What Is Hatha Yoga and What Are the Benefits? – LIVESTRONG.COM

Posted: August 14, 2020 at 11:53 pm


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Hatha yoga is a slow, meditative practice that focuses on using your breath to deepen the poses.

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If the different styles of yoga are layers, Hatha yoga is the base. The meditative, stress-busting practice hones in on many of the basic yoga postures, making it a perfect introduction for beginners.

But seasoned yogis can also benefit. Depending on the yoga instructor and the studio you visit, Hatha yoga classes can range from a constant flow to a slow, gentle class.

Ready to go deeper with your practice? Here's everything you need to know about Hatha yoga and what to expect if you're just starting out, plus a Hatha yoga sequence you can practice in the comfort of your own home or wherever you are!

Hatha yoga is an umbrella term for physical practice, so other types of yoga, such as Ashtanga and Vinyasa, are all forms of Hatha yoga.

Hatha in Sanskrit is a combination of ha (sun) and tha (moon), and represents the union of two opposites. Hatha yoga is filled with a series of physical postures, or asanas, that both strengthen the body and improve flexibility.

Hatha yoga also allows practitioners to discover something deeper within themselves by creating balance and uniting opposites not only in their physical practice but also in their hearts and minds.

"The beauty of Hatha is that through the eight limbs of yoga, each individual is receiving their very own unique remedy to something they are needing in their own life at that time," Candy Glover, a yoga instructor based in Oxon Hill, Maryland, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

Those eight limbs of yoga that Glover refers to are yoga's principles for living a purposeful life, which are found in the yoga guidebook, Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali, from sage Sri Swami Satchidananda. They are:

What makes Hatha stand out is that it teaches you how to apply yoga principles in everyday life. For example, using your pranayama to do asanas helps strengthen the body-breath connection and trains you to sit in stillness.

"Balance is so hard to come by in our fast-paced culture," says Brandie Regaldo, a San Antonio-based yoga instructor and co-founder of SAY OM SA.

"From my personal experience of practicing and observing as a teacher, a Hatha class is often the first opportunity some people have to actually slow down and tune into their body and mind while reinvigorating themselves at the same time."

That said, many of the poses you'll encounter in Hatha yoga involve balancing and slow transitions between poses to really emphasize the breath. Expect seated and standing poses with twists and bends, so each side of your body is strengthened.

Practicing yoga regularly can increase flexibility and energy, improve muscle strength and tone and promote better respiration and weight loss, according to the American Osteopathic Association. And because many of the yoga poses in Hatha involve gradually moving from a seated to a standing position, you'll also work on your range of motion and joint mobility.

In fact, a May 2012 randomized controlled trial in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, which included 250 participants with osteoarthritis in the knee joints, found that those who did Hatha yoga in addition to pain treatment saw more improvement in walking and range of motion in the knee than those who did therapeutic exercises after pain treatment.

In Hatha yoga, you'll also do poses that incorporate both the upper- and lower-body muscles and limbs, so you'll develop greater body awareness and learn how to move more mindfully, which can promote good posture and flexibility. This is particularly helpful for people with stiff joints, as well as athletes who want to improve their performance.

"Through my Hatha yoga practice, I have developed increased flexibility, better air flow and breathing practices, a better meditative practice, as well as a deepened appreciation for my spirituality," Glover says.

A June 2015 study in Evidence-Based Complementary Medicine, which included 154 middle-aged Chinese adults, found that after 12 weeks of Hatha yoga, participants improved their flexibility and muscular strength and endurance.

One of the things you'll learn quickly in Hatha yoga is that your breath helps you not only transition between the poses, but mindful breathing also helps you perform new and difficult poses. This can easily be translated to life off the mat. When you're going through stressful moments, focusing on your breathing can help put your mind at ease.

"No matter where I am, how I'm feeling or what's going on, if I really take the time to check in with myself, there's always a way to bring more comfort, joy and acceptance into the moment," Regaldo says.

Regaldo also credits her Hatha yoga practice with helping her lose weight. "There are so many benefits to practicing Hatha yoga regularly, but the most dramatic benefit I've experienced was an 85-pound weight loss over the course of four years, which I have been able to keep off for 12 years," Regaldo says.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, just 30 minutes of Hatha yoga can burn anywhere between 120 to 178 calories, depending on your weight.

Still, Hatha yoga doesn't have the same calorie-burning power as cardio workouts. To lose weight, the Mayo Clinic recommends supplementing your Hatha yoga practice with regular activity like walking, running, cycling or swimming and a healthy, calorie-controlled diet.

Whether a Hatha yoga class is slower-paced or more vigorous is up to the instructor, but the most important thing is to breathe through the transitions of the poses and to move at your own pace.

Some poses you can expect to do in a Hatha yoga class are Child's pose, Mountain pose, Downward Facing Dog and a nice back warm-up that includes Tabletop and Cat-Cow. These are great basic poses for beginners to learn, but they also serve as reminders for more advanced yogis to return to simplicity when the body needs it.

While the instructor will give you a general time frame for staying in a pose, you can expect to hold poses for five to 10 breaths. If you're not able to do certain poses, don't be shy to ask for a modification.

Regaldo also emphasizes letting go of all expectations and encourages students to not be concerned with setting strict goals, such as vigorously working through the hour-long classes or trying to nail down all the poses.

"I invite you to use your time on the mat for self-exploration and inquiry in place of judgements and rules," Regaldo says. "Even five minutes of mindful movements and breathing can do wonders."

Since Hatha yoga is arguably the most popular form of the practice, many fitness studios and gyms offer classes.

To find a Hatha yoga studio or class near you, check out Yoga Alliance and ClassPass. You can also find on-demand Hatha yoga classes at Yoga Greenbook, Daily Burn, Peloton and Alo Moves. If you're a member at larger gyms, ask if they have Hatha yoga class offerings.

To help get you started with cultivating calm and relaxation on and off the mat, here is a quick Hatha yoga flow to practice daily.

Hold each pose for five to 10 breaths and repeat the sequence for 2 to 4 rounds, making sure to switch sides where noted with each round. This flow is meant to be relaxing, so feel free to hold the poses longer.

Image Credit: Shawna Davis/LIVESTRONG.com

Skill Level Beginner

Activity Yoga

If your hips are tight, keep your knees and thighs together.

Image Credit: Shawna Davis/LIVESTRONG.com

Skill Level Beginner

Activity Yoga

If this is your first Downward Facing Dog of the day, put a gentle bend into the knees or cycle your legs, bending one knee at a time. Otherwise, you can straighten your legs while making sure not to lock out your knees to prevent potential injury.

Image Credit: Shawna Davis/LIVESTRONG.com

Skill Level Beginner

Activity Yoga

Image Credit: Shawna Davis/LIVESTRONG.com

Skill Level Beginner

Activity Yoga

Image Credit: Shawna Davis/LIVESTRONG.com

Skill Level Beginner

Activity Yoga

Image Credit: Shawna Davis/LIVESTRONG.com

Skill Level Beginner

Activity Yoga

Image Credit: Shawna Davis/LIVESTRONG.com

Skill Level Beginner

Activity Yoga

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What Is Hatha Yoga and What Are the Benefits? - LIVESTRONG.COM

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August 14th, 2020 at 11:53 pm

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