“In the eye of the storm I am calm”
What is Hatha yoga?
Whenever I’m asked what kind of yoga I teach, I always struggle to find the right term and end up saying, “Well, classic Hatha Yoga.” But what does that even mean? What is Hatha and how is it different? By its very definition, Hatha Yoga is not a style of yoga. Hatha yoga is actually any kind of yoga that requires you to practice asana and breathing in tandem with each other. Yup, that’s right. It runs the gamut from Anusara (focus on heart qualities and anatomical precision), Ashtanga (aka “Yoga for yoga teachers”, with advanced sequences), to Yin (restorative, prolonged poses), and even Bikram (hot temperatures) Yoga. All of these fall under the umbrella term of Hatha Yoga!
What does Hatha even mean?
Ironically, the original meaning of the word Hatha means “force” or “effort.” Some even translate it as “violence” — all of which are quite different from the words normally associated with yoga, such as peace, yielding, or freedom! The most common translation in the West has become “Ha” for sun and “Tha” for moon, thereby suggesting the goal of Hatha yoga to be one of balancing our solar and lunar sides, or masculine and feminine, yin and yang…you get the idea. Well, I’m here to tell you, that’s not it. Michael Lloyd-Billington on his “Living Yoga” Blog rightfully points out that actually, the words Ha and Tha have nothing to do with the sun (Surya) and moon (Chandra) at all. Complete and utterly wrong translation! Though there is a lot of focus on these aspects, again, it’s not technically the meaning of Hatha Yoga.
Hatha yoga in the modern sense
Etymology and didactics aside, though, let’s face it: in the West, we have modified lots of the original yoga philosophy and practice, and that’s not necessarily all bad. Outside the motherland of yoga, therefore, Hatha Yoga has become a synonym for “slower” or more “breathy” yoga — the opposite of Power Yoga, if you will. Poses are held for a prolonged period of time, as opposed to, let’s say, Ashtanga, where five breaths may be the maximum length any pose is held. If you’re looking for a class that doesn’t make you “jump right in”, a class designated as “Hatha Yoga class” is a great way to go. Oftentimes, these classes are an opportunity for beginners to approach the practice on a basic level with the most common Asanas such as Warrior variations, Sun Salutations and some Pranayama. However, that doesn’t make them boring or less challenging, so prepare to breathe and sweat all the same! So does it ultimately matter for your yoga experience what the right translation or meaning of Hatha is? Probably not, but in a profession where the learning never stops, it certainly doesn’t hurt to know our stuff, right? You know what? Just stop by one of my classes one of these days and see for yourself. I look forward to seeing you there.
Ricardia’s yoga classes
I have specialized in yoga for men and taught it for over three years now. Why and how? Read more about it in my blog! However, I also teach a lot of mixed (men and women) yoga classes as well as private, duo or group (and corporate yoga) classes.
I teach classic Hatha yoga group classes for both men and women at BEcycle Studio in Berlin Mitte on sundays, 11:30 as well as several companies and organizations around Berlin. My YUNGsYOGA or yoga-for-men class is every Monday, 8 pm at Remedy Studio in Berlin Prenzlauer Berg. If you or your company are interested in having yoga on the premises of your company, please feel free to drop me a line..
Private classes are a good opportunity if you’ve already been practicing for a while by yourself and you’d like somebody to take a closer look at the practice, maybe make some adjustments to it. If you are a beginner, this is a great way to get some basic insights into yoga and customize your practice. In my private classes, I am also able to incorporate a lot more props and work in a more therapeutic way, especially when a student is dealing with special conditions and needs extra care. .
These are also private classes but you get to bring your favorite person or sparring partner! Like most practices, staying disciplined can be a challenge. Making it a point to take your partner, buddy, family member, promises double the fun and you get to practice together.
I like to mix things up a little and bring more yoga into life and vice versa. Sometimes this can be yoga and dinner. Or yoga, dinner and a movie, or yoga in the park. These are special dates that I either organize myself or a group of people with a special occasion approaches me. My last one was a bachelorette party, for example! This is a fantastic way to bring some yoga to the unexpected venue and, well, flow with your friends or colleagues.