Almost all people in Europe or America who practice yoga regularly practice some form of hatha yoga - often without really knowing it. You can find out what is behind the term and what to expect in a Hatha yoga class in this article.
What is Hatha Yoga?
Strictly speaking, hatha yoga is both its own yoga style and an umbrella term for all yoga styles in which the physical exercises (asanas) are in the foreground. Therefore, one can say that most people in this country practice a type of Hatha Yoga, albeit often under a different name. Hatha Yoga is, so to speak, the basis from which many modern yoga styles such as Power Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga or Sivananda Yoga have developed.
The term is mostly translated as a combination of "Ha" = sun and "Tha" = moon and thus stands for the connection and harmonization of opposing energies. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Yogi Swatmarama is one of the most important yoga scriptures and explains Hatha Yoga as a path to spiritual enlightenment.
What are the benefits of Hatha Yoga?
Originally, the postures were supposed to primarily serve to keep the body strong and healthy so that you could stay in the meditation posture for as long as possible. So the ultimate goal of Hatha Yoga is to purify and calm the mind. For most people today, the greatest advantage of Hatha Yoga is the physical and mental balance after many hours of daily desk work.
You can see what specific effect Hatha Yoga can have on the health of your body and your psyche here at a glance:
- Improvement of strength and mobility
- Increased body awareness
- Physical and mental relaxation
- Healthy heart-lung system and improved oxygen supply
- Promotes concentration and balance
- Improved sleep quality through stress reduction
- Strengthening the immune and nervous system
- Relief of back pain and tension
- Increased mobility and stability of the joints
- Regulation of the metabolism, digestive and endocrine systems
- Developing patience, serenity and inner peace
Is there a difference between hatha yoga and classical yoga?
Basically, classical yoga places a greater focus on the mind and sees the body as an obstacle on the way to enlightenment. Hatha Yoga, on the other hand, was the first yoga style to focus on the body and its health, since without physical well-being the mind can hardly find rest.
Professional or Newbie - Who Are Hatha Yoga Exercises Suitable For?
Hatha yoga exercises are basically suitable for everyone, but everyone should practice according to their individual requirements. Young and sporty people do the exercises in a different way than seniors and people with physical complaints or limitations.
This form of yoga is particularly suitable for beginners , as the exercises are performed consciously and at a slow pace. This leaves enough time in every posture to concentrate on the perception of individual body parts and their interaction. You also have the opportunity to feel the effect for a few breaths after each exercise.
The great advantage of Hatha Yoga is that you do not need a lot of space or equipment to be able to do the exercises. However, especially at the beginning, guidance from a teacher is very useful in order to learn a good orientation in the various postures. Once you've internalized the basics, you can easily practice on your own at home.
Hatha Yoga: Exercises for your daily yoga routine
All important hatha yoga exercises can be modified so that you can easily do them even as a yoga beginner. The sun salutation is particularly suitable for warming up the body and preparing for more demanding postures. The tree, the variations of the warrior, the swivel seat and the shoulder bridge are also great exercises to get you started.
- Sun Salutation
A series of several exercises that are performed in the river. These include i.a. the mountain posture, the standing forward lean, the half lean forward, the board posture, the cobra and the downward facing dog.
- Warrior 2
Standing position, with the front foot pointing forward and the back foot perpendicular to it. The front leg is bent and the back leg is straight. The torso is upright and the arms are stretched back and forth.
- Shoulder bridge
From the supine position, lift the pelvis with knees bent, while the feet, shoulders and head remain on the mat.
- Downward facing dog
The body forms a triangle with the pelvis at the highest point. Hands and feet slide into the ground and the whole back of the body is stretched.
Calming posture in which the upper body is bent forward from the heel seat and placed on the thighs. The shins, arms and head rest on the mat.
- Forward bend
The upper body is bent forward from the pelvis to stretch the back of the legs.
- Swivel seat
While sitting, the upper body is turned towards the raised leg, while one hand is supported on the floor behind the back and the other grips the raised leg.
Is there a flow in Hatha Yoga?
In a flow, various yoga exercises are combined into a flowing sequence. Every movement is linked to a breath. As a rule, there is little practice in flow in hatha yoga. The individual postures are held for a few breaths. Then you feel the exercise before you move into the next position.
Which exercises can be combined well in Hatha Yoga?
A classic sequence of exercises in flow is the sun salutation. The mountain pose, the standing bent forward, the half bent forward, the board pose, the cobra and the dog looking down are combined into a flowing sequence.
Hatha yoga classes: what to expect?
Are you ready to start your first Hatha lesson? We'll give you some tips on what to look out for before booking:
What do I have to look out for when booking a yoga (online) course?
Pay attention to the classification of the level and read the description through to make sure that the demands of the course match your previous yoga experience. In addition, find out which aids (e.g. yoga blocks, yoga belt) you need.
Often, courses are classified according to level 1/2/3 or similar categories. However, whoever is a beginner or a professional or who feels that way is different from person to person. If you are unsure which level is right for you, ask in advance at the studio or the yoga teacher
Do I have to prepare for this?
An open inner attitude and patience with yourself are very helpful to get involved in the exercises and to enjoy learning.
For those interested in history: The Hatha Yoga Pradipika
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which took place in the 15th century. Written by Yogi Swatmarama, it is one of the most important yoga scriptures. She describes Hatha Yoga as a method to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Physical exercises, breathing exercises (pranayama), meditation and cleansing rituals are explained in it.
Hatha Yoga has its origins in various currents of Indian tradition and yoga philosophy such as the well-known Yoga Sutras according to Patanjali, the Upanishads, the Vedas and Tantrism. With its various forms, Hatha Yoga is the most widespread yoga style in the West. It is equally suitable for beginners and advanced learners and is a proven exercise method to bring body and mind into balance.