Haṭha yoga is a branch of yoga. The Sanskrit word haṭha literally means “force” and thus alludes to a system of physical techniques.
In India, haṭha yoga is associated in popular tradition with the Yogis of the Natha Sampradaya through its traditional founder Matsyendranath, who is celebrated as a saint in both Hindu and Buddhist tantric and haṭha yoga schools. Almost all hathayogic texts belong to the Nath siddhas, and the important ones are credited to Matsyendranath’s disciple, Gorakhnath or Gorakshanath. According to the Dattatreya Yoga Śastra, there are two forms of haṭha yoga: one practiced by Yajñavalkya consisting of the eight limbs of yoga, and another practiced by Kapila consisting of eight mudras.
The oldest dated text so far found to describe haṭha yoga, the 11th-century Amṛtasiddhi, comes from a tantric Buddhist milieu. The oldest texts to use the terminology of hatha are also Vajrayana Buddhist. Later haṭha yoga texts adopt the practices of haṭha yoga mudras into a Saiva system, melding it with Layayoga methods which focus on the raising of kuṇḍalinī through energy channels and chakras.
In the 20th century, a development of haṭha yoga, focusing particularly on asanas (the physical postures), became popular throughout the world as a form of physical exercise. This modern form of yoga is now widely known simply as “yoga”.
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