Hatha yoga: what it is, the benefits and how a lesson takes place

Yoga styles are not all the same, and each class is distinguished by specific characteristics and peculiarities. Let’s find out what Hatha yoga is, what the benefits are and the differences with other styles

If you are looking for a yoga class, you may have come across a specific type called hatha yoga.

It is one of the most popular yoga styles and has a long history with ancient origins behind it. But what exactly is hatha yoga? What are the benefits and what can you expect if you attend a course?

Read also: Yoga: The 10 best teachers to follow at home (free) on YouTube to increase your flexibility

What is hatha yoga?

Traditionally, hatha yoga is a generic term for any type of yoga combining poses (asana) to breathing techniques (pranayama).

Essentially, many of the popular yoga styles, such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar, etc…, fall under the category of hatha yoga.

At the same time, however, the term “hatha” has evolved to describe a particular type of slow pace yogawhich places particular attention on the correct alignment of the body during practice.

Hatha Yoga: definition

Hatha in Sanskrit literally means “stubborn”. So the practice of Hatha Yoga means the practice of yoga, without the interference of the five senses and the mind.

Generally, Hatha Yoga is thought of only as the practice of asana, even though it is the austere practice of asana, pranayama, dharana (concentration) e dhyana (meditation) to reach the sublime state of samadhi.

In samadhi the yogi frees himself from the illusion of form, time and space, achieving the so-called liberation of body and mind.

So if you practice asana or exercises pranayama and meditation you are practicing Hatha yoga.

It is interesting to know that some teachers explain Hatha as Ha (sun) + Tha (moon) yoga, because Hatha Yoga helps purify the solar channels (Pingala) and lunar (Ida).

Hatha Yoga, therefore, focuses primarily on purification of the body as a path that leads to the purification of the mind.

Hatha yoga: what are the differences with other yoga styles?

But what differentiates hatha yoga from traditional yoga or other styles? Compared to the lessons of VinyasaFor example, hatha classes typically guide practitioners through postures at a slower pace.

Hatha Yoga is an ancient practice where asanas are held for a duration of 1-5 minutes. Most modern styles, however, are much more dynamic and only hold poses for a short amount of time.

In hatha yoga the focus of the asanas is on the internal organs and spine, while in other styles the focus is on the muscle groups and joints.

Furthermore, the stillness of the body and mind has more importance than movement as such.

What are the benefits of Hatha yoga?

There is some research that focuses specifically on benefits of hatha yoga. Here are the main ones:

  • reduces anxiety: the results of a meta-analysis of 17 studies on 501 patients, revealed that this style of yoga can reduce anxiety.
  • improves balance: a little studio of 2014 involving 34 men found that those who completed a five-month hatha yoga program were able to improve their postural control. Based on these findings, the authors conclude that this style of yoga can improve the body’s balance.
  • improves physical fitness: one studio of 2015 on Chinese adults found that a 12-week hatha yoga program had positive effects on several components of fitness, including cardiovascular endurance, strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility.

In addition to these studies, there are several research on the benefits of yoga in general, including data suggesting its ability to treat pain, lower your BMI and blood pressure, reduce the menopause symptomshelp manage chronic diseases, improve mental health and more.

What is a hatha yoga class like?

A Varied hatha yoga session from teacher to teacher and from class to class, but lessons usually begin with a sort of “centering exercise”.

This could be in a sitting position or on your back and could involve a simple guided meditation, a breathing exercise, or even just a moment of silence. After that, the teacher guides the participants in the flow, through a series of movements and poses.

Hatha yoga also focuses on breathing synchronized with movements (typically at a slower pace than you might experience in a vinyasa class), and classes might also include meditation and chanting.

As for equipment, you will only need a yoga mat.

Is hatha yoga suitable for beginners?

Since hatha tends to be a slower form of yoga with a greater emphasis on holding asanas, it is a great type of yoga for beginners.

What if you are pregnant? Know that yoga is generally safe (you can even find specific prenatal yoga classes), but it’s probably best to avoid certain poses and consult your doctor before trying a class.

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