What is Hatha Yoga? What are the benefits of practicing this path? How does movement help us when we’re stressed or anxious?
According to the book, Hatha Yoga Illustrated, Hatha Yoga is called “the forceful yoga”, meaning physical. Throughout this practice, you focus on mind, body and soul to achieve and maintain flexibility and peace in your daily life. You also partake in meditation practices to begin, and end, the Hatha Yoga sessions to place yourself in a space away from stress, noise and other negative situations.
On the website, Yoga Journal, the word “hatha” is also defined as:
“‘sun’ (ha) and ‘moon’ (tha), the yoga of balance”
You will see the words “sun” and “moon” again if you ever try the Sun and Moon Salutations. The Sun Salutation helps you warm up and build your “stamina, strength and flexibility” (Hatha Yoga Illustrated, 210-11). Whereas, the Moon Salutation utilizes back-, forward- and side-bending poses (212-16).The key for each is concentration on your breathing and repeating the Salutations with each leg.
Image: Mukti Yoga School
Besides breathing, movement is another crucial key to Hatha Yoga. As you move, you are stretching, stressing and strengthening your muscles, especially in the arms and legs. Your focus turns to improving your poses instead of things plaguing your mind. When you’re concentrating on something else, your mood can change. As you’re moving in Hatha Yoga, there are pauses in-between where you’re holding a pose that you can take a deep breath and focus on the present moment. Studies show exercise helps with stress and moving around can keep you healthy. But that’s beside the point.
The point is that by utilizing movement, particularly with Hatha Yoga, you can center yourself and find one task to place all your energy in.
To give you a better idea of the practice and some poses to try out, I want to share my experience and takeaways.
My third year of college, I took a Hatha Yoga I class held once a week during the early afternoon. During each class, we began and ended with a five minute meditation and breathing exercise by lying on our mats with a blanket and block serving as support for our heads. Throughout the class, music played in the background as we took our time to learn each pose and get in touch with an environment away from schoolwork, stress, the outside world and people. Outside of class, we worked on our poses up to three times a week to prepare for the next class and see where we were struggling. Some of the things we watched for were the alignment of our feet, how we used our hands on the yoga blocks (flat, ridgetops, fingertips), and our breathing. Throughout that semester, I walked out of that class feeling refreshed, calmer and stronger.
Image: (Get Your Fit Together)
Here’s what you’ll need to try out some of the poses:
A quiet room (even doing it outside is also a good idea)
A book to follow along (my class used Hatha Yoga Illustrated)
Tank top and Yoga pants
Some instrumental music (if you go on YouTube and search for Hatha Yoga music, you should be able to find a couple selections and playlists)
One or two Yoga Blocks (using one or two vary by pose)
What do you think about Hatha Yoga? If you tried it, how was the experience?