Practice Hatha Yoga For Total Health and Well-Being
Famous celebrities are doing it, there’s tons of DVDs and YouTube videos created on this topic, and I’m sure some of your friends have attended a class or two.
But what is Hatha Yoga and what can you get from it?
Yoga studios offer different classes with various names such as hot yoga, Vinyasa yoga, Bikram yoga, etc. And they categorize yoga types as beginner-friendly, advanced, or something that’s in-between.
If you’re new to the yoga scene, looking to check out a Yoga challenge, or you have tried other types except Hatha yoga, this post will shed some light on what this type of yoga is all about and what you can expect from it. So the next time you go shopping for yoga class, you’ll know if Hatha is the perfect fit for you or not.
Let’s get down to it.
Hatha Yoga Definition (Don’t Worry, It’s Jargon-Free!)
Okay, first up - what is Hatha yoga?
Since its inception thousands of years ago, the definition hasn’t really changed much or at all.
The two words combined mean two different things. “Ha” means the sun and “Tha” means the moon. So the main purpose of this type of yoga, and I would say, yoga in general, is to balance and unite the body and the mind.
I’m sure you get into one of those situations when you feel a little out of it or your mind is kind of elsewhere, like you’re doing one thing but your brain’s wafting into space, or you’re feeling anxious even when there’s no reason to feel that way.
Call it stress or exhaustion or whatever, but what Hatha yoga does is to balance the energies in your body and mind. The different Hatha yoga asanas performed with rhythmic breathing help you to relax, reconnect with your body, and be more calm.
When you’re tensed or under stress, you notice that your breath becomes quicker and you lose that slow, gentle, deep and relaxed breathing. The slow breathing combined with the static posture while doing Hatha yoga pacify your body and make you feel more together, calmer, and more focused on where you are and what you’re doing. It also has an energizing effect since your body is getting that nice stretch with each pose you make.
It won’t be stretching the truth if I say that Hatha yoga is like a cross between a getting a massage, meditating, and doing some gentle workouts at the same time. It’s a 3-in-1 activity that’s definitely worth 20 minutes to even an hour of your time each day!
Hatha Yoga Benefits - What’s In It For You?
When you see yoga ads or posters of women advertising yoga outfits, it’s pretty common you see these people looking super relaxed, with a slim figure, and having that beautiful glow on their faces. And you wonder… Is yoga really going to do all of these for me?
Being a Hatha yoga practitioner for years (more than a decade, and counting!), I would say it’s not stereotype stuff. When you do yoga, these things pretty much happen to you. Not instantly but it’s a slow, constant, and long-term effects on your body and mind.
1. Improves your posture
Hatha yoga involves a lot of back, forward and side bends. And these do wonders to your spine since it’s that part of your body that hardly gets any or much exercise. You work out your arms with pushups and bicep curls and all that stuff. Your core muscles get much attention from sit-ups and rows, and you have your leg workouts from doing squats and lunges.
But what about your spine???
And it’s your spine that basically holds you in an upright position. It definitely needs to get as much attention as the other parts of your body.
This is why Hatha yoga is great for improving your posture and toning your spine. There’s a Hatha yoga sequence that works your spine including the cobra pose, bow pose, and spine twist, to name a few (more on these in a minute).
So the more often you perform these poses, the more chances you won’t develop bad posture - hunched shoulders and an abnormal curve on your spine. If you spend so much time on your desk or you’re doing office work for long hours, Hatha yoga is perfect for you since being in a seated position for an extended period isn’t healthy at all for your spine and your posture.
2. Releases the tension in your body.
Feeling a little achy here and there?
If you’ve got no time to get a massage, a few Hatha yoga poses can totally help eliminate the tension on your shoulders, legs, neck, and back. The slow, gentle, and flowing movements in the different poses in Hatha can loosen the stiffness and strain in areas you’re working on.
