Union, this is what Yoga stands for. The ancient science of Yoga, which took birth in the foothills of the Himalayas, signifies integration of various life’s elements. Yoga is not just a set of practices but an ideology of unanimity. For the last 5000 years, the India-born spiritual science has been offering wisdom and enlightenment to the planet. A number of saints and philosophers have contributed to propagating the ideas of Yoga all across the world. Since Yoga is a complete subject, there, of course, are many chapters in it. Among these chapters, Hatha and Ashtanga are the most prominent. Which one is better among the two is a premier matter of discussion in today’s era.
Most of the Yoga masters across the globe believe there is no point arguing whether Hatha is better than Ashtanga or vice-versa. Both Yoga types are beneficial in different ways.
The literal difference
Let’s begin with the literal difference between two of the oldest yogic philosophies. Hatha Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga differ in their verbal meanings. Hatha is made of two Sanskrit words- ‘Ha’, meaning Sun and ‘tha’, meaning Moon. The Sun and the Moon stand for two opposite poles of life energy- heat and calmness. Hatha Yogais a source of balance in the body. On the other hand, Ashtanga is derived from ‘Ashta’ that means eight and ‘Anga’ that means limbs or elements. Ashtanga Yoga is a collection of eight limbs that are considered the best way to soul purification and self-discovery. These eight components are – yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. The philosophy of Hatha and Ashtanga find mention in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. But the latter as a Yoga type was popularized by Sri K. PattabhiJois in the 20th century. Thus, we can argue that Hatha is an age-old practice, while AshtangaVinyasa’s practices are parts of the modern Yoga.
Hatha Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga are different in the sense that they both emit distinct philosophies. Historically, Hatha is considered a preparatory practice to attain a stronger control over one’s body. It is about bringing the mind, body, and chakras to equilibrium with various asanas and Meditation techniques. Ashtanga Yoga is about the ideal development of one’s life with several yamas and niyamas. Ashtanga covers almost all aspects of human nature, from physical to emotional to mental to spiritual to meditational. Like Hatha, it too has a set of asanas. Ashtanga Yoga is defined as a perfect picture of what one’s life should be.
In modern context, all asanas are thought to be the parts of Hatha Yoga. This is of course not correct, since Ashtanga is also composed of various physical practices. Hatha Yoga is about power and the ability of the body and mind to conquer the inner and outer instincts. Hatha practices are related to the idea of self-liberation and enlightenment. Ashtanga Yoga defines the theory of holistic living and a better development of the mind, body, and spirit. The yogic philosophy is the most fascinating way to lead a spiritual life, with all sorts of global knowledge.
Hatha and Ashtanga: A detailed outlook
Let’s talk about Hatha Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga in detail while trying to de-clutter some of the major differences between the two Yoga types. Hatha Yoga is vibrant, it is all about energy. Another term for hatha is resistance. It is defined as a dynamic set of exercises that lead the body, mind, and soul to complete unification. But it doesn’t mean Hatha Yoga is all about physical exercises. There are a number of aspects of Hatha Yoga that we will be discussing. In this context, Ashtanga, in many ways, looks similar to its compatriot. It is more of a philosophical kind of Yoga that focuses on almost all aspects of life.
Major Hatha practices
Mitihara: The first practice of Hatha Yoga is called Mitihara. It is related to diets. According to the Mitihara philosophy, sattvic diets are equally important for the human body and Yoga practice. Without diets, there is little essence of life and the practice.
Shatkarma: Shatkarma is the yogic method of body purification, which is an important way to attain complete salvation.
Meditation: Meditation is the act of unifying the body, mind, and soul to enjoy enormous stability in the life of an individual. It is about concentrating the mind to the utmost level of attentiveness.
Also Read: Benefit of Hatha Yoga
Major Ashtanga practices:
Yamas&Niyamas: Yamas and niyamas are ethical and daily rules that a person should follow. According to Hindu philosophy, one should believe in non-violence, truthfulness, contentment, worship to God, chastity, etc.
Pratyahara: Pratyahara is same as Mitihara.
Dharana:It is the practice of introspection. The practice is about mental oneness. One should keep his/her mind in control to attain success in life.
Also Read: Benefit of Ashtanga Yoga
Other elements are common in both Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga. These are breathing exercises, dhyana, relaxation techniques like Yoga Nidra and yogic cleansing practices (Shatkarmas).