The Yoga Tutor

Hathenas - Kriyas to Improve Breathing

[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 268 ]

Hatha is a word that can be translated to mean "force." In hatha yoga this refers to the solar (ha) and lunar (tha) forces (or the yang and yin; male and female; positive and negative; etc…) and the practice of achieving balance between them.

Hatha can also be used as an adverb to mean "forcibly" or "with strength of will," and so the hathenas (or hathaats) are those 'forcing techniques' -- asanas, kriyas and or mudras, coupled with specific breath work -- that are used in hatha yoga to produce one specific effect or another, be it to expand certain parts or the entire lungs, relieve muscle and joint tension, neuromuscular facilitation, or glandular/organ stimulation.

Certain hathenas can be used in a specific sequence to facilitate the expansion, reconditioning and rejuvenation of the different sections of the lungs (lower, middle and upper). This group of kriyas is designed to develop lung strength, elasticity, capacity and control. In other words it brings the respiratory system under conscious control to improve unconscious (automatic) breathing.

The Hathena Set

The full set of hathenas consists of 15 different exercises. These are divided into four groups, which will be taught to you over the course of the four lessons of this section.

The first group of four exercises conditions the lower breathing capacity, or adham pranayama. The second set of four exercises conditions the middle breathing capacity, or madhyam pranayama. The third set of four exercises conditions the upper breathing capacity, or adhyam pranayama. The fourth set consists of three exercises which condition the full lungs, supporting the mahat yoga pranayama, or the full yogic breath.


As with any physical yoga practices, the hathena techniques should be preceded by adequate and appropriate jattis or other warming exercises. In addition, the cleansing pranayama technique known as mukha bhastrika, which you have already learned, should be performed at the beginning of the hathena set, as well as following its completion.


NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.

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