When people refer to “yoga” in general, this is actually Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga was introduced in the 15th century in India and it is the most popular yoga style. It can also be thought of as one of the “parents” of yoga as many other styles have originated from Hatha yoga, including power yoga, Bikram yoga, Ashtanga yoga, and Kundalini yoga. The word “Hatha” is Sanskrit, with “ha” meaning “sun”, and “tha” meaning “moon”.
Hatha Yoga – Balancing the Body and Mind
Hatha yoga aims to achieve balance between the body and the mind through the use of physical poses or asanas, breathing techniques or Pranayama, and meditation.
Asanas are various postures that are designed to improve health and remove diseases in the physical, causal, and subtle bodies. They were originally meant for meditation, as the asanas can make you feel relaxed for long periods of time. Regularly practiced, asanas improve muscle flexibility and bone strength, as well as willpower, concentration and self-withdrawal. Pranayama is the science of breath control and it is important because it is believed that the mind can be controlled through the control of the breath. Practicing Pranayama can also unlock dormant energies in the body.
Benefits of Hatha Yoga
Practicing Hatha yoga can help you to recognise your hidden physical and mental potential. You will gain flexibility and strength, and also learn to relax during times of stress. The relaxation exercises in Hatha yoga will open the energy channels of the body, allowing spiritual energy to flow freely. Some asanas or poses will massage and tone the internal organs, helping to prevent diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and hypertension, as well as bringing balance to internal and glandular functions. Pranayama can help to manage asthma and bronchitis. Hatha yoga also helps you to cope with stress, relieve tension, and deal with anxiety and depression. It also puts your mind in a focused state ready for meditation.
Hatha Yoga and Meditation
Hatha yoga is a form of yoga that prepares and conditions the body so that the mind is able to practice meditation without obstacles. To practice any real meditation, a person needs at least one posture in which the body can be perfectly comfortable for a longer period of time. The more such postures a person can master, the better the basis the person has for developing meditation techniques. The practice of Pranayama is also vital as when a person is able to master their breathing patterns, they are able to begin to master their own minds. Through the breathing exercises, the flow of prana or vital life force energy through the body is regulated. This energy is needed in the further practice of Hatha yoga.
In a nutshell:
The practice of yoga asanas (postures) develops strength and flexibility, while soothing the nerves and calming the mind. The asanas affect the muscles, joints and skin, and the whole human body – glands, nerves, internal organs, bones, respiration and the brain.
The benefits of yoga include:
- Improved muscular and postural strength
- Increased flexibility of the muscles and joints
- Reduced fatigue
- Reduced pain and muscle stiffness
- Enhanced ability to concentrate
- Improved energy levels and ability to cope with stress