Difference Between Hatha Yoga & Ashtanga Yoga

By Patricia | June 15, 2009
Hatha Yoga Vs Ashtanga Yoga

Yoga comprises of many disciplines intended to enhance the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of an individual. Since its evolution, yoga has branched into many disciplines, each having its own school of thought and different consequences for the human body and mind.

Hatha Yoga

A discipline founded in India in the fifteenth century, Hatha Yoga is one of the oldest forms of Yoga. Once founded, this discipline was further developed and propagated by some of the greatest sages of this place.

This discipline was intended to be a preparation of the body for physical purification so that higher meditation could be performed. Today Hatha yoga is so popular that it is simply referred to as yoga. Over the years, many different forms of Yoga have originated from Hatha yoga, Ashtanga yoga being one of them.

Hatha yoga therefore attempts to combine the energies that are associated with the sun and the moon. Hatha yoga is based mostly on poses (Asanas) and Pranayama (breathing techniques).

In order to achieve higher meditation, it was believed that the body should be free of any diseases and the mind, free of any stresses. The postures practiced in Hatha yoga relaxes the body and gives it flexibility and strength. Many people have successfully used Hatha yoga to improve concentration and will power too.

Since Hatha yoga also deals with Pranayama, it also gives you great control over your breathing. The sages of ancient India strongly believed that the mind can be controlled by controlling the rhythm of one’s breath. Those who have a control over their breathing can successfully control their minds. Using the power of the mind, they believed that one could in fact rekindle the energies that lay unused or dormant in our body.

The relaxation exercises prescribed in Hatha yoga can actually help those who suffer from chronic asthma, hypertension, bronchitis, and even depression. Hatha yoga is believed to gainfully channel healing and spiritual energies throughout our bodies.

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga yoga stems from Hatha yoga but is a different discipline that was founded by an ancient sage named Patanjali. The discipline founded by him intends to help a human being reach higher levels of self-realization.

As the name suggests, Ashtanga yoga takes the practitioner through eight steps, starting with social and self discipline, and ending at meditation. Control of the mind and withdrawal of the senses through various postures and poses are an integral part of the Ashtanga yoga.
The following are the eight steps of Ashtanga yoga:

  • Yama in which the body exercises social control
  • Niyama in which the body exercises self control.
  • Asanas in which the body quiets the mind by going through a series of 48 postures.
  • Pranayama in which the body controls the breathing and therefore, the mind.
  • Pratyahara in which the body absorbs the Kunadlini energy by withdrawing all sensory perceptions.
  • Dharana in which the body slips into deep concentration
  • Dhyana in which the meditation becomes completely uninterrupted and finally
  • Samadhi in which the state of pure consciousness and equilibrium is reached.
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