by Lauren Swanger, holistic health enthusiast and research journalist
It didn’t become popular in the USA until the 1960’s, but yoga has been around for more than 5,000 years. Hatha Yoga is the foundation of all yoga styles. It incorporates Asanas (postures), Pranayama (regulated breathing), meditation (Dharana & Dhyana) and kundalini (Laya Yoga). Its concept is to join the body and mind together to create a relaxing, and enlightening, “whole body” experience. The exercises provide gentle pressure on the glandular systems of the body, eliciting better health and energy. There are many benefits of yoga including enhanced muscular coordination, decreased muscle tension, increased flexibility, reduction of depression, and increased blood circulation.
Breathing is the source of all life. With this in mind, students of yoga are taught breathing exercises that are done to improve both the health and function of the body and the mind. When the mind is quieted, meditation becomes effortless. Practiced together, yoga and meditation allow the body to become strong and flexible and, at the same time, clear the mind of daily stressors.
There are many variations of Hatha yoga: Vinyasa, Bikram, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Anusara, Jivamukti, Kripalu, Kundalini, Svaroopa, and even Power yoga. All of these styles incorporate breathing and movement, but they are not all alike. Some forms of yoga include chanting, restrictive dieting, and scriptural study. Others encourage self-inquiry, vegetarianism, and selfless service to others. Yoga should feel natural and comfortable, so choosing a style that you will enjoy and practice is very important.