Learn the history of hatha yoga and what present-day classes are like
In This Article
Table of Contents
Hatha yoga is the branch of yoga that typically comes to mind when you think of yoga in general terms. The practice involves breath, body, and mind, and classes are usually 45 minutes to 90 minutes of breathing, yoga poses, and meditation.
Yoga began in India around for 2,000 years ago as a series of spiritual breathing exercises. The term Hatha was first recorded in the 11th century, but it wasn't until the late 19th century that it came to American, gaining mainstream popularity in the 1960s.
Today, roughly one in seven Americans practice yoga due to its mind-body wellness and health benefits. Research shows hatha yoga helps to relieve stress, support healthy habits, improve emotional health, ease back and arthritis pain, and even help people quit smoking.
In Sanskrit, Hatha means force. Hatha yoga breathing techniques can be traced back to the 1st Century in both Buddhist and Hindu texts, but it was another 1,000 years before the use of yoga postures, or asanas, and breath control was recorded as a way to enhance vital energy.
Classical Hatha yoga was developed in the 15th century and included guidance for the proper setting of yoga, asanas, pranayama or breathing exercises, mudras or hand gestures, and meditation for personal spiritual growth.
Hatha yoga was brought to America by Swami Vivekananda in 1893 as a spiritual practice. In the 1920s, yogis combined asanas with other popular exercises of the day to create a flowing style of yoga that was more physical than spiritual.
By the 1950s, hatha yoga was introduced to millions of households across America with Richard Hittleman's popular TV program "Yoga For Health."
A few years later, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the spiritual advisor to The Beatles, brought a new dimension of yoga to the mainstream with a combination of transcendental meditation and yoga and its popularity soared.
Today, hatha yoga is well-known for both as a physical and spiritual practice for mind-body health.