Hatha yoga is one of the most popular and we can also say – one of the most visual kinds of yoga. Actually, when people are talking about yoga they imagine the poses of hatha yoga. Why is it popular today? Let’s take a look on the physical aspect of hatha yoga and what it gives to our body and what is the advantage of hatha yoga compared to other physical practices.
The pace of the human life is becoming faster and faster and there is continuous emotional and physical stress. In addition, very many people have low-level of physical activity: people tend to sit a lot at work near a computer, then they sit in the transportation and at home they sit at the TV or computer screen. So they have a need for physical exercises and people start doing sports in order to remove the emotional tension with the physical one. Of course, there are advantages but sports don’t usually teach how to relax. It is just replacing of one type of efforts with another one.
The approach of yoga in working with our body differs from the one of sports. In hatha yoga we are offered to work with our physical body through static exercises or asanas. And there is enormous quantity of hatha yoga poses. There is no sense to argue which pose belongs to yoga and which don’t. Because doing one pose in a different way than it was intended we are automatically making another yoga pose. In our days there are around 80-90 poses being actively practiced. But if it is not enough for you it is possible to pick from billion of known asanas. Many names of poses have not reached our days, we have lost them. And the ones that we know may differ in various schools of yoga. There can be different poses under one name or different names for one pose. In yoga the main thing that you are doing and then how you do it and not what you are doing.
Hatha yoga is for everybody
The advantage of hatha yoga is that IT WORKS, regardless upon whether you understand the axioms of yoga and the principles of its work or not. Hatha yoga itself by its action pushes your mind to reopen, realize how it works. This is another reason why hatha yoga in particular has preserved at a larger extent than other kinds of yoga. Anyone from ordinary person up to yoga master may practice hatha yoga. If it is done on a regular basis people receive the result with or without understanding of yoga principles or how it works.
So, how does it work? According to yoga we have two more groups of bodies besides our physical body, which are subtle and causal. These bodies are made of very fine substance and almost don’t cross each other. But there is what is named Prana which like a glue sticks those three bodies together, thus uniting them. Prana is a connecting link between the bodies.
Influencing the physical body by one or another pose of hatha yoga, we start influencing subtle and causal bodies through Prana. Doing physical exercise, we purify our body. The effect of hatha yoga is not limited to the physical level only. A person becomes more balanced; intellectual skills start developing indirectly as they are connected to subtle body as well. If the person hasn’t yet polished the intellect due to some karmic reasons, then it can be done by practicing hatha yoga. Influencing the physical level we receive the effect on subtle and causal levels. Hatha yoga is a base for practicing advanced kinds of yoga. It is non- sense to practice more advanced kinds as long as you have not mastered the basic ones!
How to learn hatha yoga?
It’s possible to study yoga by oneself but it’s advisable to have an instructor who will push you in the right direction in the beginning at least. If there is no such possibility, you can start practicing hatha yoga exercises yourself at your own risk up to some level but this may slow down your progress considerably. Start with the instructor and then you can go on yourself. And as the time will go you will better start feeling your body and what it really needs. By regular hatha yoga practice the person starts feeling which food is good (suitable) and which is not, how much time is required for sleep and starts getting close to more harmonious lifestyle.
Methods of hatha yoga
In the school of Open Yoga there are two opposite approaches applied for any yoga practice: method of energy (mother’s method) and method of consciousness (father’s method). And on the cross of these two methods the mastery of yoga (i.e. harmony) is reached. If the person starts practicing on his/her own and does not have this information then most often we see the same mistakes – excessive practice of yoga by one methods or another one. In the Energy method we are invited to take approximate position of the pose and relax, and wait until awakened energy itself will put as it is necessary. In the Consciousness method is the contrary. In it we are invited to see ourselves as perfect yogis and to start making efforts to take the pose as we have seen it and if our body does not “obey” then we are forcing it in a good way.
Whether you will practice hatha yoga using the method of Energy or using the method of Consciousness, you have to feel joy either from practicing or from overcoming yourself. If you don’t fell joy, but sufferings, this means that you neither practicing Energy nor Consciousness method. You will master hatha yoga only when you will be able to make exercises by both of these methods.
Or, to tell it in other words, as written in the texts: «You need both mother and father for the baby to be born». Also for the birth of the great hatha yogi or yogini you need both mother’s method of Energy and father’s method of Consciousness. In addition, the yogi starts applying the consciousness and energy method in life, work and studies. In this way the life becomes more conscious. When we practice hath yoga poses we work with our spine and almost all muscles of the body. Thereby, we become more physically healthy. But we have to remember that yoga is not treating illnesses but it is more like prophylactics. We learn to relax, get rid of stress and so on.
Own hatha yoga practice and prostrations
Learning of hatha yoga should be started in yoga studio with the yoga instructor. Then you may make your own complex of 5-7 poses, the ones you like the best, that inspire you. Asanas have to compensate each other: if we bend forward then we have to bend backward, if you twisted to the right, then you have to twist to the left. It is also good to add one pose for balance, one reverse pose and maybe one power asana and one more difficult pose you want to learn. Plus add a pose you like a lot!
Prostration yoga is also good for everyday practice. This is a variation of hatha yoga where asanas change each other in a specific sequence – very powerful and positive practice. It is more explicit (longer) variant of prostration. This all can leave an impact on your emotional condition. You can see tradition of repeated movements in many teachings, religions, etc. And sooner or later we will notice that some movements stimulate or suppress some emotions.
For example, if we have to prostrate then we have to overcome our unwillingness to do something. Or vice versa we are arrogant and by prostration we work with our ego. It is valuable work with ourselves. The short versions of prostration yoga are Surya Namaskara and Chandra Namaskara or Sun and Moon salutations. These are very popular complexes also in the West.
But the prostration yoga is not making the focus on breathing. You may do prostration yoga fast or slow, you may stay in some poses for more time as it is the most pleasant. The main thing is the feeling of harmony during the entire practice.