Dating back to 15th century India, Hatha Yoga is the mainstay for many other forms of yoga including Birkram, Power, Kundalini and Ashtanga. Many of these styles use the postures found in Hatha and it is the style most people associate with when first starting out practising yoga.
Hatha Yoga History
The word hatha itself comes from the ancient Sanskrit language and translates to “forceful” and encompasses much. “Hat” itself means sun; “ha” means moon. So hatha encompasses the forces of the sun and moon. Founded by sage Swami Swatamarama, its mission is to focus energy in your body and mind and doing so, Hatha Yoga cleanses the whole body so it is free from disease.
Sage Swatamarama created Hatha Yoga by combining the asanas or postures of a more ancient yoga that focuses on slow and gentle movements, with the breathing techniques called pranayama. It is this combination that creates shatkarma or the purification first of the physical body followed by the purification of the mind.
A Typical Yoga Session
Most Hatha Yoga sessions last for approximately 30 minutes where in that amount of time, students practise a series of postures to improve strength, stamina, balance and flexibility. By intensely focusing on doing the postures correctly, you’ll also get clarity of the mind and improve the function of your internal organs; postures work the entire body inside and out. While there are well over one hundred asanas to choose from, some good postures to try when first starting out are the Warrior and Mighty Pose along with the Mini Sun Salutation. A couple of good stress relievers and relaxation poses include the Kneeling Cat-Swan Pose and the Head-to-Knees pose.
Health Benefits of Yoga:
Many people practise yoga in general for its health benefits including:
- Positive thoughts
- Mental clarity
- Renewed sense of enthusiasm
- Improved sleep
- Less stress
- Improved physical health
Most of these benefits you can’t buy in a bottle as a prescription; but you don’t have to. Yoga will improve your health, well-being and give you a positive outlook on life in general. Why? Because you are not wasting energy on negative thoughts anymore. You are channelling that energy where it does the most good. And because it is low-impact, it is joint-friendly and anyone can do it.
Let’s start with discussing Iyengar yoga. The Iyengar style of yoga focuses on posture and precision and as a result is one of the more challenging types of yoga. Iyengar yoga bases its principals on 200 types of asanas or poses divided into six “legs”. Each leg focuses on a particular benefit. For example one leg improves your strength while another improves your mental focus. Master all six legs, which is more difficult than it sounds, and you will experience things that will literally change your life.
Much of the precision of this style of yoga comes from first mastering the 14 breathing regulation techniques called “pranayama”. By concentrating on your breathing first, you improve and deepen your focus on other things, which allows next the perfection of the postures.
The Uniqueness of Iyengar
Iyengar differs from other types of yoga in three ways:
- Sequence – By practising postures in a different order, different mental and emotional effects can be derived.
- Timing – By focusing on doing each asana correctly without regard to time, more benefits can be extracted.
- Technique – Taking the time to focus on further refining the performance of asanas to derive maximum benefits.
To practise the postures correctly, the inhalation and exhalation of breaths must occur at the right places within the posture. Mastering breathing regulation first is what allows this to happen more easily. When first starting out performing a posture in Iyengar Yoga, you are encouraged to use chairs, cushions, blankets, bands and other exercise props that help you perfect the pose. As you become better at a posture, you can quit using the prop if you want.
More blood flow increases awareness and clearer thinking. This also increases flow to the pituitary and pineal glands thereby improve the functions of the body controlled by these glands, namely the regulation of several physiological processes (such as stress, growth and reproduction) and the secretion of melatonin, respectively. Because of its unique health benefits, and the fact that it is a “slower” form of yoga, it is a great form of yoga for older people that may be suffering from various diseases. The asanas direct energy to parts of the body affected, thereby promoting healing.
Because Iyengar yoga is difficult to master, you should first practice it as part of an instructor-led class. If none are in your area, then resort to watching instructional videos either from DVDs or YouTube.
