In this first portion of this article we looked at what the literal definition of hatha yoga is, and what type of yoga this is. If you decide to give hatha yoga a try, the first thing the instructor will probably do is work on centering through breathing and relaxation, and then a warm up, then sun salutations, static yoga postures, balance poses, and then relaxation. Classes usually run about 90 minutes to two hours, but it is possible to do shorter sequences in as little as 20 or so minutes.
Going back to the notion that the word hatha represents the opposing words sun and moon, it is also thought to symbolize other yin-yang concepts like hot and cold, fire and water, male and female, and positive and negative. It then tries to balance our mind and body through the postures and other things mentioned above like focused breathing.
Doing the various exercises and postures of hatha yoga is to help make our bodies healthier and more energized by opening up the channels in our bodies, or “nadis”. Proponents of hatha yoga contend that if it is done regularly, these paths are opened automatically.
One thing that is important to remember when practicing hatha, or really any type of yoga is that it is not a competitive process. You are not going to hatha yoga class to see who can learn the poses the fastest or inhale the most air. I know we live in a competitive society and a lot of us are dealing with elevated levels of stress because of this way of thinking. But if you can leave this competitive spirit at the door and focus instead on self-acceptance and being gentle with yourself, at least during hatha yoga class, you’ll be a lot better off.
Along these lines, some people believe that hatha yoga takes a lot of physical strength and flexibility. I know that when I took yoga way back when in Junior High I thought I would need to sit in that pretzel-like lotus position on the floor to even get a passing grade. But really, nothing can be further from the truth. A good hatha yoga teacher will recognize all of his or her students’ ages and physical abilities and tailor the class to what you can do comfortably.