Hatha Yoga: An Introduction to Its History and Practice

Yoga is one of the five schools of Hindu philosophy being originated in India, where it started as a mean for spiritual enlightenment through breathing and physical exercises and meditation. Hatha yoga is just one of the many forms of yoga practices, also known as physical yoga because it uses “asanas” (asana in Sanskrit means comfortable) or yoga postures and breathing techniques (pranayama) to prepare the body for more complicated steps as higher meditation. Hatha yoga was introduced by Yogi Swatmarama in 15th century India in his text Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The word Hatha is composed of two parts “Ha,” meaning sun, and “Tha,” meaning moon, and it refers to energy channels of the subtle body necessary to obtain a proper state for practicing yoga. Hatha yoga is the type of yoga most practiced outside India because it focuses primarily on physical culture, and it has an easier approach to it. Next to Raja Yoga, Hatha is part of Ashtanga Yoga, meaning yoga of eight parts (limbs). In the West, Hatha Yoga has become wildly popular as a physical exercise regimen dissociated of its original goal. Currently, it is estimated that about 30 million Americans practice hatha yoga. But it is still followed in a manner consistent with tradition throughout the Indian subcontinent. Most people, when beginning meditation practice, are not aware of the emotions and unstable thoughts that may prevent achieving a complete relaxation state. Mental disturbance affects the body by trying to find a way to manifest itself through the sensory organs and the nervous system. By regulating the hormonal secretion of the endocrine glands through asanas and other techniques, one may better control the mind. Practicing hatha yoga invigorates and has a balancing effect on glands; therefore, in time, any unsettlement provoked by them gradually disappears, leaving the person calm and prepared for deep states of meditation. Hatha yoga not only helps to resolve physic problems, but it fortifies the body by exercises that must be correctly performed and fit to each person’s constitution. Asanas must be easy and pleasant to perform. It is said that an early start in yoga and regular practice can reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stress, and other serious illnesses.

Before any class, one may advise the instructor if he or she has any significant health problems so that alternative poses or classes can be suggested. Classes can be designed for those with minor health concerns only or just for people who are willing to understand more about the way their body and mind interact. Because hatha yoga is taught in a systematic way, although you can practice at home, it is best if you attend an instructed group. This will help you not only with the different types of asanas, breathing techniques, and the right way to do it but also with the effects it may have on you. It is essential that you know every step of the way, what you feel because yoga is about awakening the conscious self.

10 December 2020
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