Hatha yoga is the most common form of yoga practiced today. It focuses on meditation and physical posturing, while incorporating deep breathing techniques. It is a gentle, calm, form of yoga, completely different from more active forms of yoga, like Bikram yoga, Vinyasa, or Ashtanga yoga. Hatha yoga exemplifies what a lot of people immediately visualize when someone says “yoga”- restful, meditative, and easy-going.
Hatha yoga uses a lot of basic yoga asanas, or poses. The poses are meant to strengthen, stretch, and challenge the body. A Hatha yoga routine will incorporate a number of poses in a particular sequence to warm up the muscles. Hatha yoga always focuses on balance, making sure muscles are worked out evenly. Practitioners will hold an asana for a set period of time. If the pose concentrates on a particular side of the body, the following pose will concentrate on the other side.
Hatha yoga also emphasizes pranayama, the Sanskrit term for breathwork. Control of breath is an essential aspect of the practice of yoga, and deep, thoughtful breathing is as important if not more so than the physical posturing. Not only does it replenish and revitalize the body, it helps the practitioner to focus inward, developing increased concentration and awareness of the body.
The goal of hatha yoga is not to just increase flexibility and physical balance, but to bring about a union of the mind, soul, and body. Some hatha yoga instructors will incorporate meditation into their yoga sessions which further facilitates the union between body and mind.
People choose to practice hatha yoga for a variety of reasons. Some turn to yoga as a therapeutic tool, or a way to relieve the aches and pain and stresses of daily life. Hatha yoga provides both energy and stress relief, helping to calm and mind and ease the worries of the soul. Others turn to hatha yoga for its many physical benefits: a long, lean body, increased coordination, balance, and flexibility, and improved posture, temperament, and even complexion! No matter the reasons for practicing Hatha yoga, its benefits are abundant, and it is certain to change your lifestyle for the better.