Hatha Yoga - the Yoga of Physical Discipline

All types of yoga are ways for seekers to experience the same final goal, enlightenment. Hatha yoga's approach to this is through the body. Hatha yoga practitioners consider that unless they properly purify and prepare their bodies, they cannot experience the higher stages of meditation.

Hatha Yoga is greatly based around practice of postures. "Hatha" means "forceful". Hatha yoga refers to combinations of physical exercises, known as "asanas" or postures, aimed at aligning your muscles, bones and skin. Moreover, the postures are aimed at opening the multiple channels of the body, in particular the main channel, the spine, in order that energy flows freely.

You can translate "Hatha" as "ha" which means "sun" and "tha" which means "moon." This is a reference to a balance of masculine qualities, like the hot sun and feminine qualities, like the cool moon, which resides in us all. Hatha yoga is a way of cultivating balance and uniting opposites. It helps us physically by developing a balance of strength and flexibility. It also helps us to make the right effort internally and surrender with each pose. Hatha yoga is a highly effective tool for self-transformation. It enables us to bring our attention to our breath, enabling us to still our mental traffic and be more present in each moment.

Hatha yoga is common in the UK and the USA. It is a branch of yoga which focuses on physical health and mental well-being. Hatha yoga uses body movements or asanas, breathing techniques or pranayama, as well as meditation or dyana, for an active, healthy body and clear, peaceful mind.

There are almost 200 hatha yoga postures, with many hundreds of variations, which aim at ensuring the spine is supple and promote effective circulation in the organs, glands and tissues. Moreover, hatha yoga postures stretch and align the body, promoting balance and flexibility.

A cardiologist, in 1990, Dr. Dean Ornish developed the Programme for Reversing Heart Disease, which proved that yoga, meditation, a low-fat diet and group support can considerably lower the blockage of coronary arteries. Further studies have highlighted the benefits of yoga in lowering stress-related problems, such as, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Medical schools and clinics use yoga as a highly effective stress management method. Many physiotherapists use yoga to help with various injuries and the gentleness and adaptability of yoga render it a highly effective rehabilitation technique.

Yoga has been attributed with the ability to decrease various problems, such as, backaches, asthma, diabetes, menopause, constipation, varicose veins and carpal tunnel syndrome. In terms of diet for those practising yoga, a vegetarian diet is recommended. This change in itself helps greatly to potentially increase longevity and lower heart disease. Daily yoga practitioners report that they are able to generate high levels of overall health and energy. Mentally yoga is said to clarify and discipline the mind, with yoga practitioners citing that its benefits can permeate every facet of one's life, including one's self-esteem and self-understanding.

Hatha yoga was originally developed by enlightened masters to enable people to survive during the Age of Kali, a spiritual dark age, in which we are presently living.

The original yogic masters developed yoga as an eight-fold path for total health. These eight steps include moral and ethical considerations, like honesty, non-aggression, peacefulness, generosity, self-discipline, self-knowledge, meditation and breath control to cultivate concentration, devotion, zest for life and wellbeing for oneself and the wish for wellbeing of all.

Swami Vivekananda, an Indian yogi, brought yoga to the USA in the late 1800s, when, he presented a lecture on the subject in Chicago capturing the imagination of the Americans. Variations of hatha yoga in the USA presently include Ashtanga and Bikram yoga. Ashtanga yoga routines usually unfold like long dances with multiple positions undertaken rapidly, one after the other. Ashtanga is a rigorous form of hatha yoga, often resembling a difficult aerobic workout. Ashtanga yoga teachers claim that this type of yoga uses body heat, sweating, and deep breathing to purify the body.

Bikram yoga became extremely popular in the late 1990s, when its famous teacher, Bikram Choudury, started teaching in Beverly Hills. It has since been endorsed by numerous famous celebrities. Bikram yoga involves the repetition of 26 specific poses and two breathing techniques to stretch and tone the entire body.