There are many forms of yoga that are practiced worldwide. However, amongst these various yoga styles, Hatha yoga has emerged as the most popular form of yoga that is practiced and taught extensively as an important component of various yoga courses at yoga schools in Rishikesh and other places in India.
This blog will give you useful insights into Hatha yoga and why it's inculcated as an important subject in yoga teacher training programs. Let’s take a look.
What is Hatha Yoga?
Hatha is an original and ancient yogic style that has been practiced for the past several millennia. In simple terms, Hatha yoga refers to a kind of yoga form that utilizes physical poses to stimulate and heal the different parts of the body. “Hatha” signifies a force or willfulness to do an activity. In fact, the word Hatha can be broken down further where the component ‘Ha’ refers to the sun and ‘tha’ signifies the moon. Hence, this form of yoga is generally viewed as a balancing yoga that helps to create a balance or state of homeostasis between the mind, body and spirit while calming them in the best way possible.
The origins of Hatha yoga can be traced back to the elaborate ancient scriptures of Hatha Yoga Pradipika written by Svatmarama in the 15th century. This reference is considered an influential text containing a detailed explanation regarding all components of the Hatha Yoga practice.
Usually, people assume haha Yoga is only the physical practice of asana. In hindsight, Hatha yoga involves practice of physical asana, Pranayama or breath-work, Dharana, and Dhyana for achieving a state of enlightenment or Samadhi. In this state, the person is free from the state of the illusion of time, form and space. Asana simply is just one component in these steps or levels to achieve the blissful state of Samadhi.
Hatha Yoga is believed to have its roots in Raja Yoga. It is Raja Yoga’s simpler edition sans the Yamas and the Niyamas. . In a nutshell, the yoga asanas and pranayama breathing exercises can be referred to as Hatha Yoga. So, simply put, if you are performing asana practice and pranayama, you are actually doing Hatha yoga.
Understanding the Science of Hatha Yoga
As discussed in the above section, Hatha yoga is not simply physical exercise but a medium through which one can channelize the energies within the body with an aim to understand its working dynamics.
The ‘Sushumna’ or the central channel is also referred to as the fire or a platform for knowledge. When the right and left channel energies namely the ‘HA’ and ‘THA’, combine, they merge into the Sushumna. This then acts as a getaway of divine perception and allows the intrinsic life force or ‘Prana’ to flow in a manner that entails the practitioner’s spiritual awakening therein leading him to a state of infinite peace and absolute bliss. The masculine and feminine forces of HA and THA unite and the mind naturally goes into a profound state of tranquility. This further begets a state of divine eternity.
From the scientific perspective, Hatha Yoga's philosophy is deeply embedded in understanding the mechanics of the body. This form of yoga employs yogic postures to achieve higher realms of energy.
By performing Hatha Yoga practices, you can develop a robust and profound connection between your body, mind, and spirit. This, in turn, enables you to control the energies that lie within your body. The Hatha Yoga asanas can help alleviate physical maladies of the neck, spine, and knees. Furthermore, since Hatha yoga poses are done using rhythmic breathing, it helps calm frayed nerves and mental problems such as anxiety and depression can also be overcome. Plus, the energies can work to profoundly affect your consciousness and guide you towards deep meditative states. By engaging in this deep science, you can alter and improve upon your thinking, feelings and life experiences at large.
Hatha Yoga Tools in Practice
Hatha yoga is a gentle form of yoga that involves slow and steady movements. This form of yoga endeavors to strike a balance in the body using asanas and breathing techniques. The Hatha yoga teacher training in Rishikesh teaches you this aspect along with many other Hatha yoga nuances to take your yoga practice several notches higher in the realms of yoga. A regular Hatha yoga class involves the following components :
Asana: This refers to the many physical postures.
Pranayama: The breathing techniques are combined with asana practice to beget fruitful health outcomes. Plus, pranayama can also be practiced independently to detox the mind and body and energize your entire being. Yoga schools in Rishikesh such as the Yoga Vidya School is a prominent yoga center that takes up short-term Pranayama therapy sessions to embolden your general yoga practice.
Mantra chanting: Hatha yoga sessions usually begin with the chanting of mantras such as the Gayatri mantra or the ‘OM’ mantra. Mantra chanting helps to center your mind and body and prepare it for yoga practice.
Mudras: Mudras translate into gestures of the hand and fingers and are correlated with the alignment of different bodily energies.
Shat Kriyas: These are the cleansing methods that enable detoxification of the body while completely revitalizing it. These and more such cleansing methods are part of Hatha yoga teacher training in Kerala.
What to expect in a Hatha yoga class?
While each Hatha yoga class varies depending on the yoga instructor, most classes generally comprise gentle warm-up, deep breathing exercises, physical asanas, and meditative practices. A typical Hatha yoga class breakdown is enlisted below:
Mantra chanting: Each Hatha yoga class starts with Mantra chanting that helps center the body and mind and prepare for yoga.
Breathing: Most Hatha yoga classes begin by performing controlled breathing exercises or Pranayama techniques. In Hatha yoga, pranayama such as Bhastrika, Kapalbhati, Anulom-Vilom and other breathing methods help to not only energize the body and the mind but also heal various physical and mental maladies afflicting your body. Also, the focus on breathing is further reminded by the yoga instructor as you go about doing one pose after another.
