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Adventures in Yoga: An Independent Hatha Yoga Class

Updated: Jan 7, 2023

Tree with the branches of yoga over time described

For my second yoga adventure, I went to a local in-person class with an independent teacher several people had told me about. I can see why they were raving about her. She had a sparkling personality, decades of experience teaching, and clearly had formed a strong community with her work. Unlike my hot yoga experience in a gym atmosphere, this class felt very personal and the participants welcomed me warmly. They almost all knew each other and had requested an extra class at the end of the year because their practice meant so much to them.

The class description said Hatha Yoga, a term that puzzles me often because of what I learned in my training program and in another class I took through a separate yoga school.

Hatha Yoga is not a style like hot yoga or Kundalini yoga but rather the branch of yoga that first involved physical poses. It's one of the newer branches of an ancient tradition and is also the most well-known branch that came to the United States near the beginning of the 20th century. The physical poses became the one part of a vast yoga tradition that most people in the United States know.

In the photo for this post, you'll see a sketch of my rough understanding of how yoga has grown and changed since ancient times. I really enjoyed using my dip pen and watercolor, but the words may be hard to read. Here's the essence of what I tried to show:

Tree against a blue sky with grass beneath

  • The base of the tree has the ancient Vedas which were passed down orally in India beginning around 10,000 BCE.

  • Practitioners began writing the Vedas around 6000 BCE on the far left branch of my tree.

  • Moving clockwise around, yoga had several different forms from 1500-1000 BCE, including Karma, Jnana, Bhakti, and Raja. Each of these had different focuses, including meditation and actions. The Upanishads were the ancient texts also written in this era.

  • From 1000-100 BCE, practitioners wrote many epic stories which included the Bhagavad Gita, a tale of Krishna and Arjuna discussing moral dilemmas right before a battle.

  • The Classical Era occurred from 500-100 BCE and this is when Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutras, or threads. They are essentially short instructions on how to live a spiritual life and remind me a little of Proverbs.

  • Tantric Yoga, with an emphasis on ritual, evolved between 500 and 1300 CE.

  • Finally, Hatha Yoga fully developed between 1300 and 1700 CE. This branch of yoga was the first to include poses, or asanas, along with the other practices such as meditation and guidance for behaviors that were a part of the earlier branches.

  • What we think of as modern yoga began around 1700 CE. According to Wikipedia and Yoga Journal, Swami Vivekananda first brought yoga to the U.S. in the late 1800s.

  • Krishnamacharya was a renown Indian yogi and healer in the 20th century. He taught B.K.S. Iyengar, Indra Devi, and others who then brought yoga to the United States.

Essentially, Hatha Yoga includes most of modern yoga with the the asanas as a part of the practice, so it does make sense to list that as a class description. Writing this helped me to sort all that out. I trust you know that this barely scratches the surface of yoga's history.

Here are my tips for finding an independent yoga class outside of the gym environment:

  1. Ask around. Teachers often have a strong following and, if they are anything like the one I found, your friends already know and love them.

  2. After you find a name, look for information online. If they have a website, look carefully for how to sign up or contact and pay them. They often provide needed details you'll want to notice. I missed the part about my teacher only accepting cash and was a little embarrassed even though the kind teacher planned to let me mail her a check. Happily, my wonderful friend who invited me paid when she found out what had happened, but I do wish I'd remembered that detail.

  3. Bring your mat and a pillow or other props.

  4. Dress warmly and in layers if you have never been and don't know the temperature of the building.

  5. Consider talking a friend into going with you for your first time. I sure enjoyed the company. My friend and I only talked before and after class but it was lovely to have her trying to hold those tough poses with her mat next to mine.

I wish you well in your own adventures and would love to hear about them, too.

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