Has the increasing popularity of yoga got you curious about its various styles? Are you wondering which one of the many types of yoga practices is best for you? Well, if you are just a beginner in the world of yoga and want to experience its calming and body-strengthening effects, Hatha yoga is just for you. This is a traditional style of yoga that will help you learn the fundamentals of yoga, various asanas, and breathing techniques. If you are wondering what is hatha yoga, this blog sheds light on everything you need to know.
Introduction to Hatha Yoga
Over the centuries, different styles of yoga have evolved from different communities or gurus. Most of them are named after the guru who developed it. As for hatha yoga, it is a branch or school of yoga that derives its name from Sanskrit word “Hatha” that translates to the term “force” in English. Further breaking it down, the Sanskrit words “Ha” means the Sun and “Tha” means moon. Thus, it is a reference to many physical movements that are performed to accomplish mastery over the body and balance between the opposites that exist within us to ultimately attain a state of total peace, relaxation, and spiritual contentment. All in all, it is a yoga practice of balance.
In the West, it is one of the many forms of exercise that is practiced to improve flexibility in the body, release tension in the muscles, improve mental concentration, and experience meditative effects of yoga. Hatha style yoga is one of the most widely practiced techniques. Hatha yoga for beginners is usually basic and gentle. The various asanas focus on balance and alignment of the body. It is the perfect choice of yoga style for anyone who is just beginning their journey as a yogi. This practice goes beyond perfecting hatha yoga asanas. It includes breathing techniques like pranayama and meditation techniques to experience its mental and physical benefits completely.
In such a practice, you are required to hold a pose for a longer time, rest, and then move the body to the next pose. This is why it is considered the best yogic practice for beginners. No matter whether you are a beginner, an older adult, or someone with a mobility issue, hatha yoga is perfect for almost all fitness levels. At the end of a hatha yoga session, you can expect your mind and body to feel energized and replenished.
Hatha Yoga: Benefits
Though gentle in its form, hatha yoga is a powerful and cathartic practice, the effects of which improves physiological functions of the body, enhances cognitive abilities of the brain, and facilitates the realization of spiritual goals. Hatha yoga has numerous benefits. Each posture impacts every vital organ and muscle of the body, and mind and spirit.
Some of the many hatha yoga benefits are as follows:
- Improves the Immune system: Hatha yoga involves postures, the impact of which goes deep within the body. Contracting and stretching of various muscles increases the release of lymph and strengthens the lymphatic system to fight against infections and get rid of toxic waste from the body.
- Calms the mind and body: The meditative effects of yoga are therapeutic. Various postures and breathing techniques help in releasing tension from the body and feeling of anxiety. Thus, accomplishing a calm state of mind.
- Strengthens the spine: The spine is the main support system of the body. It establishes a connection between vital organs and the brain. For a healthy body and mind, a strong spine and spinal column are important, which can be achieved with regular practice of hatha yoga.
- Strengthens and tones the body: Yoga is a great way of weight loss, especially for people who cannot perform rigorous exercises. Most of the poses enable bodyweight training, which allows the body to burn a few calories, tone, and strengthen muscles.
- Enhances flexibility: Yoga enhances body flexibility. By regularly practicing hatha yoga poses, the person can attain an enhanced level of flexibility in the body.
- Improves heart health: Hatha yoga is great for improving cardiovascular health. It reduces the risk of heart diseases and strengthens heart muscles. It improves the blood flow to the heart and reduces the chances of heart attack.
- Increases bone density: As we age, our bone density begins to deteriorate. However, the weight-bearing moves of hatha yoga reverse this process and help you build bone density.
- Core strengthening: The core is the absolute center of the body. To enjoy good health even in old age, bring stability to the body, and maintain good posture, it is important to strengthen the core. This could be easily achieved by various hatha yoga postures easily.
- Make joints stronger: Spending long hours on our desk job can affect the health of our joints and fasten its aging process. However, hatha yoga poses involve movements that work our joints, thus keeping them active and healthy.
- Heal backache: Studies prove that yoga is effective in treating several types of pains and body aches. Practicing hatha yoga can treat even the most severe and chronic of all back pains. However, it is suggested to practice it under the supervision of an expert.
Apart from the above-mentioned benefits, hatha yoga is great to improve body posture and promotes overall well-being. Regular practice can enhance multiple aspects of body and mind, which contributes to maintaining good health.
