Do you feel tension rippling through your body? Are your neck and shoulders stiff and aching? Do you feel tired and irritable? If you do, then hatha yoga will enable you to let go of the daily stressors and stretch out your body. This will strengthen and relax it. But it’s far more than just an exercise system. In fact, the benefits are extensive.
Introducing Hatha Yoga
Hatha yoga, if you have not already tried it yourself, is an exercise system using postures for health and well-being. It is, however, far from being just an exercise system which many people believe when they first start out. Essentially, as you start to learn the basic postures, you form the foundations of change coupling the asanas alongside other techniques which make it a comprehensive system of asana via pranayama, drushti, vinyasa, and bandha. All these elements come in time.
Hatha Yoga Postures
If we consider the postures, we can see how in-depth this system is because there are hundreds of postures along with variations of the original poses. To be able to work on the whole body, even reaching the neuro-muscular system, hatha yoga has to be multi-faceted. When you first start out, the basic postures are much more superficial simply because it takes time to master the asanas. This includes the movement in and out of the asanas. It’s vital that you start learning the basic postures first and let them become instinctive. This naturally starts to reduce muscle tension. This needs to happen prior to your progressing into the deeper postures as these place greater demands on the body.
The aim is to gradually extend the flexibility while increasing strength to reach the ultimate goal. This is a personal journey and one you must undertake alone. If you are attending a hatha yoga class, you will see the variations of suppleness through observing others who are there. But it is important to note that yoga is non-competitive, which means your focus must only be on your own development and not on comparison.
How Yoga Works
As you commit to the practice of yoga, you start to lay bare the layers that have protected or shrouded you in every way. You also begin to understand how your experiences will have impacted thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In other words, you start to develop a unique insight into self. There’s an awareness that you must develop and retain, this is key. As you delve deeper within, you regain correct functioning of the body, prior to the stresses and tensions. You release tightness in the muscles and you dissolve tension that is restricting.
Some of the asanas are demanding. They will challenge you in every way. Each one works differently too. They seek answers from muscles, ligaments, and tendons as well as promoting health within organs. When you practice, know that you are supplying muscles, glands, and organs. Consistency is key. When you strive to go forward, your body will yield in a very natural way, even if the tightness seems to persist or even increases for a period. The body gradually lets go and this forms a unique part of the journey for you.
The Mind and Body Connection
The mind and body are integrally linked. However, many people view them as being entirely separate. It’s important to note that this is not the case. Each person has their pattern of physicality which includes stagnating emotions, tension, regret, and inner angst. This emphasizes the importance of working within your own constraints and not pushing your body too far. Once you learn these asanas, these patterns begin to be released. So, not only does the tightness within the muscles give way but the health of the inner organs and cells are promoted. Emotions are revealed and then soothed.
The Importance of Alignment
Alignment is all important and there are no shortcuts here. This is an important part of hatha yoga. An experienced teacher must guide you as to alignment as you move into the pose. If you can learn the basic foundations of the breath, of alignment and knowledge of some yoga asanas, you can practice at home. A good yoga class gives you the information you need to ensure these postures work for you in multiple ways. You learn the fluidity of vinyasa, the importance of the breath, you’ll learn bandha and drushti. Little by little, these important pieces become an integral part of the whole. Once these pieces interconnect, physical patterns are identified and changed. Emotional patterns release too.
Putting the Pieces Together
Hatha yoga is not a quick to learn exercise system. It’s a life-long study of learning and of desire to promote natural health and well-being. Although it’s possible to dip in and out of it, why would you want to? Once the benefits manifest, the feeling is incredible including the release of physical aches and pains. Emotional pressures and constraints lift and so, the desire to learn more about the way of yoga increases too. This propels your personal practice further. Even so, the progression of mind, body, and spirit moves at the same pace, creating equilibrium in life.
It’s important to know that you can’t just be told how to do yoga or learn it all from a book. You need hands-on guidance ideally and true understanding of the principles of the pose. In time, you will move into these postures effortlessly. This takes time and occurs once your body reaches correct alignment throughout each of the stages. Each aspect of yoga is important and inter-connected. In hatha yoga, it’s not all about the end goal but the journey. Progress continues once you have achieved physical progress. The next stage is the nurturing element and when you enter the ‘hold’ there is a transformation of self. Think of hatha yoga as being an integral part of the blueprint for life. If you yearn for a strong, physical body, strong, emotional well-being and a balanced way of being. Then, hatha yoga is for you.