Hatha Yoga 101



There are a number of different kinds of yoga – some ancient, and some modern inventions which emphasize different aspect of yoga.

What Is Hatha Yoga?

Yoga means union; the union of mind, body and spirit. Hatha is the most traditional of the yogas and has been practiced for thousands of years in India and the Far East.

The name Hatha means willful or forceful. The word is also a combination of hat (sun) and ha (moon). It works with the energy centers of the body, flesh and bone. The main focus is on surrendering to and perfecting the many poses, and using yoga for health, healing and personal transformation.

Hatha yoga is part of traditional Ayurvedic, that is, Indian medicine. In traditional Eastern forms of medicine, doctors treat not just the physical body but the energy body, also called the subtle body. It is thought to be comprised of channels, loops, meridians and chakras – that is, energy centers in the body.

If a surgeon cut you open, they wouldn’t see the chakras, but Hatha posits that they are there and balance the energy for healing purposes and overall wellbeing. Chinese acupuncture and acupressure, Reiki, Shiatsu and other healing modalities also work on the theory of balance and stimulating the energy in the body.

Hatha Poses

Many modern types of yoga focus mainly on the poses, or asanas, the physical side of yoga. Hatha yoga aspires to create balance in all things. There are different levels of poses, and therefore different classes and DVDs you can try.

 

Improved Concentration

Hatha improves mental concentration through meditation, chanting mantras like OM, and to some extent, breath work. With breath work, you learn how to breathe in different patterns with different purposes, such as a cooling breath or a heating breath that increases energy.

 

At One with the Breath

The Sanskrit word for breath work is pranayama. Prana means life-force, ayama to regulate or lengthen. In other words, practicing pranayama can improve one’s health and vitality through the breath. The breath work is very useful for eliminating toxins from the body and improving the immune system.

 

A Union of Body, Mind and Spirit

Yoga is not just about the body beautiful. It is considered to be a way of connecting with our inner selves so we can open up to connecting with others. This can be achieved through meditation. Meditation can also include breath work and chanting.

 

The Benefits of Hatha

Hatha has been shown to offer increased energy, less stress, better moods and sleep, and decreased anxiety. It lowers blood pressure and can help you lose weight more easily by boosting your metabolism.

 

Who Can Practice It?

Hatha is ideal for people of all ages because it is low impact and you can work at a safe and sensible pace. Even those with health issues can benefit from Hatha yoga. When done carefully with the help of expert guidance, Hatha can help relieve back, joint and muscle pain. The pranayama can help with allergies, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, or COPD.

Meditation helps improve focus, concentration and memory, all ideal for seniors who want to maintain a busy, active lifestyle no matter what their age.

With all of these benefits, now might be the best time to check out your local yoga studios to see which of them offer Hatha. Try an introductory class and see what a difference Hatha yoga can make to your health.

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Which Type of Yoga Is Right for You?




There are quite a number of types of yogas these days that try to differentiate themselves from one another and emphasize certain aspects of the entire practice of yoga. Traditionally, yoga works on the body, mind and spirit, though most Western yogas tend to focus on the body.

If you live in a moderately large city, you should be able to find several different kinds of studios and teachers, including:

* Hatha
* Iyengar
* Vinyasa
* Kundalini
* Bikram
* Ashtanga

 

Hatha

Hatha yoga is the most traditional of all the forms of yoga, and dates back thousands of years. The name means willful or forceful, and the word is a combination of hat (sun) and ha (moon) representing power and balance.

Hatha works with the energy centers of the body, the chakras, as well as the muscles, flesh and bone, for a holistic workout. The main focus is on surrendering to and perfecting the many poses in this form of yoga. There are levels of practitioners who can do increasingly difficult poses for flexibility. They also improve their focus and concentration through meditation.

 

Iyengar

Iyengar yoga was founded by B. K. S. Iyengar in the 1970s in India and is a form of Hatha yoga. Iyengar’s focus was on detail, precision and perfect alignment for the asanas (poses) he studied and taught, in order to develop strength, mobility and stability. Before his death at the age of 95, Iyengar was said to have perfected approximately 200 Hatha yoga asanas.