Physical postures: These are a series of asanas or physical postures that help enhance balance, core strength and flexibility. The pose sequences are such that they gradually and methodically open up and exercise each body part before you move into doing more challenging asanas. Also, the beauty of these Hatha yoga poses lies in the fact that the same asana can be practiced in various modified forms. This is especially important in a scenario where you are unable to perform certain Hatha yoga poses. In such instances, your trainer may ask you to perform the same asana but in its modified form.
Meditation: Most Hatha yoga classes conclude with a few minutes of guided quiet contemplation. You can either focus on your breath or an object, to begin with. For instance, you can light a candle and focus on its light during meditation. It might happen that you might get distracted by the barrage of thoughts passing through your mind. However, learning to focus back on meditation is a learned practice that needs sustained effort and patience.
Lastly, a yoga class concludes with the quintessential ‘Namaste’, a sign of greeting amongst Hindus in India.
Hatha Yoga class is for everyone
If a class is dubbed as a yoga class then in all probability it's a Hatha yoga class. Hatha yoga’s popularity is also because of the gentle poses it involves and hence is deemed great for older people and beginners in yoga. However, as you will progress through a Hatha yoga class, then the poses will become mentally and physically challenging. So, in a nutshell, a Hatha yoga class is for everyone from yoga newbies to even seasoned practitioners intending to do the more advanced 300 hour yoga teacher training in Rishikesh.
Health Benefits of Hatha Yoga Practice
Ever wondered why Hatha yoga is such an important subject in yoga teacher training? Well, the answer lies in the innumerable physical and mental benefits that you can accrue by the sustained practice of this ancient yoga form. We have enlisted some key benefits below:
- Improves mobility of the joints and flexibility of the connective tissues.
- Improves metabolism and hence enhances the functioning of all organs in the body.
- Relieves backache
- Stimulates cell repair and their regeneration
- Improves blood circulation to the vital organs of the body such as the spinal cord and the brain.
- Revitalizes the ligaments in the body.
- Enables stimulation of an inactive lymphatic system by draining it and ensuing cleansing of the body.
- Improves the overall range of bodily movements
- Enhances heart and lung function
- Increases energy and endurance capabilities
- Brings forth a state of balance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.
- Improves sleep quality and duration.
- Improves symptoms of autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis and other conditions
- Helps sharpen focus and improve concentration
- Enables calming down frayed nerves and helps in relaxation
- Brings forth emotional balance
- Effectively tackle anxiety and depression
- Eliminates mental fatigue
- Stimulates learning abilities and fosters creativity
- Hatha yoga teacher training course programs
Hatha yoga forms the crux of most teacher training course programs in Rishikesh, Kerala and elsewhere in India. Some of the important aspects of Hatha yoga included in these yoga TTC courses are enlisted below:
Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga
Hatha yoga endeavors to understand how our bodies function in correlation with yogic teachings and philosophy. This knowledge is important to understand stable and safe body movements in terms of physical alignments and adjustments and the physical asanas themselves. Also, how to adapt and modify the asanas to heal or benefit certain bodily conditions is an important aspect of Hatha-based yoga teacher training programs.
Hatha Yoga Asana
Understanding and practicing the various physical asanas to attain physical and spiritual development is an important part of teacher training programs. These asanas are practiced to accrue a range of benefits such as enhancing discipline and concentration and preparing the mind for meditation. These physical asanas get more complex as one advances through the training levels of the 100-hour, 200-hour, 300-hour and ultimately the 500-hour yoga TTC.
The History and Lineages of Yoga
Hatha yoga is an age-old practice that finds its origins in the ancient Hindu scriptures such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and mentions in other age-old textual references. This helps to understand the real meaning of yoga and holds the key to living in sync with self and others.
The Science of Pranayama, Kriya Yoga and Yog Nidra
Yogic breathing is a fundamental and foundational practice in Hatha yoga. Pranayama or breathwork helps to enhance the vital life force of the body. In the yoga TTC, you will learn the importance of yogic breathing in concentration and mindfulness, besides gaining physical and mental benefits.
Knowledge of Kriya Yoga helps in understanding the spiritual path through additional meditation practices and appropriate living to achieve unlimited consciousness.
Yoga Nidra practice ensures a calm body and mind along with greater intuitive abilities. The teacher training programs encompass the various stages of Yogic Nidra taking your conscience towards attaining a state of deep relaxation.
Mantra Chanting and Meditation
Learn the neuroscience behind mantras’ potent abilities vis-a-vis your yogic practices. Understand and practice mindfulness methods by focusing your mind and reigning it for undivided attention and focus. This will further bolster achieving mental clarity and a calm state of being.
Depending on the level of your teacher training program such as the 300-hour yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, you will be taught advanced yoga sequences that work from every angle and stand to test your endurance and strength in performing advanced asanas. You will be also taught to create your own meaningful yoga sequences comprising asanas, breathwork or Pranayama and meditation.
Knowledge of Ayurveda and Leading the Yogic Lifestyle
All yoga teacher training programs in Hatha yoga imbibe learning about Ayurvedic herbs and medicines, Ayurvedic interventions in terms of therapies and massages and following an Ayurvedic or Sattvic diet.
Besides, pupils are encouraged to lead a healthy yogic lifestyle that combines eating a vegetarian diet, following the natural rhythms of nature and practicing empathy and compassion.
From the above account, one can easily surmise that Hatha yoga is actually the origin of all the yogic forms practiced today. Besides, taking a cue from this yogic form’s versatility, usability and profound ancient wisdom, Hatha yoga is now considered an important subject in yoga teacher training programs.