Why do we feel so good after a workout? It’s been proven that exercise-induced endorphins lift our mood. Deep, full breathing, whether from working out or practicing yoga has a reliable effect on the body, increasing circulation and cardiovascular capacity. Breath combined in a specific way with movement, as in yoga vinyasa, can have a profound effect on a person’s well-being.
Hatha yoga probably originated about 400-500 years ago and is a combination of asanas, pranayama and mudras.
Asanas, or postures, are practices engaging the physical body and breath. When we practice asana, our flow of prana, or life force, is balanced.
Pranayama is the conscious regulation of the unconscious breath. Extending the exhalation would be an example of this practice. Pranayama practice promotes cleansing of emotional and physical toxins, allowing new prana to enter the body. Prana then flows and extends to every part of our conscious living entity.
Mudras are ways of holding or locking energy in the body, most often affecting how we feel, or our “mood”.
The word hatha is a combination of two Sanskrit words, Ha and Tha. “Ha” is the cool, yin energy of the moon (chandra) and associated with the feminine aspect of our being. “Tha” is the yang, hot energy of the sun (surya) and corresponds to our masculine aspect. Both of these opposite energies exist in our bodies all the time. Regular practice of hatha yoga balances these energies and keeps us stable and healthy.
For those who think a strong physical yoga practice is required for results, hatha yoga works at a much more energetic level than physiological level. It has to do with the flow of prana and engages our inner strength. When this happens, our balance improves on all levels: body, mind and spirit. We become strong from within. Our physical and mental stamina increases. We gain a new clarity and confidence as we learn to quiet our busy minds and access the power within. Our mood and ability to sleep improves, as well as our ability to concentrate and focus.
As athletes, we are used to “doing” our best and achieving our goals. In a yoga practice, it’s about “being”. Yoga is not a competitive sport. If I were to point out the biggest “mistake” I see students make in a yoga class, it’s trying too hard. Don’t worry if you can’t touch your toes; yoga is not about that. The poses are not the main event. If you can breathe, you can do yoga. The subtle practices are the deepest.
Yoga has been called the science of human capacity. The practice of hatha yoga is doing everything possible in our life to ensure that the prana in our system flows smoothly. This is how we access our highest human capacity.