Hatha yoga is more commonly known as simply ‘yoga’. It’s a system of exercise originating from India. There are many branches of hatha yoga – you may have heard of Iyengar yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Kriya yoga, Vini yoga and Bikram yoga. They all involve postures or ‘asanas’. Some asanas are gentle stretching exercises which can improve flexibility, and others help to develop and improve strength and balance.
Hatha yoga was born in traditional Hindu spiritual practice, so it’s no surprise that it may also involve meditation and chanting, as well as philosophical and religious considerations. For those who purely wish to use it as a form of physical exercise, there are many completely secular versions available!
Why Is Hatha Yoga Such A Good Form Of Exercise
The first benefit is that it’s a fitness routine that can be used by people of all ages and levels of fitness. It can get you into shape and keep you that way if used regularly. Yoga differs from other forms of exercise in that it involves motions that don’t cause strain on the body. When performed correctly, the asanas have no negative effects on the body or mind.
It isn’t an aerobic exercise but it uses almost every muscle. It can help to develop and improve balance, coordination and a feeling of being centered. The limbs are used like free weights and the body’s center of gravity is moved to create resistance. Over time, the limbs become stronger and the focus then shifts to endurance as the asanas are held for increasing periods of time.
The aim is quality of movement rather than quantity. Regular practice of hatha yoga can bring peace and happiness to the mind and improved health and relaxation to the body.
How Hatha Yoga Can Help At Any Age
Yoga is great fun for children and teenagers and it’s easy for them to do, as they are already flexible. Yoga can help them retain that flexibility. It can also help to develop their self-discipline. Practicing asanas is good for developing coordination and can help to improve concentration – which many children and teens find difficult.
Yoga is the ideal exercise during pregnancy. Asanas can improve backache and help to lift depression. Many women who practice yoga have said that it helped to make their labor easier and shorter. Be careful to only do asanas that have been approved for pregnant women. The meditation side of yoga is also calming and centering during pregnancy.
Older people use yoga to improve and/or maintain flexibility, correct poor posture, strengthen the spine, and ease back pain. It can also improve digestion and elimination, facilitate circulation, improve breathing disorders, and lift mood.
Yoga Can Help You To Cope
Many of the problems suffered in modern life may be eased by following a regular yoga routine.
Asanas can release the tense muscles caused by hours of sitting at a desk. Breathing deeply can improve vitality by increasing the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain. Meditation can enhance the power of concentration and calm the mind. Yoga teaches full relaxation and encourages good sleep. It also helps digestion and improves circulation.
Used regularly, it can improve physical and mental health and is also known to enhance creativity. Give it a try!
Find out what classes are available in your area – a properly qualified instructor can ensure that you are doing the asanas correctly and safely. If you’d rather try it at home, get a DVD (again, with a qualified instructor). There are lots to choose from!