What is Hatha yoga?
What is Hatha yoga?
Hatha yoga is the most popular yoga style practiced in the West, and it aims to unite the yin and the yang – the dark and the light – and bring these two opposites into harmony and balance.
Hatha focuses on maintaining the physical body through a few key practices, which include Asanas, Mudras, Bandhas, Pranayama and meditation.
Asanas are the core element of Hatha yoga, being the physical postures that make up the practice. They’ve been evolved over the centuries, and are designed to work each muscle, joint and ligament in the body, leaving the participant feeling physically strong, yet mentally and spiritually at peace.
Mudras are gestures, especially of the fingers and hands – and they’re methods that help to seal or channel energy. Modern science has confirmed that there are concentrations of free electrons surrounding the tips of each finger. When tension is applied to the fingers and parts of the palms, the energy is directed through the body along specific channels. This balancing of internal energy creates changes in the veins, tendons, glands and sensory organs, allowing the body to be returned to a state of wellness.
Bandhas are ‘locks’, where the breath is contained within the body, to direct energy in specific ways. There are three main bandhas, and essentially they’re muscular contractions that help you to breathe, focus on your awareness, keep your body strong, and give you a sense of lightness as you move through each posture.
Pranayama is a breathing technique used to extend the breath and thus lengthen life. It’s made up of three parts – controlled inhalations, controlled exhalations and holding of the breath.
Breath control can help us to focus both body and mind, and unlock dormant energies. It also helps us to develop a more profound inner gaze and meditative state, whether we’re performing asanas, lying in savasana, or sitting in meditation.
Pranayama can be an intense and highly energising practice – and it’s extremely useful in shifting negative emotions, energising both body and mind, and giving us greater clarity, perspective and peace.
Yoga was designed to prepare the body to sit for long periods in meditation, and so meditation is (arguably) the most important component of the practice of yoga.
The idea is to be totally single-minded, allowing thoughts to pass as if they’re clouds against a blue sky, all the while focusing on the breath.
Key meditation benefits include:
- better immune system functioning
- pain reduction
- reduced inflammation
- reduced anxiety, stress and depression
- improved brain functioning
- enhanced compassion
- regulation of emotions
- increased productivity, focus and attention
- enhanced memory and creativity
… and much more!
Chakra is another word for ‘wheel’, and these spinning, vibrating spirals of energy are located in seven main areas in the body (though there are many other more minor chakras within our bodies, too). Provided each chakra is open and functioning correctly, energy is free to move through them as it travels around the body. Sometimes, however, chakras become blocked or sluggish, leading to imbalances and dis-orders, manifesting as emotional or physical health issues. For this reason, it’s important to keep them functioning correctly – and yoga helps us to do exactly that.
1. Base / Root Chakra (Muladhara)
2. Sacral Chakra (Svadhisthana)
3. Solar Plexus (Manipura)
4. Heart Chakra (Anahata)
5. Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)
6. Third Eye Chakra (Ajna)
7. Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)
My Hatha yoga sessions are slow, yet powerful – and as we go through each asana, I always ensure I offer a choice of options for each pose, to cater to different levels of experience or flexibility.
My Hatha style offers a holistic, yet practical approach to yoga that focusing on both the physical and the energetic. I take students on a journey through the chakras, addressing all aspects of our lives, from our connection to nature, to relationships, communication, expression, and our spiritual selves.
We discuss the chakras, the parts of the body each chakra affect, the types of diseases that can be caused by energetic imbalances, commonly associated addictions, and much more. Each class aims to expand a student’s awareness, and leave them with the practical methods to work through physical, emotional or mental imbalances.
This class structure has proved very popular, being educational, transformational and fun – and it gives the students the tools to continue their practice both within and outside of class.
“I look forward to attending Anna’s yoga classes each week. I never used to be very motivated to attend yoga, but since starting with Anna, I actually look forward to it each week! Anna is very knowledgeable, and is gentle, caring and really listens. After each class I feel very relaxed and calm, and feel good as I know I’ve done something that is nurturing to my body.”