Hatha Yoga vs Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga Yoga and Hatha Yoga are two terms that appear to be the same but they have some subtle differences between them. Although both the terms are quite often substituted by another word called Raja Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga refers to the eight component parts of Yoga propounded by sage Patanjali who advocated the principles of the Yoga system of philosophy.
On the other hand Hatha Yoga refers to the hard and strenuous practice mainly of asanas and pranayama aspects of Yoga. The Sanskrit word ‘Hatha’ itself means ‘aggressive’. The concept of Hatha Yoga was forwarded by one Swami Svatmarama in the early part of the 15th century.
It is to be understood that Hatha Yoga is a part of Ashtanga Yoga but is employed with a different purpose. Hatha Yoga aims at the purification of the mind and the body by means of asanas and breathing techniques. Strenuous asanas or postures are prescribed to enable the body fight aging and techniques such as Bandhas and Kriyas are prescribed to cleanse the body of impurities.
On the other hand Ashtanga Yoga aims at the attainment of spiritual growth or spiritual absorption of the practitioner. The eight different parts of Yoga are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
Yama refers to the internal purity, Niyama aims at external or the purity of the body, Asana is a posture, Pranayama is the control of breath or the art of inhaling and exhaling, Pratyahara refers to the withdrawal of sense organs from the respective senseobjects, Dharana refers to concentration, Dhyana refers to meditation and Samadhi refers to the state of spiritual absorption.
The field of Hatha Yoga has gained an extreme popularity in the West over a period of time. There are several schools established in the United States and the United Kingdom that teach Hatha Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga to the students.