Are you looking for information about Hatha Yoga? What is it? Is it a soft yoga or a more dynamic yoga? How does a session take place? Is it open to everyone? In this article, I propose to answer all your questions about this very ancient style of yoga.
What is Hatha Yoga?
Hatha Yoga is considered one of the most traditional forms of yoga. It is the foundation of all the styles of yoga that you can practice. Yin, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Nidra, Kundalini... All are related to Hatha Yoga. It is indeed, the oldest and most authentic postural yoga. But in the beginning, this type of yoga is mostly linked to the philosophy of yoga and not to the practice of simple postures.
Indeed, in India, for hundreds of years, yoga has been recognized above all as a philosophy of life that allows one to blossom. Its essence is therefore very different from the sports activity by which we define it today in the West. The word yoga comes from the term "yuj" which means union, control and integration. What defines yoga is therefore its progressive character, its search for cohesion on all levels of the human being. Thus, yoga is more often a path than a destination. It is in movement, in research, in progression.
Yoga is often reduced to a sequence of isolated positions. Whereas in reality, each yoga posture is supposed to involve all aspects of the human being (body, mind, soul) and directs us towards a goal much larger than the search for flexibility or body improvement.
The different branches of yoga
To advance on this path, there are originally different paths of yoga. One finds in particular the :
• Bakhti Yoga: the yoga of devotion with a religious connotation.
• Karma Yoga: the yoga of selfless action, of self-giving.
• Jnana Yoga: The Yoga of Knowledge.
• Raja Yoga : Royal Yoga.
It is the latter that we are particularly interested in today. Indeed, Raja Yoga has eight complementary stages of evolution, which are described in the Yoga Sutras of the sage Patanjali. It is in this path that we find Hatha Yoga as we practice it.
These eight steps of yoga according to Raja Yoga are:
• Yama: ethics and moral duties. Non-violence, truth...
• Niyama: respect, willpower and self-discipline.
• Asana: adopting a stable posture.
• Pranayama: Breath Awareness.
• Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses.
• Dharan: concentration.
• Dhyana : deep meditation.
• Samadhi : state of union.
The purpose of Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga aims to establish a balance between body and mind by focusing on the physiological part of man. This is how we will find mainly in this type of yoga asanas, postures.
"Ha" means sun and "Tha" means moon. Its name thus indicates, like Yin and Yang, a kind of complementarity between the two opposing energies that encompass us. It is in this perpetual duality that man evolves. The objective of Hatha Yoga is to find a way to stabilize the mind by balancing these two poles, and thus reach a state of union.
Through the practice of postures, Hatha Yoga thus allows the development of certain psychological faculties such as concentration, serenity and bodily faculties such as flexibility and strength. It helps to release tension, stretch muscles and revascularize the entire body. This, in order to fill it with new energy. For this, each posture is adapted to the practitioner while respecting his or her own limits. This notion, essential to postural yoga, helps to avoid forcing the body and thus avoiding injury.
However, Hatha Yoga has, at the same time, many spiritual characteristics. We are going to talk about the breath and the life energy that passes through us with each breath, the Prana, the different body envelopes, the Koshas, the flow of energies that circulate within us through channels, the Shakti and the Nadis, and the seven centers that make up our energetic body, the Chakras. In the founding texts of this type of yoga, the importance of the Kriyas is also mentioned, which aim to purify the body and mind. It is therefore a much broader and deeper field than the weekly sports activity.
Finally, the practice of Hatha Yoga postures has an intention. To unblock the body's tensions, to make the vital energy circulate... It will thus allow humans to increase their energy level, to relax and to feel a real sense of well-being after each session. With the evolution of the body, the mind will also evolve. This is the goal of Hatha Yoga.
Practicing Hatha Yoga: how does a session take place?
Hatha Yoga is in practice, a relatively gentle yoga that mobilizes the whole body. It combines 3 types of exercises:
- exercises of the breath, which we call pranayama. - postural exercises, asanas. - and a final relaxation.
In Hatha-Yoga, we try to breathe consciously with every movement of the body. Thus, the breath is at the center of each posture. However, during the Hatha Yoga sessions, there are moments dedicated to practice breathing exercises for a few minutes. We sometimes find in particular the alternating, soothing breathing.
The practice of the postures is done in several stages. In general, a series of standing postures is practiced, then a series of sitting postures, and finally balance. However, the order of the postures and the nature of the exercises can vary. Although the postures of Hatha Yoga are codified, Hatha Yoga teachers are free to link them together as they wish. Unlike Vinyasa Yoga, Hatha Yoga offers a pause between each posture. There is no flow. However, the postures maintain coherence within the session. It can be focused on opening the heart or the hips for example.
Finally, at the end of the session, one lies down for a moment of relaxation, in Savasana. It is often guided by the teacher and lasts about 10 minutes. A meditation time can also be inserted during the session.
Who is this type of yoga for?
Hatha Yoga is a relatively gentle style of yoga that is easy to practice. It is open to everyone, regardless of your age or physical condition. It is often said that it is yoga that must adapt to you and not you to yoga, which could not be truer with Hatha Yoga. Thus, you will be able to constantly adapt the postures with the help of your teacher, so that you can go further or less far and so that it can be done without pain.
Hatha Yoga only requires you to focus on your body and your breathing. Sounds simple and natural, doesn't it? And yet, you will see that they no longer are with our way of life. So you will be able to take a moment to focus on your own body and your breath. A Hatha Yoga session will lead you to pay attention to yourself, your tensions or your limits, without judging them.
This type of yoga will of course allow you to develop your flexibility, to reduce your chronic pain, but also to calm your mind, improve your concentration and your self-esteem.
You now know everything you need to know about Hatha Yoga, this traditional type of yoga that has many benefits. Feel free to fill out the comments space to share your discovery of Hatha Yoga and the benefits it has had on you.