The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as “union” or a method of discipline. A male who practices yoga is called a yogi, a female practitioner, a yogini.

The Indian sage Patanjali has discribed the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutras an estimated 2,000 years ago. The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara(withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). As we explore these eight limbs, we begin by refining our behavior in the outer world, and then we focus inwardly until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment).

Hatha Yoga is a series of exercises to develop and balance the body. The literal meaning of the word hatha is effort or force. It is a branch of yoga that requires physical effort or postures (asana) and breathing exercises (pranayama) to master the body and bring it into balance for deeper spiritual
practices. The word yoga means to yoke or union of the individual consciousness with the divine consciousness.

The word hatha comes from the two words “ha” meaning “sun” and “tha” meaning “moon”. It is to balance the two subtle energy flows within; the ida and pingala the left and right energy channel of our body. When these subtle energy pathways are balanced then energy will flow through the sushumna nadi and one may attain perfect health; so we may practice the true essence of yoga.

All the various types of physical yoga that is now being practiced come under the umbrella of hatha yoga.

Most American yoga students would answer this question with a simple no. As practitioners, we aren’t required to adhere to a particular faith or obliged to observe religious rituals such as baptisms or bar mitzvahs. We aren’t asked to believe in God, to attend organized worship services, or to learn specific prayers.

And yet, Patanjali‘s Yoga Sutra, an ancient text that is widely referred to in yoga classes today, clearly presents a moral code for yogis to follow and outlines the path toward a mystical state of enlightenment known as samadhi, or union with the Divine. The yoga tradition also recognizes the path of bhakti yoga, the branch of yoga whose adherents devote themselves to a personal form of God. Its practices include chanting to deities, setting up altars, and even praying.