Hatha is the branch of yoga in which we use the physical practices – including postures, breathwork, dietary selection, and other “external” means – to build better control of our thoughts in order to move ultimately toward one-mindedness.
As part of this, we strive to balance the body and mind, with the understanding that they are always in fluctuation.
Goal: To gain freedom through physical discipline.
How to get there: Through practicing the 8 limbs of yoga.
Yamas and Niyamas,
The five yamas are moral directives intended to guide the practitioner’s behavior towards others.
- Ahimsa: Nonviolence towards others.
- Satya: Truthfulness.
- Asteya: Not stealing from others. Though this probably had a literal meaning originally, it has been extended to mean not putting others down to build yourself up.
- Brahmacharya: Chastity. Whether this means celibacy or simply controlling one’s sexual impulses is open to interpretation.
While the yamas direct one’s behavior towards others, the niyamas describe how to act ethically towards oneself. The 5 niyamas are:
- Saucha: Cleanliness. Again, probably a practical meaning originally but has a modern interpretation keeping your intentions pure.
- Santosa: Contentment with oneself.
- Tapas: Self discipline. Having the commitment to sustain a practice.
- Svadhyaya: Self study. Having the courage to look within yourself for answers.
- Isvara pranidhana: Surrender to a higher power. Whether that is a deity or the acceptance that the world is governed by forces outside of our control is up to you.
Together, these two sets of rules were meant to guide one to a righteous lifestyle.
The practice of yoga postures, although it should be noted that the word asana means seat.
The practice of breathing exercises. Choosing to control the breath for specific effects.
The withdrawal of the senses, meaning that the exterior world is not a distraction from the interior world within oneself.
Concentration, or the ability to focus on something uninterrupted by external or internal distractions. Dharana builds upon pratyahara.
Once you can ignore external stimuli, you can begin to direct your concentration elsewhere.
Meditation. Building upon dharana, your are able to expand your concentration beyond a single thing so that it becomes all encompassing
Bliss. After you have achieved dhyana, the transcendence of the self through meditation can begin. The self merges with the universe, which is sometimes translated as enlightenment.