The Exciting History of Hatha Yoga

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The beautiful history of Hatha yoga – let’s talk about this.

Hatha yoga is one extremely popular practice all around the world. Its many benefits for the mind and the body made it one of the most popular styles of yoga. Hatha is considered to be a primary way of achieving better mental health and positive physical condition.

But have you ever wondered from where did the practice come? What is the history of Hatha yoga?

Well, if you have, then you are in the right place. Hatha yoga has been around the world for more than thousands of years. Some say it is no more than 5,000 years old, but others think it is older than 10,000 years. (read more here)

But the truth is – we never know, since when it was first practiced – no words or paper were done.

Four Time Periods of Yoga

There are periods of yoga: pre-classical yoga, classical yoga, post-classical yoga, and modern yoga. All of those are important in Hatha yoga as we know it today. So, let’s begin with some historical information about the practice.

Pre-Classical Yoga

The pre-classical yoga started 5,000 years ago in India. The Indus-Sarasvati people used to practice it as a secretive and mysterious way of achieving spiritual development. Palm leaves were used back then for writing the techniques; as you can expect, not all of those were preserved.

The first and most ancient writing we have about yoga calls it ‘Rig Veda,’ which gets us to the Vedas, also known as the Vedic texts. The Vedic texts were used by the Vedic mystics and priests back in history before other texts about yoga were found, such as the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita.

Classical Yoga

The classical yoga period includes when Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, the father of modern yoga, were written and used. The Yoga sutras are basically writings about the basis of yoga and its philosophy. They include information about what yoga is, how to get into the yogic state, the benefits of the practice, and the freedom of suffering.

Post-classical yoga

The post-classical yoga period is mainly about Tantra yoga becoming popular. But the emphasis was not only on tantric practices but also on body practices. Here is where Hatha yoga began, but we will get into details later in our article.

Modern Yoga

The modern yoga period started in the late 1880s when the yogis came to the Western world. The practice was shared with the American audience, schools were established, and even the Yoga Institute in Mumbai was founded by Shri Yogendra. (more about him you can read here) Other schools followed, and many students were taught to practice and share more with the world about yoga.

hatha yoga
Photo: Stephanie Greene / Unsplash

Origins of Hatha Yoga

According to many experts, the first writings where Hatha yoga was mentioned were the ones of Maharishi Patanjali. His yoga sutras described Hatha as the eightfold path, consistent with 8 limbs. Many other texts later mentioned the practice, but Patanjali’s writings are the most popular ones. It’s probably where the history of Hatha yoga begins.

There are also legends about the origins of Hatha yoga. One of them is the Hindu legend, according to which Lord Shiva was on a lonely island and shared knowledge about Hatha with his beautiful wife. He assumed that nobody would hear him, but a fish did. The fish got magical powers and became the Matsyendranath, who taught the practice to another man, and that’s how Hatha yoga became known by many.

In history, there are three texts mentioning Hatha Yoga. The first one is Hinduism: Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the second is the Shiva Samhita, and the third is Gheranda Samhita. After that, many schools started teaching the practice, which underwent some changes, becoming the Hatha we know and practice today.

What is Hatha Yoga

Surprisingly, the Hatha yoga definition hasn’t changed with the years – ‘ha’ means sun, and ‘the’ – moon. Together, Hatha represents the goal of joining and balancing the power of those two extremely powerful energies.

The practice balances mind and body and achieves spiritual and physical development. A Hatha yoga class is usually built of yoga poses and breathing techniques that are slowly practiced, focusing more on achieving a good mental state.

history of hatha yoga
Photo: Dane Wetton / Unsplash

Eight Limbs of Yoga

If we talk about the origins of Hatha yoga, we have to tell you more about the eight limbs of the practice. They are the base of an ethical code that helps us live happier and more meaningful lives. The eight limbs are:

Yama – the way we relate to the other people around us. Yama teaches us how to treat others. It is built on five principles: nonviolence, non-stealing, truthfulness, non-covetousness, and continence.

Niyama – it is all about spiritual observance and self-discipline. Niyamas are the standards we should follow to get to the desired self-discipline. These are contentment, cleanliness, self-knowledge, heat, and total surrender to the divine.

Asana is all about practicing yoga postures that will result in a balance between the body and the mind.

Pranayama – the control of our breathing. It allows us to improve our reactions to the world around us.

Pratyahara – the withdrawal of senses. The technique gives the knowledge about achieving the ultimate peacefulness.

Dharana – a concentration required to get into the most profound meditation, which will allow us to focus our energy on our desires.

Dhyana – meditation that will improve our mental health.

Samadhi – the enlightenment, which is the ultimate goal of the journey.
Meaning of Hatha Yoga.

Over the years, Hatha yoga has changed a lot. However, its meaning has always been the same – directing your energy into the boundlessness and union of the mind, body, and spirit.

Our whole existence is just energy, and that’s the meaning of the practice – to get ourselves into a state of mind and body where we have complete control over our energy and how we use it.

However, everybody finds his own meaning of Hatha yoga once he starts practicing it. Some people find their way to happiness, others to self-love.

People practice Hatha yoga for a better-looking body, and others – are to deal with depression and anxiety. But everybody finds one similar thing – the goal of developing the body and the mind and feeling better in your body.

history of hatha yoga
Photo: Unsplash+

Why should you practice Hatha yoga?

Now that you know the history and meaning of Hatha yoga, you should also be informed about all the Hatha yoga benefits, or at least about the most important ones.

Practicing Hatha yoga poses will improve physical fitness, strength, and flexibility, and it will also have a positive effect on conditions like insomnia and back pain.

Furthermore, Hatha yoga helps when dealing with anxiety and high-stress levels. Some studies discovered that the practice positively affects people suffering from mental health disorders. But this is not all; Hatha is also beneficial for our appearance. When practicing yoga often enough, the stress levels will be lower, and the muscles – strengthened, which will lead to glowing and healthy skin.

Even though the practice is not intense, it helps improve bone density, flexibility, and our body. When practiced often enough, weight can be lost too. In addition, Hatha yoga also improves the quality of sleep, which results in many benefits for the body and the mind.

Now you know the history of Hatha yoga. It’s a life-transforming practice that dates long before us. If you have decided to try it, this is one of the best decisions in your life. Good luck!


What is Hatha yoga?

Hatha Yoga is a practice that includes breathing, postures, relaxation, and meditation. It is popular all around the world as a way of achieving better mental health and positive physical condition.

How old is Hatha yoga?

Hatha yoga has been around for more than thousands of years. According to some researchers, the history of Hatha started no more than 5,000 years ago, but others believe the practice is more than 10,000 years old.

How long does the history of Hatha yoga date?

The practice was first mentioned in one of Maharishi Patanjali’s writings, where Hatha yoga is described as an eightfold path consistent with 8 limbs.

What are the eight limbs of yoga?

When we talk about the history of Hatha yoga, we should discuss the eight limbs of yoga, which are the following: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

Why should you practice Hatha yoga?

Practicing hatha yoga will improve your physical condition, strength, and flexibility. Furthermore, it will benefit your mental health and positively affect people dealing with anxiety and high-stress levels. In addition, Hatha yoga can be beneficial for your appearance because, when practiced enough, it can lead to weight loss and a better-looking body.

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Nora Yulieva

Young, but already found my passion - writing. I love to travel, I love animals, and most - I love having the freedom to work from anywhere around the world.
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