What’s even amazing is that you don’t necessarily need to use a mat to do some of these tension-relieving poses. You’re at work and you feel some tightness around your shoulders and neck? A neck rotation and handclasp behind your back should release stiffness and minor aches in minutes.
There are even poses you can do while standing or sitting in your office chair - no need for your yoga pants and mat!
3. Calms your mind.
Just spend half an hour in rush hour traffic each day, and I’m sure you’ll go nuts.
You’ll start to feel anxious, maybe get a headache or migraine, and feel out of it.
Same thing when you’re in bed and can’t sleep. Your mind is on overdrive and it’s not slowing down enough for you to catch a wink.
But before you go reach for that pill to make you sleep or make you less jittery, do Hatha yoga to calm and restore peace of mind. There are Hatha yoga poses and breathing exercises that help relieve anxiety, promote good sleep, reduce brain fog, and keep you more focused, calm, and relaxed.
No need to head out for a massage or to pop a pill in your mouth. Just a few poses, deep breathing, and you’ll feel a little blissed out… Naturally and effortlessly.
4. Anti-ages you.
Have you heard of yoga for the face???
Yep, it’s one of those poses in Hatha yoga poses that can help tone your face, reduce wrinkles, and slows down the sagging of your skin. It works almost like a face bra - except there’s no weird contraption on your face!!!
We all know stress is the number one cause of aging.
When you’re stressed, your posture gets all messed up, your mind gets all crazy and makes you lose sleep, your face does not look glowing and youthful at all… And stress makes you eat and drink crap.
But when you are relaxed, which is one of the many Hatha yoga benefits, it ultimately helps anti-age you.
You smile more, sleep better, wake feeling refreshed, and your spine gets plenty of exercise and remains toned - instant rejuvenation without going under the knife or being a pill popper!
And yep, there are Hatha yoga poses that stretch the facial muscles and give you a nice facelift without needles.
Bonus benefit - Hatha yoga keeps you flexible, so you don’t feel so stiff all the time. Hello, youthful, vibrant, agile You!
Hatha Yoga Asanas Great for All Levels
Is Hatha yoga for beginners???
I’m sure you’re eager to know after learning more about the awesome benefits Hatha yoga does to you and that it’s easy and convenient to do (well, some of the Hatha yoga poses, at least) whether you’re at the office, at the airport, or you don’t have a mat handy.
And yes, there are many poses and a Hatha yoga sequence that’s totally beginner-friendly. You don’t even need to memorize these names if they sound too complicated for you!
Here are some of the different asanas or poses that are perfect for beginners… And variations of these are great for the more advanced and experienced Hatha yoga practitioners.
1. Cobra Pose/ Bhujangasana
It’s a back-bending pose where you lay on your tummy and lift your upper body up by pushing your hands against the floor. What it does is it stretches the muscles in your abdominals, shoulders and neck while toning your buttocks and abdomen because of the squeezing you make in these areas as you push your body up.
2. Sitting Forward Bend/ Paschimottanasana
I recommend that you do this pose once you have performed the other ones when your body kind of gets warmed and more stretched, so to speak. You sit on the floor with your legs extended forward, then you bend and reach your toes with your fingers. It gives you a nice stretch in your hamstrings and thighs and relieves stress in these areas.
3. Half Spinal Twist/ Ardha Matsyendrasana
A soothing and relaxing pose, it’s a seated twist pose that helps improve your spine’s flexibility while toning your abdominal organs. It also has a relaxing benefit to your mind since the gentle spine twist removes any blockage of energy and tension in your nervous system. Finding it hard to sleep or feeling tensed in your back? The half spinal twist is perfect for you.
4. Triangle Pose/ Trikonasana
If you need a quick stress-relieving Hatha yoga pose for your legs, this one is a great choice for you. You basically stand with your feet apart by and legs stretched to the side. Then you windmill your arm and touch your right calf with your right hand while your left hand is pointed up - your gaze on your left hand. Then you do it to the other side. This is an excellent pose for maintaining physical balance, reducing stress, toning the legs, and improving clarity of the mind and focus.
