- Hatha Yoga is the most popular health promoting discipline all over the world. It is a branch of yoga, a scientific discipline that integrates the mind and body through the breath to bring overall stability and balance. Its origin is traced before the 15th century with the writings of Swami Swatmarama ‘The Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ the first book on Hatha Yoga.
- The word Hatha means willful. Hatha is willfully applying effort to connect and balance the two sides of the human body. The word ‘Ha’ means ‘sun’ and ‘Tha’ means ‘moon.’ ‘Ha’ represents the mind or the mental energy and ‘tha’ represents the prana or the pranic energy. By uniting ‘prana’ (the upward flow of air) and ‘apana’ (the downward flow of air) there is inner harmony. Hatha Yoga brings true integration of the mind-body-prana-soul and the practitioner experiences higher energy levels.
- Hatha Yoga educates the practitioner about the importance of self-understanding, self-control and self-transformation for keeping mind and body healthy. It is a science of self development and educates on good health. Everyone can practice this discipline, irrespective of age, sex and ability. Asanas and Pranayama are the powerful tools of Hatha Yoga that cleanse, purify and balance the systems. These tools are the gateway for self awareness, self discovery and self transformation.
- Asanas are range of bodily geometric postures designed to suit the anatomy of human body. They are gentle stretching, bending and twisting the body in a specific manner. They connect the body, mind and breath, improve flexibility, strength and endurance, remove tensions and pain. They align the body suitable for the anatomy and improve posture. All the systems function well, preventing disease.
- There are many types of asanas; each asana is thoughtfully designed for human anatomy and has multiple benefits. They are named after sages who created them, named after animals, birds, insects or trees since they outwardly resemble them.
- ‘Sage Patanjali,’ the father of yoga has defined asanas as ‘Sthira, Sukham, Asanam.’ ‘Sthira’ means stability, steadiness, firmness. ‘Sukham’ means ease, relaxed, comfortable. ‘Asanam’ means postures. By staying steady and comfortable in an asana, for a period of time, the practitioner experiences mental and physical ease.
- It is not easy to accomplish ‘Sthira’ and ‘Sukham’ condition in an asana. The practitioner requires several years of dedicated practice to experience ‘Sthira’ and ‘Sukham.’
- Asanas are not performed mechanically like other exercises. They are practiced with with awareness of the sensations and the breath. It is an inward journey where the practitioner explores the body inside out, removes tensions and heaviness, aligns the body correctly creating sufficient space for the oxygenated blood and vital energy to flow freely and steadily.
- Pranayama is an ancient science of breathing and is the heart of Hatha Yoga. Prana or life force, is very essential for every cell to function. The ancient yogis noted that one can live without food or water for several days but cannot live for even few minutes without prana. They also noted that the body, mind and breath are very closely linked; any change in one will affect the other two as well. When the mind is agitated the breathing is disturbed and there is disturbance in the body cells. A calm mind, develops rhythmic, uninterrupted breathing and keeps the cells healthy.
- Pranayama is much more effective than normal breathing. Normal breathing is shallow breathing where hardly 30% of the lungs are used. Such a breathing provides insufficient oxygen and no toxins are removed from the systems. As a result there is sluggishness, fatigue, sickness, depression and disease. Pranayama enhances oxygen, removes toxins, energises the cells, clears the mind of disturbing thoughts, prevents and cures many diseases. The ancient yogis have developed many types of Pranayama and each of them contribute substantially to the physical, mental and emotional health of the practitioner.
- Pranayama can be practiced anytime, while driving, cooking, travelling, waiting in the traffic signal or standing in a line. The important prerequisite is to keep the stomach empty. The best time to practice and master is at “Brahmamuhurt” early hours of morning between 4 am and 6 am.