This week I taught on the word "hatha."
"The nature of yoga is to shine the light of awareness into the darkest corners of the body."
- Jason Crandell
Hatha (pronounced huh-tuh) has multiple meanings. In the modern context, the word is generally used to describe classes that are alignment-based and non-flowing. Even more generally, the word hatha describes any kind of yoga practice that emphasizes yoga asana, or postures.
Hatha, however, is older than the modern yoga class, and carries complex implications relating to the cycle of light and life. Hatha is a blend word, combining "ha," meaning sun, and "tha," meaning moon. Metaphorically speaking, hatha yoga is the path of yoga that traces the turning of the sun and the moon.
The symbolism of the sun is power, strength, and heat. The sun is more consistent in its form and therefore implies a sense of steadiness. We find this in the warming phase of an asana practice, in sun salutations, in the muscles' ability to raise our temperature when they are engaged. In contrast, the moon changes appearance as it waxes and wanes. It symbolizes tranquility, subtlety, and nuance. The moon is alignment, the ability to subtly mould the physical form, to soften into the mysterious physical spaces.
Beyond the mat, hatha yoga is an invitation to a luminous life. Like light filtering down through clear water, the rays of our consciousness provide the energy needed for life to blossom below the surface. With the light of our discerning attention, of the warm sun or the cool moonlight, we illuminate the shallows, the currents, and the depths inside, and in turn the vastness of our inner ocean will churn into life.