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.
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.
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.