Hatha is a broad term that encompasses any of the physical practices of yoga and it could mean a lot of things. Most group of yoga classes including the contemporary types could be categorized as Hatha.
To put things in a clearer perspective, Hatha is an endless and adaptable practice usually tailored by the instructors for the specific needs of their students. For this reason, it can be difficult to give a clear and definitive description of what it really is, as instructors have a lot of freedom to choose what they teach in a Hatha class.
What is the purpose of Hatha yoga?
Each Hatha yoga class is different from one another. But what makes them similar is the use of breathing techniques to link between body movements and poses. This practice allows you to free your mind of clutter by focusing on the moment while performing well-rounded poses that opens up your body. It will improve your concentration, strength and flexibility.
What are the the benefits of Hatha yoga?
In addition to flexibility and strength, the yoga practice of Hatha has many other health benefits like:
- Tones your muscles
- Enhances physical balance
- Promotes better circulation
- Alleviates stress
- Improves your concentration
- Balances your energy
The other benefits of Hatha yoga include:
Builds Immunity – The muscle movements in the body help boost your lymph circulation and drainage. This aids the lymphatic system fight diseases and flush out the body’s toxic waste products from cellular functioning. It also fights budding infections and destroys cells that could potentially become cancerous.
Strengthen The Spine – Stretching and other forms of physical exercise help tone the spine. Medical scientists say that when the spine is rigid, nerve impulses cannot flow as freely and the body receives weaker impulses. If you keep your spine healthy and flexible, the nerves remain strong and they branch out more from the spine.
Release Mind and Body Tension – Hatha and all its other forms encourage you to focus on your poses and breathing. As the exercises help relax your brain and body, they also improve your concentration which means you can achieve a calmer and more peaceful state of mind.
Improves Mood – Yoga, just like any other forms of physical exercise, can help stimulate the release of the “feel-good” hormones in the body serotonin and dopamine. When these hormones are flowing, they give you that sense of peace and relaxation. It also lightens up your mood throughout the day and keeps you feeling happy and satisfied.
What is contemporary Hatha yoga?
Given that Hatha is such an open practice, there are so many unexpected things that could happen in a Hatha class.
Today, this type of practice is used to describe gentler and more basic poses with breathing exercises. You can expect a slower-paced stretching, less intensive meditations and some basic pranayama breathing techniques.
If you have never tried yoga before, this is the first category you can experience as it helps you work on your alignment, relaxation, flexibility and strength – all important characteristics you must possess to accelerate to more advanced classes.
What is “Hatha flow”?
Some studios or private classes classify their sessions as “Hatha flow”. As mentioned earlier, Hatha is a very open practice and it can be difficult to provide a clear description on what the class will be until you have tried it yourself.
Most Hatha flow classes move from pose to pose in a sequence without resting, hence the word “flow”. This can be correctly described as a less scale of Vinyasa, but on a moderate level of intensity of Hatha.
You might also see both Vinyasa and Hatha flow being offered in the same studio. Just keep in mind that Vinyasa is more vigorous, while Hatha flow is more advanced than the regular Hatha yoga class. If you need more clarifications on both lessons, you can approach the instructor or try the class yourself to find out.
Is Hatha yoga for you?
A Hatha class is generally more appealing to the beginners because of its gentle poses. It can be used as an introductory course to yoga, but it does not mean that it is going to be easy. Hatha classes are still quite challenging physically and mentally while providing opportunities to stretch, unwind, release tension and improve your physical fitness.
If you feel like Hatha is too slow or not active enough, do not dismiss yoga completely. You can always attend a different class where they introduce more athletic ways to do yoga (like Vinyasa or Bikram).