Hatha Yoga

pp equilib ashtanga seq In most yoga classes in the west, we use the limb of asana (physical postures) as our door into yoga.

This physical practise is commonly called Hatha Yoga.

Hatha derives from the word “forceful” and is also said to combine opposites Ha – the sun and tha – the moon. A strong and balancing practice.

The word asana, which is used to name each physical yoga posture, literally translates to “comfortable seat”.

The physical postures and the breath control in hatha yoga allow our bodies to develop the strength, flexibility and endurance to sit comfortably for long periods of time in meditation.

parsvk equilibrium As beginners of asana we are focused primarily on our physical body; the muscular-skeletal system.

We focus on finding our body in space and develop a good foundation in aligning our body and listening to our body to keep our practice safe.

We start to work on developing an inner perception, particularly in the core of the body around the pelvic floor and navel centre, and of the alignment of the central axis of the body, our spine.

With sustained practise, we can develop a well-aligned posture and re-learn how to stand, sit, walk and lay down with ease.♥

The physical postures develop the ability to bend, twist and invert our body, which is said to assist in cleansing and de-toxing the inner organs and regulating hormones.

In asana practise we work with the breath – learning some control of the breath and allowing our bodies to be moved by breath.

The continuous free flow of breathing is re-established contributing to the flow of life-force through the body and a feeling of being both calm and energised. m twist equilibrium

Hatha yoga assists us in developing mental focus and concentration (pratyahara and dharana) by staying aware of sensations and experience in our body, staying focused on the free flow of breath and using dristi or looking places (for example when we gaze to our middle finger in warrior 2).

Throughout asana practice the mind is focused on our breath and body.

This, in conjunction with a well aligned spine and stable core, and the final relaxation at the end of practise, often takes us out of the “flight or fight” stress or anxiety response (where the sympathetic nervous system is dominating). We come back into the parasympathetic nervous system, which naturally regulates our everyday body function.

When we are relaxed the body can work in a state of equilibrium. Today, in our often busy, multi tasking lives this relaxation response is one of the most beneficial gifts of yoga.

Yoga is not a quick fix – it is a practice that rewards practise.

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By turning up on our mat and staying with the ups and downs of our practice, seeking to find some ease (or a “comfortable seat”) in challenging postures, and experiencing how our practice changes, we develop mindfulness and can strengthen our ability to stay present with our experiences in daily life.

With regular practise, and a openness to learning, we can change toward greater emotional and mental equanimity, whilst discovering ourselves – our limiting beliefs and our pure potential.

I believe Yoga will benefit you most if leave expectation and judgement off your mat. Instead, invite compassion and curiosity to join you – it’s much more fun that way! And you’ll be happier for it - well that’s my experience:)

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The content of this post relates to bodies that have the possibility to become well aligned and that can sit, stand, walk and lie down without the help of another person. If your body can not do these things unassisted and you want to practise yoga then I recommend finding a yoga therapist who can develop a tailored programme for you.

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