Hatha is Not the Sun and the Moon

The Japanese martial art of Aikido is made up of three words: Ai meaning harmony, Ki meaning life force, spirit and universal energy, and do meaning the way.  Summed up, Aikido means The Art of Steven Seagal.  What?  No, Aikido is The Way of Harmony of the Spirit.  It’s actually much more complicated than that.  You know; like Steven Seagal.  But, you get the idea.

This binomial and trinomial nomenclature is pretty common in the martial arts, such as with Judo, Jujutsu, and Hapkido.  Two or three words coming together to name an art.  In yoga, we see this in the naming of poses, like Paschimottanasana.  Paschima meaning the back of the body, Uttana meaning straight or extended, and of course Asana meaning posture.

So, it seems natural and easily taken at face value when we hear that Hatha is two words, with Ha meaning Sun and Tha meaning Moon.  However, this is not the case.

So, how did this misconception begin?  Well, in traditional Indian medicine and spiritual knowledge, as well as yoga, there are two primary energy channels that flow through the Nadi. These are the Ida and the Pingala; sort of like yin and yang, Seagal and Acting, and solar and lunar with Ida being related to lunar qualities and Pingala being realted to solar qualities.

See where this is going?  Solar and Lunar, sun and moon, Ha and Tha.  So Hatha; sun and moon.

While there are many Sanskrit words for sun, none of those words is Ha.  Surya is the most common, like in suryanamaskaram (sun salutation).  There are also many words for moon, but none being Tha.  Chandra is a common one, as in ardhachandrasana (crescent moon pose).

But, Hatha is just one word and it means force or effort. When we’re in that balancing pose, our muscles are shaking, our eyes are focused on that one spot on the wall, and we’re controlling our breathing, concentrating our mental and physical energies to hold this posture.  It’s like our entire being is … “Under Seige”.  (Yep, I did that.)  Everything else goes away.  This effort brings us to a state of yoga.

This is Hatha.

Through this practice we create a shift towards relaxation, physical and emotional wellbeing.  We feel more connected and engaged; a relaxed greater awareness.  This is Yoga. This is Zen. It takes practice, training, and effort, but the rewards are priceless.

So, Hatha is NOT the sun and the moon and Aikido doesn’t mean the way of Steven Seagal.  That misconception is going to be … “Hard to Kill”.  Sorry, it was there.  Had to.

Photo by Matt Nelson on Unsplash

Am I No Yogi?

“If your goal is to become a yoga teacher, five-and-a-half months are good enough. If your goal is to become a yogi, it may happen in five-and-a-half seconds, or it may not happen in five-and-a-half lifetimes, because it is not of the physical nature. It depends on how an individual being allows it to happen.” – Sadhguru

Just this past weekend, I graduated from Yoga teacher training and I’m now an RYT with Yoga Alliance.  It was an amazing experience with incredible people!  And Sadhguru is spot-on; it was five-and-a-half months.  But does that make me a Yogi?  Hmm …

What does it mean to be a Yogi?

Is it practicing and performing poses and breathing deeply?  Is this Yoga?  Well, if the effort and action (hatha and karma) of performing asana brings us closer to synchronization with the energy of the universe, then yes.  Because Yoga means union.  Union with the universe and all things that are, including all of us humans.

But to be a Yogi, it’s about living the way, not just knowing it.  No easy task, because our reality is dynamic with its infinite number of variables and circumstances, multiplied by about eight billion humans, all with our own baggage of shit and opinions.

But, we do our best to be Yoga, living the eight limbs: non-violence, truth, non-stealing, moderation, non-attachment.  It’s cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-study, and surrender to a higher power.  And yes; it is the postures and a lot of breathing.  It’s withdrawing from the external world through the senses.  It’s concentration, meditation, and … bliss.

Sadhguru goes on to say, “Even if you are not like that (Yogi-like) 24 hours of the day, at least a few moments in a day you should be a yogi. If you keep it alive, things that you do not understand, things that you have never experienced, will happen to you. That means you are allowing another dimension to function.”

I know, I know, it sounds quite mystical and if you know me, I’m not one for mysticism.  In all my years of training and teaching martial arts, my mission was to clear the fog of mysticism with down to earth language that everybody could easily understand (there’s a song in there somewhere).  So to be clear, being a registered yoga teacher does not necessarily make one a Yogi.

Knowing and teaching the knowledge is merely academic.  Being able to do a one-handed hand stand with our legs in a pretzel is quite impressive, but that’s not Yoga.  The practice of living and being Yoga is true yoginess, no matter our acrobatic prowess.

So … am I a Yogi?  All things considered, yes.  But don’t tell anyone.  I have a reputation to maintain.


Photo by Hans Vivek on Unsplash