movement, breath and postures (asanas.)
So in the end, if you find yourself confused by the extremely long list of styles of yoga that we see and hear about, remember that at your physical yoga practice’s foundation, you are practising Hatha yoga.
The images in this post are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0), you are free to use them even commercially. Any questions contact us.
You can download the list of YOGA Styles here, or the branches of Yoga here and be sure to link back to http://consciouslife.guru. PCs right click to download, Macs ctrl+click for menu of options to save.
Related yoga information:
Recently I wrote about Hatha yoga and its core definition, sometimes with all the various styles spoken about, trademarked or invented it simply is confusing at times. From that, I’ve decided to keep posting some simple graphics to help sort out a lot of yoga terms and ideas.