More Advanced Poses
I call these next poses a little bit more advanced in terms of difficulty but you should be able to work up into doing this steps sooner as your body becomes more open and your flexibility has improved over time.
5. Headstand/ Sirsasana
This is pretty much the common idea people get of a yoga practitioner - upside down position. It may seem intimidating, and it does require some practice to become more confident with getting into this position. But once you are able to do a headstand, the benefits are immense… No wonder it’s the king of asanas! The upside down position improves circulation and increase the blood flow into your hair, scalp, and face while giving you a gentle face lift. It’s also a great pose for reducing stress, anxiety and depression, making you feel lighter.
6. Shoulder Stand/ Sarvangasana
From the king of asanas, let’s go to the queen of asanas - the shoulder stand. It offers numerous benefits to various organs of your body and is known to help relieve asthma, sinusitis, stress, slow metabolism, menopause symptoms, infertility, and depression. This is also one of the best Hatha yoga asanas for weight control, which is perfect if you’re trying to stay in shape or feel concerned about your figure.
7. Fish Pose/ Matsyasana
After doing the shoulder stand, it is advisable that you follow it with a fish pose. After contracting the muscles around the throat, you loosen them and kind of open them up with the fish pose. It’s a back bending pose that helps open up your throat, chest, and abdomen. When you’re constipated, you want to keep your spine and neck flexible, and you wish to relieve menstrual pain, this is a good pose to do.
8. Plough Pose/ Halasana
It’s the pose you do before you get into a full shoulder stand where your legs are stretched back to touch the floor where your head is (lying down). It enhances your flexibility, strengthens your back muscles, and stimulates your reproductive organs and thyroid glands. Yoga experts also claim its benefits for weight loss and weight management.
9. Bow Pose/ Dhanurasana
It’s a pose that helps stretch your back muscles by lying on your tummy and pushing your upper and lower body up and grabbing your ankles with your hands (like a bow). It’s a little tough for beginners but once you have achieved flexibility, it’s a great Hatha yoga pose to tone your arms and legs, strengthen your abdominal muscles and back, and improve your posture.
10. Locust Pose/ Shalabhasana
Another tough-looking pose that gives your back a nice full stretch while keeping it flexible and strong. Imagine yourself as a locust, with your tummy flat on the ground and your legs lifted up. Yes, that’s a lot of leg muscle work to get your legs up as high as you can off the ground! But keep practicing, and this pose is great for enhancing circulation and stimulating your internal organs.
11. Peacock Pose/ Mayurasana
This one and the next pose after this are both balancing pose involving your arms. This pose helps in detoxifying your body and strengthening your core muscles and arms for that push power! It is also known to improve digestion and relieving constipation.
12. Crow Pose/ Kakasana
You’ll have strong upper arms and core once you have perfected this pose. You basically lift your butt off the ground (and your upper and lower body) by using arm power. It’s great for improving your posture and strengthening your upper body altogether.
So there you have the 12 basic Hatha yoga asanas and the Hatha yoga sequence. The other poses in addition to these are just extras but the basics are ultimately these ones and always typical in every Hatha yoga class.
A Hatha Yoga Sequence a Day Keeps the Doctor Away!
Hatha yoga is indeed rich in so many benefits not just for the body but also for the mind. This is why it’s a holistic way to improve health - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
The poses may seem intimidating and the postures may seem a little complex but once you get the hang of it as you practice each day, it will get easier and more effortless for you.
But just be sure to consult your doctor before you engage in any yoga class or session to make sure everything is okay on your end. Several Hatha yoga poses are gentle and great for beginners but it is best to stay on the safe side and know your capacity and readiness to do the more complex poses to avoid injury along the way.
So get your yoga on and see you on the mat soon!