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