Yoga is becoming a top choice by individuals and health practitioners alike as a remedial therapy for stress management. The Mayo Clinic states, “Stress that's left unchecked can contribute to health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.” Though recognized and practiced for centuries in Eastern cultures, the Western world has only begun to recognize the true benefits of a yogic regimen. Yoga is seen not only as an effective stress management tool but also as an excellent way to promote overall wellness by increasing strength, flexibility and mental clarity. Studies indicate that these benefits may denote yoga as a means of reducing the risk or impact of cardiovascular disease, chronic pain and movement-related injury.
Overview of Hatha Yoga. Essentially, hatha yoga encompasses the physical aspects of yoga, or those that use force. In the traditional sense, this means using the force of muscle or forcefully withdrawing the mind from the physical world (as in meditation). When referred to in the Western world, hatha generally refers to the types of yoga that emphasize precise, prolonged postures and directly encourage the mind-body connection. This is differentiated from raja yoga in that hatha focuses on physical positions and movement as an end in itself, whereas raja uses them more as a means to achieve mental and physical stillness in preparation for meditation.
Types of Hatha Yoga. Though some Western sources label hatha yoga as precise, separate movements apart from the movement of breath, this may be simply to help yoga beginners differentiate between hatha yoga classes and vinyasa yoga classes. Vinyasa classes focus solely on exercises and meditations that move with the flow of breath, though traditionally vinyasa is a type of hatha yoga. In fact, hatha encompasses nearly every type of yoga recognized and practiced in the mainstream Western world; this includes such types as Bikram, Ashtanga and Forrest yoga, among others. If you’re looking for a hatha yoga class that meets your needs and expectations, make sure to discuss the focus and outcomes of the class with your potential teacher to ensure that you get the type of yoga that will truly benefit you.