I was asked this question last week… What is Hatha Yoga? Hatha Yoga is the Yoga of asana – the physical postures. The whole body, mind and spirit is connected together through the practice. Yoga means to “yoke” “unite” to “connect” and Hatha is a pathway to connection. A Hatha Yoga class will include pranyama (breath practice) and meditation along with the physical postures. Generally we begin with centering, then warm up starting on the floor, then working to standing postures, then working the way back down to the floor for more postures and finally working the way to Savasana – a meditative relaxation to integrate the practice.
All of the different styles of Yoga find a home base in Hatha Yoga and were later modified into different styles, but the roots and basics are Hatha. This style of Yoga usually has longer holds and will be slower pace than a vinyasa or flow class. Hatha Yoga connects and energizes all layers (koshas) of body, mind and spirit. From the teachings of Yoga we learn that the physical postures were designed to make it easy for Yogis to sit and meditate for long periods. Physical postures prepared the body, allowed tension to release which allowed the mind to settle. Ahhh… yes…try to tame our “Monkey Mind” 🙂 On a side note – I actually have come to appreciate my monkey mind now in meditation, because of the creativity and ideas that flow.
Through Hatha Yoga we build strength and flexibility in mind -body- spirit. We may notice we become stronger and more flexible off the mat as well and deal with the stressors of life a little easier. Practice…practice 🙂 The Sanskrit word “Ha-tha” breaks down to mean “Sun-Moon” – opposites. Yoga brings union of the masculine, heat, Yang, “sun” energy and the feminine, cooling, Yin “moon” energy and we are brought into balance through our practice. These energies balance each other out – everything is connected.
Hatha Yoga allows us to gather all of our energy (prana) together… united… and at the end of a Yoga class that feeling of wholeness is undeniable.
Namaste – Kerry
Asanas are not just physical exercises: they have biochemical, psycho-physiological and psycho-spiritual effects. The cells of the body have their own intelligence and memory. Through practice of different asanas blood circulation is improved, the hormone system is balanced, the nervous system is stimulated, and toxins are eliminated, so that the cells, sinews and nerves are kept at their peak level. Physical, mental, and spiritual health and harmony are attained. – BKS Iyengar
I have been reading some articles about people getting hurt in Yoga over the past year and they are asking about the safety of Yoga for “everyone”. What really comes to my mind here is the “power” of a regular practice. Also, choosing the class and the teacher that works best for you. It is often hard to allow ourselves to be a beginner at things and this includes our yoga practice. Its a practice in itself to recognize our own limits and boundaries and honor what we can do today…right now.
If people only do Yoga once a week and take a very “vigorous” class they may be pushing the body much further than it is ready for. Sort of a “Weekend Warrior” approach to Yoga… I get it. Most of us work and are trying to squeeze in as much as we can on our time off. I work full time then teach yoga 2-3 times a week so believe me when I say I get it! 🙂 🙂 It can be soooo tough to get it all in… Ultimately, it is a life long practice and some poses may take years to get close to getting into if at all for the majority of people. Some days we may feel we can’t hold a simple pose to save our life… However, the good thing is we don’t have to be defeated by these things, but possibly could be relieved by them! It can take the pressure off a bit. We are human after all!
I finally learned to ask myself questions about why I wanted to do a certain pose? Why do I feel I need to? If I can’t do every pose am I still good enough? Is doing this pose going to make me a better teacher? What is working well? Can I accept I don’t have the strength yet? Acceptance and letting go – detaching from the outcome – is kind of a big deal. Yes, it can be humbling.
It can also keep us safe.
I can be competitive with myself and I have strained a bicep pushing myself to go ahead with more repetitions. This is the lesson of the practice – to listen to our own body. The body can be pushed around by the mind… I have to come back to this idea frequently…
Patanjali teaches us to find and practice “steadiness and ease” in our poses – “Sthira and Sukham” – that takes sooooo much practice to slow down enough to work with the breath and stop when we are not ready to go further. He speaks to this from the general sitting for meditation and it extends to all the poses. I think it extends also to how we come to the mat in general. Find steadiness with a building a regular yoga and meditation practice. Find ease by letting your practice be shorter if needed, more restorative if and when needed, releasing judgement, not comparing to others, understand and LOVE that yoga is more than asana and most of all …finding space for breath.
The best thing we can do is keep coming to the mat and building consistency…as Pattahbi Jois said “Practice and all is coming”…