Guest Author - Tracy Webb
Hatha Yoga is a gentle and easy to learn system of yoga. It is very popular for stress management and overall body strength due to its integrated style. Ha means sun and Tha means moon, therefore Hatha Yoga is known for balancing and uniting the mind and body.
Hatha Yoga consists of postures (asana), breathing exercises (prananyama) and meditation (dhyana). When used together, these three aspects of yoga can bring about some profound changes when practiced regularly.
The 15th century guru, Yogi Swatmarama, developed Hatha Yoga and many other yoga practices have evolved from it including Bikram Yoga, Ashtanga, Power Yoga and Kundalini Yoga. Hatha is the most popular style of yoga and is practiced worldwide by a growing number of devotees.
Practicing Hatha Yoga has a trans-formative effect on the yogi. Since the system is focused on the breath and movement, many report an increase in awareness, reduced stress, a relaxed mind and a stronger more supple body.
Depending on the teacher, a typical Hatha Yoga session may begin with some gentle warm up exercises and chanting Om to bring you to a place of peace and focus for the asana practice. Anulom Vilom is an excellent pranayama to start any yoga session as it balances the breath and brings peace to the mind while relaxing the body. It also acts to prevent injury and increase flexibility.
With all pranayama, we are breathing in a particular way to bring about physiological changes, which enhance our ability to stay calm and in turn, reduce stress. Doing this before and after asana practice will magnify the benefits received and deepens your practice.
Asana you can expect to practice during a Hatha session include Salute to the Sun, Butterfly, Plank, Cobra, Child Pose and Forward Bend. They all have their own benefits and the more you focus and attend to each posture the more benefits you will gain. For example, a Forward Bend may seem simple and can be performed unconsciously with haste. However, when practiced with the breath and awareness the experience and benefits are completely different.
It is said that Shavasana (Corpse Pose) is the most important and beneficial asana you can do for the total relaxation it brings the body. It should never be underestimated and always be included in every yoga session. Some teachers use Shavasana after every posture to retain a focused and calm mind.
Hatha Yoga is best done slowly with grace and control. Do not try to compete with other yogi’s and always honor your own journey and abilities.