What most people refer to as “yoga” is actually Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga is a system of yoga introduced by Yogi Swatmarama, a yogic sage in the 15th century in India. This particular system of yoga is the most popular one. It is from Hatha Yoga that several other forms of Yoga originated including: Power Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, and Kundalini Yoga.
The word “hatha” comes from the Sanskrit terms “ha” meaning “sun” and “tha” meaning “moon”. Thus, Hatha Yoga is known as the branch of Yoga that unites pairs of opposites referring to the positive (sun) and negative (moon) currents in the system. It concentrates on the third (Asana) and fourth (Pranayama) steps in the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
Hatha Yoga tries to achieve balance between body and mind, as well as attempting to free the more subtle spiritual elements of the mind through physical poses (Asanas), Breathing Techniques (Pranayama) and Meditation.
Asanas are various body positions designed to improve health and remove diseases in the physical, causal, and subtle bodies. The word “asana” is Sanskrit for “seat”, which refers not only to the physical position of the body but also to the position of the body in relation to divinity. They were originally meant for Meditation, as the postures can make you feel relaxed for a long period of time. The regular practice of Asanas provides better muscle flexibility and bone strength, as well as non-physical rewards such as the development of will power, concentration, and self-withdrawal.
Pranayama is derived from the words “prana” (life-force or energy source) and “ayama” (to control). It is the science of breath control. This is an important part of Hatha Yoga because the yogis believed that the secret to controlling one’s mind can be unlocked by controlling one’s breath. The practice of Pranayama can also help unleash the dormant energies inside our body.
The practice of Hatha Yoga can help you recognize your hidden physical and mental potentials. Through the continued performance of Asanas, you will gain flexibility and strength, and learn to be more relaxed under otherwise stressful situations. Hatha Yoga’s Relaxation Exercises will open the energy channels, which in turn allows spiritual energy to flow freely. Some Asanas also massage and tone your internal organs, helping to prevent diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and hypertension. They also bring balance to internal and glandular functions. Pranayama, on the other hand, can help manage asthma and bronchitis.
Hatha Yoga can aid us in coping with stress, relieving tension, and dealing with anxiety and depression. More importantly, Hatha Yoga helps to put your mind in a focused state to prepare for Meditation and the search for enlightenment.
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