How to Begin Your Yoga Journey with Hatha Yoga
Many novice yogis begin with Hatha yoga practice. This is simply because it is gentle, and it allows the beginner to learn basic poses. You can either join a yoga club or follow a YouTube Yoga expert. Here are a few key elements that you must include in your hatha yoga routine for beginners.
- Mindful breathing: Breathing is central to the traditional forms of yoga. Therefore, it is important to establish a link between your mind and breathing. Start your practice with breathing techniques and notice every inhale and exhale.
- Meditation: Another important aspect of yoga is meditation. With the help of breathing techniques, you must let your mind calm down and allow your body to relax.
- Hatha yoga poses for beginners: Since you are beginning your practice, it is advised to go easy with the postures. You must learn the basic poses and proper techniques. This will help you build stamina and strength to perform the advanced level of yoga. These yogic poses will help you achieve greater flexibility, which is imperative to perform challenging poses.
- Relax in savasana: Savasana, which literally translates to Corpse pose, is practiced at the end of yoga sessions. It is a restorative yoga pose and a key element of yoga. It is performed to relax the body and mind and experience the meditative effects of the yoga session.
Hatha Yoga Poses for Beginners
1. Mountain pose: It is one of the most fundamental poses in yoga as it creates a foundation for the quintessential Suryanamaskar and other asanas. The Mountain pose is also known as Tadasana and it can be practiced regularly to achieve good posture. It is great to strengthen the lower body, including knees, ankles, thighs, and feet and activates leg muscles. It is great to improve balance in the body.
How to do it: For this asana, stand at the edge of the yoga mat. Stand tall, keep your back straight, and arms on your side. Keep your feet close, engage your core and tuck your glutes in. As you inhale, raise your arms overhead and join your palms in prayer pose and exhale. Gaze forward and hold this pose for 10 – 20 seconds.
2. Tree Pose: This pose is known as Vrikshasana, and it is also performed in the standing position. Again, this pose activates leg muscles and improves balance there. It strengthens the muscles of your feet and hip bones. It also has mental benefits and is said to improve self-esteem and confidence.
How to do it: Get into mountain pose, keep your feet hip-width apart. Keep your feet firmly grounded and body in alignment. Now, lift your left foot up and place it on the inner thigh of the right leg. Try to balance the body and hold the pose for at least 30 seconds, before relaxing in the starting position.
3. Forward bend pose (Standing): Also known as utanasana, this hatha yoga pose gives a beautiful stretch in your legs, especially hamstrings and calves. This pose is a good stress reliever and tones the core of the body. It regulates blood pressure and reduces anxiety.
How to do it: Stand at the edge of the yoga mat and with straight back and hands on the hip. As you inhale, stretch your arms overhead. Exhale and begin to fold forward, trying to touch your forehead to the knees. Now, hold your ankles with your hands and hold this pose for at least 20 seconds.
4. Downward dog pose: Also known as Adho mukha savanasa, this is the most frequently practiced yoga pose in any session. It is a restorative pose that leaves your body energized and nourished. It activates your leg and shoulder muscles and calms the mind.
How to do it: Come on to your four limbs. Keep your knees directly under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Keep your fingers widely spread and feet firmly pressed against the floor. Keep your core engaged and push away from the floor with your arms and legs fully stretched out. You must find yourself in a pose similar to a dog facing downward.
5. Bridge pose: This pose is also known as Setu Bandha. It opens up the chest and stretches the thighs. It is great for strengthening the back and relieving back pain. It reduces stress and improves digestion.
How to do it: Lie down on your back and bend your knees in a 90-degree angle. Keep your arms on sides and bring your heels as close as possible to your butt. Firmly press the feet and lift your lower body and your upper body off the ground while your neck and head are on the floor. Clasp your hands under your back and hold the pose for at least 30 seconds.
6. Balasana Pose: This pose is also called the child pose because it resembles the position of a fetus. It is a relaxing pose that practitioners practice between or at the end of the session to relax. It stretches the back shoulders, thighs, and ankles and releases all tension. It calms the mind and is also useful in treating constipation.
How to do it: Kneel down on the floor and keep your big toes together. Sit on your heels and keep hip-width distance between your knees and bend forward. Keep your arms fully stretched as you touch your forehead on the ground. Rest here, for a few seconds before you get back to your session.
All in all, hatha yoga is a great way to start your yoga journey. This yoga style can help you enhance bodily strength, vitality, and composure. So, are you ready to start your journey as a yogi?