Historical ContextHatha Yoga describes any of the physical practices of yoga. (Remember that yoga has eight limbs, only one of which, asana, involves doing yoga poses.) When you do Iyengar, this is hatha yoga; when you do Ashtanga, as different as this may seem, it is hatha yoga too. Hatha means forceful in Sanskrit, according to Ellen Stansell, PhD, RYT, a scholar of yogic literature and Sanskrit. The physical yoga postures must have seemed forceful compared to the other more subtle practices that were in use at the time that hatha emerged, explains Stansell.
How Hatha Is Used Today
These days, hatha is most often used to describe gentle, basic classes with no flow between poses. A hatha class will likely be a slow-paced stretching class with some simple breathing exercises and perhaps seated meditation. This is a good place to learn beginners' poses, relaxation techniques, and become comfortable with yoga.
Is Hatha Yoga for You?
Many people try a hatha class and love the relaxed feeling, others decide that yoga is too slow and meditative for them. If you fall in the later category, try vinyasa next time for a completely different experience.