What is hatha yoga?
Hatha Yoga is the most popular style of yoga and was first introduced in India in the 15th century. The word "Hatha" comes from two Sanskrit words "ha" which means "suns" and "tha" which means moon.
Hatha yoga aims to achieve a balance between the mind and the body through the use of Asanas or physical poses, Pranayama or breathing techniques, and meditation. Hatha yoga practices are designed to align and calm the mind, the body, and the spirit in preparation for meditation.
Health benefits of hatha yoga
Practicing Hatha yoga can help:
- recognise the hidden physical and mental potential
- gain flexibility and strength
- relax during times of stress
The relaxation exercises will open the energy channels of the body, thereby allowing a free spiritual energy flow. Some poses or asana can massage and tone internal organs, help prevent diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis. In addition, it can bring balance to internal and glandular functions. Pranayama, or breathing techniques, can help manage bronchitis and asthma.
Hatha yoga also helps the person relieve tension, cope with stress, and deal with anxiety and depression. It also puts the mind in a focused state ready for meditation.
Different hatha yoga poses
There are several Asanas or poses used in Hatha yoga. However, the following Asanas are the most commonly used by beginners:
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose) - helps improve body posture and reduces back pain. Also, it strengthens the abdominal muscles, hips, thighs, and ankles.
- Vrikshasana (Tree Pose) - helps stretch the shoulders, thighs, and groins, It also tones the abdominal muscles
- Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose) - helps stretch the calves and hamstrings and strengthen the thighs and knees. In addition, it helps reduce headache and anxiety.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) - helps in energizing. It also provides deep stretches to the hands, hamstrings, and calves and strengthens the shoulders and legs.
- Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) - regular practice can open the shoulders, chest, and heart. It also massages the neck, spine, back, and thighs.
- Salabhasana (Locust Pose) - helps strengthen and improve flexibility to the hips, spine, legs, and the muscles surrounding the torso.
What to expect from hatha yoga
Traditionally, Hatha yoga classes start with meditation and breathwork which allows to focus the mind, recognize the breath, and create space for movement. After meditation, a series of gentle or classical sun salutations is performed to warm up the body. The practice continues with a series of Asanas held for 5 to 10 breaths organized through the body’s energy centers. The sequence of poses is varied for each class and experience and skills. The class ends with a silent savasana pose. Savasana (Corpse Pose) is an asana used at the end of a session for relaxation.