Yoga, in its essence, literally signifies the union of everything to be perceived as “one” or “whole.” The general Yoga routine practiced in the West is technically Hatha yoga. It is usually considered the preparatory process combined with asanas, pranayama, mudra, and internal cleansing.
So, what is Hatha yoga? What does it essentially entail? The name “Hatha” is divided into two words – “ha” represents the sun and “tha” represents the moon.
The western idea of hatha yoga is to achieve a balance between the mind and body. However, the original eastern meaning is to bring balance between “the sun and the moon” or the “Ida and Pingala” within you.
It can also be a means to explore beyond our limitations. But fundamentally, it is a method to physically prepare your body to be naturally sensitive and intelligent. Since it includes esoteric techniques like pranayama, mudras, and shatkarma, these purify the physical state of our being and develop more prana (life force energy).
The Western part of the world preferred this method of yoga as a form of exercise, which of course, delivers many benefits to people. But, due to the lack of knowledge and structure, their psychological state didn’t improve or transform radically.
The reason for this is that yoga has been turned into a “fit-in” to our modern lifestyle. The origins of these practices were viewed entirely differently from what we consider today.
Hatha Yoga Benefits
Yoga is the oldest traditional culture for physical, mental, and spiritual health as it offers numerous benefits for one’s overall well-being. Many health enthusiasts see this as merely a physical discipline to improve fitness, but a consistent practice can open up a whole different dimension to receive something beyond our five senses.
Hatha yoga can be done by anyone, starting from the age of 8. One can use it to improve physical fitness, restore balance, align body-mind-spirit, and develop cognitive abilities.
The ordinary benefits of this practice include strengthening muscles, easing chronic mental ailments, promoting better sleep, and improving stress management. These practices are mainly designed to align and cleanse your mind-body connection in order to get into deeper states of meditation.
Important Benefits Of Yoga:
1) Stronger core muscles
Hatha yoga includes poses like plank pose, boat pose, bridge pose, warrior I pose, etc., to help improve and develop core strength. Strong core muscles are significant for your body to function correctly and efficiently.
They play a major role in reducing the pressure off your back and neck, thereby improving your overall posture. It can also be an excellent alternative for people who are unable to do high-intensity exercises like running, swimming, or weight lifting.
Hatha yoga requires you to hold postures for long periods of time, mainly focusing on your abdominal region and glutes. Therefore, everyday practice strengthens your core muscles, allowing you to do activities effortlessly. (1)
2) Good quality sleep
Hatha yoga has been linked to reducing cortisol levels, a hormone that deals with the sleep cycle. Lower the levels of cortisol, higher the quality of sleep. The traditional yogic culture prefers doing yoga in the early morning or evening.
Various research has suggested that yoga involves mindful breathing and meditation, which play essential parts in your sleep by relaxing your mind before bed. (2)
3) Stress management
Yes, yoga can be physically challenging but with numerous benefits. Doing hatha yoga impacts your nervous system positively by releasing feel-good hormones and changing your blood pressure. This helps you relax and take a step back to see things clearly.
High-stress levels are due to the rise in cortisol levels and blood pressure. A study found that people who did Hatha yoga before a demanding task had lower cortisol levels and blood pressure levels than those who didn’t. (3)
The study also discovered that the participants of hatha yoga were more confident while doing their tasks.
Physical Benefits Of Hatha Yoga:
1) Improves flexibility of the joints
2) Improves blood circulation throughout the body
3) Balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system
4) Strengthens muscles, ligaments, and joints
5) Improves digestion and metabolism by nourishing core muscles
6) Promotes mind and body connection
7) Promotes balance and coordination
Mental Benefits Of Hatha Yoga:
1) Boosts creativity
2) Balances emotions and relieves anxiety
3) Stimulates learning abilities
4) Reduces mental fatigue
Hatha Yoga Poses For Beginners:
Yoga practices today are supremely famous for their body, mind, and health benefits. The breathing exercises, traditionally called “pranayama,” are beneficial for both mental and physical fitness, and the “asanas” (poses) for the body’s flexibility and fitness.
Let’s explore some basic traditional Hatha yoga poses if you are looking forward to this fascinating journey as a beginner.
1) Tadasana (The Mountain Pose)
Tadasana is widely known for improving posture and blood circulation, especially around the heart. It also helps relieve sciatic nerve pain by strengthening your back, hips, and legs muscles.
2) Vrikshasana (The Tree Pose)
The tree pose is best known for building balance and coordination. It includes strengthening of core and leg muscles by opening the hips. The physical aspect of this posture improves focus and acts as a supportive tool to aid in meditation.
3) Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
This is one of the standard poses practiced in Hatha yoga practices. It is also performed in Ashtanga, part of the Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation) sequence.
It is mainly an energizing pose along with muscle strengthening and lengthening. This pose also promotes good blood flow to the brain.
4) Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
This pose is associated with the Fire element, stimulating your Manipuraka chakra. Bridge pose is not only performed as a yoga pose but also as a warm-up exercise before a workout.
It helps strengthen the core, glutes, and quadriceps. Also, it helps in lengthening the spine, improving energy levels, and stimulating the nervous system.
5) Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior II Pose)
This pose primarily targets the abdominal muscles and lower body to develop balance and stability. Along with this, your upper body and chest will open up to improve circulatory and respiratory health.
6) Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
This pose is one of the foundational poses in Hatha yoga, which is named for the triangle shape that your body makes while performing this pose.
It opens up your hips while strengthening your core, hamstrings, and groin. It also assists with stability and balance and improves cognitive abilities like focus and concentration.
7) Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Bhujangasana significantly improves your spine by strengthening your back muscles and opening your chest. Performing this posture on a daily basis will allow your heart and lungs to function at their best.
Today’s modern lifestyle highly demands you to sit for long periods, which can stiffen your back and buttock muscles. This pose loosens up your body’s rigidity, allowing flexibility and strengthening of your muscles.