Hatha Yoga is the first and the most crucial staircase to Yoga. Yoga is a state of union, the point where all energies come together to become one. This starts from Hatha Yoga and concludes on mastering it. Everything else is in between it. In Hatha Yoga, the word ‘ha’ means ‘sun’ and ‘tha’ means the ‘moon’. Hatha Yoga is all about combining the forces of the body, mind, and spirit to bring the ‘sun’ (pingala nadi) and the ‘moon’ (ida nadi) together.
Hatha Yoga in India can be traced back to the 15th century when the Natha yogis began practicing some asanas that would aid them in mastering the yamas (dos) and niyamas (don’ts). The asanas were tough to master as the body and mind are stubborn. But they kept on practicing until they mastered the form. From this period itself, one of the sages named ‘Swami Swatmarama’ wrote the book Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which is still the original and sole reference book for Hatha Yoga today. In this book, the whole journey that combines the limbs of yoga is mentioned with the purpose of reaching the final step, the ‘samadhi’. Hence, Hatha Yoga is also known as the ‘Shatanga Yoga’ , the 6-limb yoga.
The Importance & Benefits of Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga lays the foundation of the body and mind to adapt to the yogic way of life by strictly observing the niyamas and yamas. For this, through Hatha Yoga, the ultimate purification of the mind and body can be achieved so the entity can come into the state of ‘yuj’ that is, ‘YOGA’. The yogis believe that spirituality and good health can only be attained when the body and mind are cleansed of all vices, whether physical or mental. And Hatha Yoga leads us to it through the six limbs (the six principles) - the Asana (bringing the body and mind in the stable state), Pranayama (aligning the breath with the body and mind to expand the body’s limitation), Pratyahara ( withdrawal from eternality), Dharana (bringing the mind to focus at a point), Dhyana (self-observation), Samadhi (freeing yourself from the vices of the world).
Hatha Yoga is all about taking the body and mind beyond its limitations, to prepare it for bigger possibilities.
The Core Benefits of Hatha Yoga
Scientists and researchers have discovered several benefits of Hatha Yoga, some physical, some mental, and some spiritual in nature. Here are few of the benefits of Hatha Yoga that further throw light on the significance and importance of including the practices of Hatha Yoga in your day to day life.
Physical Benefits of Hatha Yoga
- It builds strength and endurance of the body.
- It works on improving joint health.
- It improves the health of the connective tissue by working on its flexibility.
- It stretches the fascia thereby improving its health.
- It improves the body’s metabolic rate.
- It improves the overall health of the body.
- It works on repairing and regenerating cell growth.
- It regulates the blood flow.
- It conditions the ligaments to avoid early wear and tear.
- It improves the body’s lymphatic drainage and purifies the body.
- It works on improving cardiovascular health
- It works on the respiratory system thereby improving lung health.
- Balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
Mental Benefits of Hatha Yoga
- Brings the mind to a stable mode by calming it.
- Builds hawk-eye focus.
- Improves the mind’s ability to concentrate.
- Helps attain mindfulness.
- Helps balance the emotions.
- Relieves stress and mental strain.
- Helps find relief from anxiety.
- Stimulates the brain.
There are spiritual benefits of Hatha Yoga as well which combine and work together to bring the body, mind, and spirit in sync with each other.
Major Hatha Yoga Poses
Hatha Yoga is the foundation of all the contemporary and ancient forms of yoga. Which means that the number of poses in Hatha Yoga are pretty much endless. These poses and series are designed, aligned, and adjusted as per the requirements of the practicing yogi. Usually, the series are divided into Beginner, Mid-Level, and Advanced Level yogis when Hatha Yoga batches are formed.
Hatha Yoga is recommended to people of all age groups, shapes, and sizes.
Breath work in alignment with asana is important when practicing Hatha Yoga. Only then you can tap into your inner potential and wake up the energies that have been dormant within us. Once you awaken this energy, it helps you find the right rhythm to go about in this world without letting the negative energies of the world affect you in the mind or body. Once you reach a point where you subconsciously get drawn towards your yoga mat like you are in auto mode, that is the way when Hatha Yoga becomes a true part of your lifestyle like it is intended to be.
Top Hatha Yoga Poses for Beginners
- Mountain Pose orTadasana
- Tree Pose or Vrkshasana
- Standing Forward Bend Pose or Uttanasana
- Downward Facing Dog Pose or Adho Mukho Svanasana
- Bridge Pose or Setu Bandhasana
- Locust Pose or Salabhasana
- Corpse Pose or Savasana (this pose is followed at the end of each Hatha Yoga sequence for mental and physical relaxation)
Best Hatha Yoga Poses Overall
There are more than 84 traditional types of Hatha Yoga poses. Some of the most popular poses to work with are as follows.
- Shirshasna or the Headstand Pose
- Halasana or the Plough Pose
- Sarvangasana or the Shoulderstand Pose
- Matsyasana or the Fish Pose
- Mountain Pose or the Tadasana
- Gomukhasana or the Cow Pose
- Paschimotthasana or the Seated Forward Bend Pose
- Bhujangasana or the Cobra Pose
- Mayurasana or the Peacock Pose
- Vrkshasana or the Tree Pose
- Natrajasana or the Dancer’s Pose
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