Quick Guide to Hatha Yoga
Dating back to 15th century India, Hatha Yoga is the mainstay for many other forms of yoga including Birkram, Power, 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 practicing yoga.
A Short History of Hatha Yoga
The word hatha itself comes from the ancient Sanskrit language and translates to “forceful” and encompasses much. “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 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 the 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.
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A Typical Yoga Session
Most Hatha Yoga sessions last for approximately 30 minutes where in that amount of time, students practice a series of postures to improve strength, stamina, balance and flexibility. By intensely focusing on doing the postures correctly, you’ll also get clarity of the mind and improve the function of your internal organs; 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 Warrior and Mighty Pose along with the Mini Sun Salutation. A couple of good stress relievers and relaxation poses include the Kneeling Cat-Swan Pose and the Head-to-Knees pose.
Health Benefits of Yoga
Many people practice yoga in general for its health benefits including:
- Positive thoughts
- Mental clarity
- Renewed sense of enthusiasm
- Improved sleep
- Less stress
- Improved physical health
Most of these benefits you can’t buy in a bottle as a prescription; but you don’t have to. Yoga will improve your health, well-being and give you a positive outlook on life in general. Why? It’s because you are not wasting energy on negative thoughts anymore. You are channeling that energy where it does the most good. And because it is low-impact, it is joint-friendly and anyone can do it.
Here in the West, most people practice Hatha Yoga postures as a form of physical exercise. With around 30 million Americans alone practicing, it must work at that and more. Try it, what do you have to lose?