When people talk about yoga, they usually mean Hatha yoga which is the most well-known of the disciplines. Hatha can be interpreted as meaning sun and moon and yoga translates as union or unity.
The focus of Hatha yoga is for the student to achieve a balance of body and mind and to be able to cope with the daily stresses and strains. Continued and regular practice enables the student to achieve a sense of deep inner peace, mental clarity, flexibility of the body and to be able to reach deeper relaxation.
There are many useful books or DVDs on the subject of yoga and these depict the correct body alignment, the various stages of development within individual postures and also the benefits. Hatha yoga was pioneered in the 15th century and is suitable for the complete beginner, those with disabilities or those who are inflexible. Hatha yoga could be considered the ultimate stepping-stone from beginner to greater health.
Some of the postures have a positive impact on conditions such as arthritis and diabetes and by practicing the breathing techniques, can help with asthma and also those who suffer with bronchitis.
Hatha yoga is more of a way of life rather than a set of exercises. It becomes a conscious act, a way of developing and improving, a way of reaching a higher awareness.
Each of the postures should be carefully followed to reach maximum benefits and attention should be turned inwards so that the practitioner is aware of every movement, every sensation, feeling the stretch and then releasing the tension. Whilst increased flexibility is the aim of many, it is more about listening to the body rather than the reward of being sat in some advanced yogic position, which is more important.
The benefits of yoga can be felt within days; certainly a feeling of lightness and achievement can happen quite readily. Yoga is highly therapeutic, the regular practice sessions providing an outlet for tension and everyday stresses and strains.
Attendance at a yoga class is useful as not only can the student receive regular guidance from the teacher, but there is a feeling of support from the other students too and often, strong friendships can develop through the attendance of a class. These friendships can be useful in that they encourage continued practice of yoga even on those days when you may not feel like practicing.
During your Hatha yoga session, the teacher will also introduce gentle relaxation techniques, which will then lead into guided visualizations and meditations so that the students can realize the benefits that are achievable instantly through applied practice.
Yoga postures, the breathing techniques and meditation are simple techniques for the eager practitioner to achieve a healthy balance in life.