An Introduction to Hatha Yoga
Learn all about Hatha Yoga in the first of our monthly series on the various types of yoga…
Welcome to our new monthly yoga series! Stay tuned at the beginning of each month when we will be covering a new type of yoga. Throughout each month, we will share information, practice tips, and some fun workouts in each yoga style. (Also, be sure to take our Yoga Quiz to find out which of the 5 major types of yoga you’ll love the most!)
This month, we’re starting out with probably the basic and most well-known form of yoga, Hatha Yoga.
When you hear the word “yoga,” the poses that come to mind are probably from Hatha yoga. Dating back to 15th century India, Hatha Yoga is the basis for many other forms of yoga including Bikram, Vinyasa, Kundalini and Ashtanga. Many of these styles use the postures found in Hatha and it is the style most people associate with when first starting out with a yoga practice.
Hatha Yoga History
The word hatha itself comes from the ancient Sanskrit language and translates to “forceful,” though its meaning is also more encompassing than that. “Hat” itself means sun; “ha” means moon. So hatha encompasses the forces of the sun and moon. Founded by sage Swami Swatamarama, its mission is to focus energy in your body and mind and doing so, Hatha Yoga claims that it cleanses the whole body so it is free from disease.
Sage Swatamarama created Hatha by combining the asanas or postures of a more ancient yoga that focuses on slow and gentle movements, with breathing techniques called pranayama. It is this combination that creates shatkarma or the purification first of the physical body followed by the purification of the mind.
A Typical Hatha Yoga Session
Most Hatha Yoga sessions last for approximately 30-45 minutes, in which students practice a series of postures to improve strength, stamina, balance and flexibility. By intensely focusing on doing the postures correctly, you’ll also find clarity of mind and improve the function of your internal organs; yoga postures work the entire body inside and out.
While there are well over one hundred asanas to choose from, some good postures to try when first starting out are the Downward Facing Dog and Warrior Poses along with the Sun Salutation sequence. A couple of good stress relievers and relaxation poses include Happy Baby Pose and Child’s Pose.
While here in the West, most people practice Hatha Yoga postures as a form of physical exercise, yoga has many other health benefits including:
• Positive mindset
• Mental clarity
• Renewed sense of enthusiasm and joy for life
• Improved sleep
• Reduced stress
• Improved physical health – including increased strength, flexibility, and balance
Most of these benefits you can’t buy in a bottle as a prescription – but you don’t have to! Yoga is fun and easy to do anywhere, and it will improve your health, well-being and give you a positive outlook on life in general. Why? Because it focuses your mind and unites your mind and body taking your focus away from negative thoughts, and directing it towards the perfection of the present moment. Yoga is also low-impact and joint-friendly, so anyone, of any age, shape, and size can benefit from doing it.
You can find Hatha Yoga classes in just about every city throughout the U.S., and there are also many DVDs available for at-home yoga practice.