 

Vinyasa

Vinyasa yoga is also known as flow yoga. It uses the same asanas as Hatha yoga, but they are put into sequences that move easily from one pose to the next. The word vinyasa means “breath-synchronized movement,” which refers to the movements being performed in conjunction with inhale and exhale patterns and for the asanas to be held for a certain number of breaths.

 

Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini yoga emphasizes the balance of mind, body and spirit through the moving of energy in the body, specifically in relation to the chakras or energy centers. Kundalini yoga has several unique postures designed to move the chakra energy up the spine. It does not require a lot of flexibility or stamina and can be done by anyone at any age. There are no levels to the classes the way there are with other forms of yoga such as Hatha.

 

Bikram

Bikram yoga, founded in the 1970s by Bikram Choudhry from Bengal, is also referred to as hot yoga. It is relatively simple in some ways because it uses only two breathing exercises and 26 Hatha yoga postures done in the same pattern every day for every lesson. However, the poses are demanding and the studio temperatures range from 80F to 110F, with a relative humidity of around 75%. This can also cause severe dehydration and pose a serious health risk to anyone with heart health issues.

 

Ashtanga

Ashtanga yoga is a form of Vinyasa yoga designed to flow the movements together, but in a more rapid and demanding way. It was founded in the late 1940s by K. Pattabhi Jois from India. It has seven main series – a basic one, and increasingly advanced ones. All of them are vigorous and very few practitioners are known to have reached the highest levels.

The type of yoga you choose should be based on your overall physical health and stamina. If you are a beginner and/or senior, try Hatha or Kundalini if there is a studio near you. For something more lively but not too demanding, try Vinyasa. Then see what a difference yoga can make to your health and vitality.

 

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How To Do Yoga At Home Safely




It is easy to start a yoga practice at home with just a few basics. The first is a yoga routine you wish to try, such as a beginner’s DVD or yoga video you can stream on your computer. Your next important pieces of equipment are comfortable clothes that are not too tight or too baggy, in order to avoid injury.

Mat

A good non-skid yoga mat will allow you to practice your yoga safely almost anywhere, such as a carpeted or wooden floor. Choose a thicker mat if you have any joint issues or arthritis. Be sure to place your mat on a level surface to avoid tripping or turning an ankle.

 

Props

Not every yoga pose requires you to turn into a pretzel, but there are a few yoga props that can support you in certain poses and deepen others. These include:

* Strap – A yoga strap can be looped around the soles of your feet to help you deepen your bends. You can also support your leg during leg raises and grip the straps with both hands if you wish to do a stretch with your arms behind your back.

* Blocks – Blocks offer support and stability and can be used with certain postures to make them either easier or more challenging. Some people also use them to sit on for long periods of time when holding a pose.

* Bolster – A yoga bolster can be used to support the body in a number of ways, sitting or lying down, to help with form and comfort. They come in a wide variety of styles for different purposes, such as supporting your legs or back. They are ideal for making your Corpse pose more comfortable, as either a neck pillow or a support behind your knees.

* Yoga Cushion – The most popular cushion is the classic Zafu or medication cushion that looks like a powder puff. Others styles include a crescent-shaped cushion that supports the back and protects the knees. Wedge-shaped cushion that you put under your butt are also good because they stop you from slouching during your seated yoga poses and meditations.

* Blanket – Some people like to cover themselves when they are doing the Corpse pose for deep relaxation. Others use the blanket to practice on instead of a mat. Blankets are a good idea for anyone who has muscular skeletal issues, because cold muscles are more tense and therefore more prone to injury. If you don’t use a blanket, put a tracksuit over your yoga clothes before going into Corpse pose.

Other Helpful Tools

In addition to the props listed above, you might also find the following useful:

* A Metal Folding Chair – Chairs can be used for balance and certain poses. The chair seat should be upholstered and the chair placed on your mat so you do not slip in any way. A chair is also useful for those who can’t stand up for very long or who wish to try certain upright poses in a seated position without going down onto the floor.

* The Walls – Use the walls to steady yourself in different poses, either standing or inverted poses such as shoulder stands. For extra steadiness, use a corner of the room.

Starting Safely

When you are first starting yoga, begin slowly and only do what feels comfortable. Warm up and cool down with some stretches at the start and end of each routine. Use reliable websites like Yoga Journal to learn more about each pose you see on the videos, and you will soon have a safe yoga routine to enjoy at home.

 

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