So what is Hatha Yoga, and importantly for me anyway, why would anyone practice it?
Yoga has been around in many forms for thousands and thousands of years. Some people believe it to be 5,000 years old while others think it could be as old as 10,000 years. The reality though is that nobody really knows as, when yoga was first being practiced, it was only handed down through spoken word, and so the origins are no longer exactly clear.
What we do know though is that what we now refer to as Hatha Yoga was developed during what is known as the Post-Classical period of yoga and was developed to rejuvenate the body and to, hopefully, prolong life. The yoga masters who created these practices focused on cleansing the body and mind with a view to allowing us to become more than our physical existence. That all sounds very mysterious and spiritual, and in many ways it was. However it was through this exploration of the physical and the spiritual that Hatha Yoga came into being.
Hatha yoga is considered the mother of all yoga and refers to any practice that guides you through a series of poses or asanas. By its nature, it is gentle and slower-paced than some other practices which makes it ideal for both beginners to yoga or for those who want to leave feeling longer, looser and more relaxed.
In Sanskrit, ha means “sun” and tha means “moon.” This form of yoga, by its very name therefore, encourages us to explore the balance within ourselves and others, and to raise our own consciousness or perception. It’s a powerful way to self-transformation as you focus on your breath during the practice and on the alignment of your spine so that energy can flow freely through your body. The practice of Hatha Yoga is about achieving harmony and balance in our minds, body and spirit.
A Hatha Yoga practice typically starts with some gentle warm-ups, continues to a sequence of yoga poses, and end with a short seated meditation. Hatha classes are usually 60 to 90 minutes long and may also include pranayama exercises.
All this led me to the question; what is Hatha Yoga good for? Hatha Yoga is usually taught as a Householder Path. I’ll use a different blog to explain what I mean by that in more detail however for the purposes of today, it is all about a focus on being able to “Live in the world but allow not the world to live in you.” The real aim therefore is to be use your time spent practicing to align, cleanse and calm your body, mind, and spirit. If you practice regularly you will find that you can improve your strength, stamina, flexibility and range of motion while at the same time finding more balance in your life. You will find that your stress is reduced, that you feel calmer and see many other benefits such as being able to sleep better and being able to better focus on work.
There are many different styles of Hatha Yoga with other, more specific benefits, so if, for example, you want to build cardiovascular health or endurance then you might want to try a more vigorous yoga practice like vinyasa or ashtanga.
I am a great believer in Hatha Yoga in its purest form as I often find I come to my mat stressed, unable to stop dwelling on something that has happened at work or during the day, or with aches and pains, but leave feeling rejuvenated and more relaxed. I hope that you find the same …..