What Is Hatha Yoga?

Rather than being a style of yoga as such, Hatha describes any kind of yoga where poses (asanas) are practiced, this would include Ashtanga, Vinyasa and Iyengar yoga to name a few popular styles.

The word Hatha is the Sanskrit word for ‘Forceful’, and represents a system of physical techniques. Broken down, the Sanskrit word Ha translates to ‘sun’ and Tha to ‘moon’, equating to Hatha being the yoga practice of balance.

Hatha yoga has developed in the western world into a style of yoga that is widely practiced. Classes described as Hatha Yoga would be more basic and gentle with a focus on alignment, and physical and mental benefits of each pose, making Hatha the perfect choice for a novice yogi.

In addition to asana practice, Hatha yoga utilises breath in the form of pranayama exercises (controlled breathing techniques) and meditation which is at the heart of traditional Hatha yoga.

 

Benefits Of Hatha Yoga

Like with all the yoga disciplines the benefits of Hatha yoga are vast. The purpose of the practice is to create complete health of your mind and body and to allow breath and energy to flow through you freely.

Hatha yoga uses physical poses to generate strength and flexibility and to drive energy into all areas of the body, removing any built up tension.

The benefits include:

  • Increase in flexibility - This may seem like an obvious benefit of yoga but being flexible is so important to our physical health. Flexibility allows you to use the maximum strength of your muscles, decreases risk of injury and lubricates your joints. 

    Flexibility is built up by holding postures that force us to stretch and twist muscles that we otherwise wouldn’t reach in our day to day activities.
  • Lowers stress levels - This benefit you may notice immediately after your first class. The way breath is used during your practice stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, our rest and digest state. This enables us to still the busy mind and lower the heart rate. 

    One study taken by UCLA revealed a reduction in the proteins responsible for increased inflammation which trigger stress in the body. 
  • Strengthens and tones the body - Working with your own body weight is an excellent way of building strength and tone in the body, and this is exactly what you do in a Hatha yoga class. A lot of the poses taught will be held for longer periods of time, will engage your muscles and be repeated throughout the class.
  • Increase in fitness - In a study looking at the physiological changes in adult women after a short period of regular yoga practice, evidence showed an increase in cardiorespiratory efficiency. 
  • Boosts your immune system - Twisting and stretching your body stimulates your lymphatic system and increases the drainage of toxins in the body. This helps the body to fight infection and illness and improve overall health.
  • Mood Elevation - Many studies have been performed to show how beneficial yoga and meditation can be on our mental health. The Harvard Medical School recognizes the positive effect yoga has on reducing anxiety and depression.

 

What Is Yin Yoga?

Yin Yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga as exercise, incorporating principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, with asanas (postures) that are held for longer periods of time. For beginners, asanas may be held from 3-5 minutes. The sequences of postures are meant to stimulate the channels of the subtle body known as meridians in Chinese medicine and as nadis in Hatha yoga.

Yin Yoga poses apply moderate stress to the connective tissues of the body—the tendons, fasciae, and ligaments—with the aim of increasing circulation in the joints and improving flexibility. A more meditative approach to yoga, its goals are awareness of inner silence, and bringing to light a universal, interconnecting quality.

Yin Yoga began in the late 1970s as martial arts expert and yoga teacher Paulie Zink's Taoist Yoga. Yin Yoga is taught across North America and Europe, encouraged by the Yin Yoga teachers and developers Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers. Yin Yoga as taught by Grilley and Powers is not intended as a complete practice in itself, but as a complement to more active forms of yoga and exercise. However, Zink's approach includes the full range of Taoist yoga, both yin and conventional.

 

Benefits of a regular Yin yoga practice

  • Calms and balances the mind and body
  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Increases circulation
  • Improves flexibility
  • Releases fascia and improves joint mobility
  • Balances the internal organs and improves the flow of chi or prana