Health & Spirit

The Complementary Paths of Hatha Yoga and the Martial Arts


 If you ask anyone what the most popular fitness activities are in America today, hatha yoga and the martial arts will probably rank high on the list. Rather than adversarial pursuits, these two mainstream ideologies have much in common. According to recent studies, both disciplines engage roughly 20 million practitioners in the United States and the evidence suggests that the trends are growing. From small towns to large cities, yoga studios and martial arts schools are familiar fixtures on both street corners and strip malls. Doctors recommend yoga for stress relief and workplaces offer classes to their employees while the study of martial arts is seen as a way to learn self-defense and boost confidence for both children and adults.

How did these two ancient yet complimentary disciplines with roots in Asian culture become mainstream physical and spiritual enrichment activities in modern American life? Not surprisingly, if you study the historic progress of both disciplines, you will find that they had their beginnings largely at the same time, and their paths of development are intertwined. The third son of a Brahman Indian king, Zen patriarch, Bodhidharma is credited with initiating a program of exercises and drills that he taught to the shaolin monks. These techniques were imparted with the hope of strengthening the monks’ ability to concentrate during meditation while preserving the spiritual harmony required in monastic life. Considered the Father of yoga, another mystical figure, Sri Patanjali Maharishi, is believed to be the author of the famous treatise, The Yoga Sutras, which remain one of the most influential spiritual writings in yogic practice today.

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