About Hatha Yoga
Sometimes it can feel daunting understanding and deciphering the myriad of different yoga styles available today and which one would best suit your needs.
Hatha Yoga is a traditional style of yoga consisting of different âsanas (postures), which when linked together create sequences of movements. Along with correct alignment, breath awareness, presence and stillness of pose, yoga has the ability to slow down the fluctuations (thoughts) of the mind and bring the body and mind into a more equanimous and balanced space. These are essential qualities in a hectic world which often overstimulates our central nervous system, over-saturates our senses and clouds our mental clarity.
The word Hatha comes from the ancient Indian language, Sanskrit, and can be divided into two parts, Ha and Tha. Ha corresponds to the right side of the body, solar energy, masculine energy and physical energy, whereas Tha corresponds to the left side of the body, lunar energy, feminine energy and mental energy. When you place these two forces together you obtain Hatha or “strength”. The aim of Hatha Yoga is to strengthen the body and the mind which will then create physical and mental harmony and therefore health, energy and vitality.
In the West, the word Yoga is synonymous with many things which rarely denote its true potential or significance, but relate more to a physical practice which helps us lose weight or keep our bodies toned. And while this may be true, it’s interesting to note that it’s just one very small aspect of the physical and mental benefits a regular yoga practice can bring. Other benefits include:
- the opening of energy channels, chakras and psychic centres of the body
- increased flexibility of the spine, muscles, tendons and ligaments
- strengthening of the bones and stimulation of the circulatory and immune systems
- a relaxing, revitalizing and balancing effect on the central nervous system
- a reduction in stress when practiced along with proper breathing techniques or pranayama
- overall physical and mental health and the possible prevention of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and arthritis.
The difference between yoga and any other type of physical exercise is explained by Swami Vishnudevananda in his book titled:
The Illustrated Book of Yoga
The fundamental difference between Yogic exercise and ordinary physical exercises is that physical culture emphasises violent movements of the muscles, whereas Yogic exercises oppose violent muscle movements as they produce large quantities of lactic acid in the muscle fibres, thus causing fatigue. The effect of this acid and the fatigue it causes is neutralized by the alkali in the muscle fibres, as well as by the inhaling of oxygen.”
“…..Muscular development of the body does not necessarily mean a healthy body, as is commonly assumed, for health is a state when all organs function perfectly under the intelligent control of the mind. Rapid movement of the muscles causes a tremendous strain on the heart. In the yogic system, all movements are slow and gradual with proper breathing and relaxation.
Swami Vishnudevananda also encouraged us to adopt five principles to incorporate into our daily routine to help us maintain a balanced lifestyle. These aspects include; proper diet, proper breathing techniques, proper relaxation, proper exercise and positive thinking.