Yoga is an ancient Indian practice that is designed to promote good health, peace of mind and deep awareness of oneself through physical, mental, and spiritual health. There are many different branches in Yoga that help you achieve this and in this post we talk about one technique called Hatha Yoga that involves hatha yoga poses, controlled breathing, and meditation to achieve the desired results.
What is Hatha Yoga?
Hatha is a Sanskrit term that means “willful” or “forceful.” It is also translated to mean sun (ha) and moon (tha), an embodiment of masculine traits such as being active and hot like the sun and feminine traits such as being cool and receptive like the moon.
Hatha Yoga is a series of asanas or postures that seek to open up the channels in the body for free flow of energy, thereby creating harmony and balance between two opposing forces. The result is that the body develops a balance between strength and flexibility along with surrender and submission in each pose.
Hatha Yoga Definition
According to the Medical Dictionary, “Hatha yoga is a branch of yoga that concentrates on physical health and mental well-being. It uses bodily postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dyana) with the goal of bringing about a sound, healthy body and a clear, peaceful mind.”
According to Wikipedia, Hatha yoga, also called Haṭhavidyā, is a branch of yoga that denotes a system of physical techniques supplementary to a broad conception of yoga.
According to Indian yogi and mystic Sadhguru, Hatha yoga is not an exercise, but rather the art of using body postures to drive energy in specific directions to elevate your consciousness.
Hatha Yoga for Beginners
Hatha Yoga poses involves quite a bit of stretching, which can be uncomfortable for beginners. Therefore newbies must keep in mind several points before starting a hatha yoga session.
The first point to remember is that if you feel sharp pain in the joints or muscles, you must immediately stop the asana. It may be that the pose is not right for you or there is something wrong with your body alignment. If your body just feels the exertion of the exercise you can continue to push yourself to maintain your posture.
Practicing yoga for an hour is great, but not everyone can do it regularly. Make it a habit to practice at least 2 or 3 times a week. If you can’t do one hour a sessions, 20 minutes or even 10 minutes should be good enough. When you practice shorter spells, make it a daily practice.
There is no one good time to practice yoga. You can do it in the mornings to release all the stiffness from your body, you can practice it at noon to release tiredness from the body and an evening workout is a great way to unwind. Whatever time you practice hatha yoga, make sure you never do it after a meal. If you must eat, have a handful of nuts or half a banana. The general rule of thumb is to allow at least 3 hours after a meal to practice the asanas.
To perform hatha yoga, make sure you have a spacious room for stretching out. A yoga mat is great if you have slippery floors. Make sure you are wearing cool comfortable clothing. Again, check with your doctor before embarking on a hatha yoga program, especially if you have any medical conditions, spinal injuries, or are pregnant. Certain asanas should not be performed during menstruation or when you are having fever, so always check with your yoga teacher about the potential dangers of doing certain techniques.
First time hatha yoga practitioners can experience fatigue and soreness throughout the body. Certain breathing exercises can cause dizziness and disorientation. Therefore it is advisable that hatha yoga is performed under the supervision of a good yogi or teacher.
Popular Hatha Yoga Poses
There are different categories of Hatha yoga poses, the most prominent ones include standing poses, sitting poses, resting poses, back bends, and balancing poses.
1. Mountain pose (Tadasana) : This pose strengthens the ankle, thigh, and knees and prepares the body for all other standing poses.. See how to perform this basic pose here.
2. Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): This forward bending hatha yoga pose strengthens the leg and arms and calms the mind. Learn how to do this pose step-by-step here.
3. Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita parsvakonasana): This pose strengthens the ankle, knees, and leg and trims the waist. Watch a demonstration of this pose here.
4. Cobbler’s pose (Baddha konasana): This pose stretches the hips and inner thighs and balances the effects of too much sitting. You can see this exercise demonstrated here.
5. Seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana): This hatha yoga pose offers various benefits including stress and anxiety relief. Learn more about this pose here.
6. Child’s pose (Balasana): This asana is useful in relieving back, shoulder, neck, and hip strain. See a video demonstration here.
7. Bridge pose (Setu bandha sarvangasana) : This pose calms the mind and relieves mild depression among other things. See it demonstrated here.
8. Cobra pose (Bhujangasana): This cobra pose relieves mild depression and strengthens legs, upper back, arms and shoulders.
9. Tree pose (Vrksana): This yoga pose improves the balance, focus and concentration. Watch it in action here.
10. Corpse’s pose (Savasana): This pose is practiced at the end of the asanas. You can find instructions on how it is performed here.
Benefits of Hatha Yoga
Focusing on Hatha yoga poses takes the mind away from the problems and woes in your life, giving you a sense of calmness. Yoga can increase your strength and flexibility and enhance your balance, leaving you more fit with lesser chances of getting injured.
As far as weight loss is concerned, although hatha yoga doesn’t help you burn as many calories as running, you can still lose weight with regular yoga sessions. This practice can be particularly beneficial if you are an emotional eater as it introduces more balanced lifestyle changes.
Hatha Yoga can also help in healing certain conditions such as neck pains, sinusitis, anxiety, asthma, and insomnia among others. Some exercises also help with problems in getting pregnant and with infertility and menstruation issues.
It brings about a greater state of awareness of your inner being helping you better respond and react to new experiences.
As mentioned previously, hatha yoga brings about a unity in the opposing forces of the sun and moon in your body, channeling divine energy to the base of your spine and flow freely through the body to bring about a deeper awareness and spiritual awakening.
Hatha Yoga Music
Hatha yoga music played with traditional indian instruments like the Bansuri Flute.
How about you? Do you practice Yoga and if you do what is your favorite position?