The Ultimate Sweat That is Hot Yoga
Some like it hot! If this is you, then Bikram style, or hot yoga, is for you. In the 1970s, Birkram Choudhury from Calcutta, India pioneered a form of Hatha Yoga into a routine of 26 yoga postures called asanas and two breathing exercises that are usually performed in a high temperature/humid environment – 98o to 105o Fahrenheit or 37o to 40o Celsius – each with around 40% humidity. A typical 90-minute workout can burn around 595 calories or 2,500 kilojules, so as you can see, the training is intense.
The heated humid environment is necessary to:
- Warm up the muscles to allow for deeper stretching without injury
- Increase flexibility
- Detoxify your body
- Thin out your blood for better circulation
- Increase your heart rate for a better cardiovascular workout
- Improve muscle strength
The postures used in hot yoga are designed to systematically massage your internal organs, flush toxins out of your cardiovascular system and stimulate your endocrine and nervous systems, along with stretching and toning of muscles and ligaments. The latter increases your flexibility. This style of yoga is also used by many for weight loss.
Your first session of Birkram can be overwhelming. Many students feel nauseous or dizzy in their first class due to the high heat, humidity and intensity of the workout. However, most studios have salt and potassium tablets available that can help alleviate the dizziness. Others report a disoriented feeling after the first few classes. Don’t worry – that’s your body’s way of showing it is starting to cleanse and detox itself through your workouts. All of these symptoms disappear after a few workout sessions as your body acclimates to the extreme workout environment. Keeping hydrated each day and not eating for at least two hours before your session are two things you can do to help your body adjust.
The 26 exercises are best performed in a sequence as each one builds upon the one before it. Through the standing and seated poses, the muscles, nerves, glands, ligaments and organs are all exercised to develop your body into a well-balanced (both physically and mentally), healthy machine.
Its success is credited in part to the postures that compress and expand blood vessels, thus treating them more like muscles. This process increases the oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange in the cells, thus reducing disease and sickness and increasing your physical well-being. Studies have shown that Bikram yoga is great at helping speed up the recovery of damaged tissue. And because it is low-impact, people of all ages, and especially those with joint problems, can enjoy its benefits too.
Strengthen Your Center with Core Power Yoga
Core power yoga is an energetic yoga exercise that physically and mentally challenges to help connect to inner power without stopping and accompanied by a heated, climate controlled Vinyasa. It heals, detoxifies and stimulates the body and mind through balance and intention.
Power yoga has created a dynamic, challenging program that combines strength, sweat and spirituality. It recognizes power in different levels; first is the physical power which develops the body’s strength and improve health; second is the mental power or the will to concentrate on the practice; and last the spiritual power which is the power behind the physical and mental power.
Core power yoga is a Western adaptation of the Indian Ashtanga Yoga. My initial yoga teacher training was in Ashtanga yoga. I feel it imperative that I note here the difference between the physical posture/hatha style of Ashtanga, and the more traditional 8 Limbs of Yoga Astanga practice (which is a more spiritual and philosophical branch of yogic tradition). The hatha practice itself has been brought to the west by followers of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, a Sanskrit scholar who inspired Western Yogis with his Ashtanga Yoga Style and philosophies.
There are three programs introduced a number of years ago by Baron Baptiste – whom I started out with ages ago in power yoga. “Core Power” is designed to strengthen abdominals and back and includes both abs-focused Vinyasa power yoga poses and variations of muscle-toning moves. “Unlocking Athletic Power” will develop flexible strength with an emphasis on abs, back, hips and pelvis. “Soul of Strength” on the other hand is a fast-moving power yoga program with a distinct “mid-body” emphasis and some very challenging moves.
Yoga sessions are often done in a heated room and composed of different cardiovascular exercises intended to develop strength and flexibility, increase stamina, improves the ability to focus, release tensions and remove toxins through sweating. Poses are done at a fairly fast pace, and some poses are even held longer than the required five breaths. This practice can increase physical endurance and ability to focus on any task for a long time without breaking the concentration.
What is the difference between core power yoga and other exercises?
Core Power Yoga is a vinyasa style that has a unique program offering and focuses on core strength, balance and flow to build a solid practice based on strength and spirit. It even offers diverse blended classes like Hot Yoga, Yoga Sculpt, Bootcamps, Teacher Trainings and Mat Pilates.
It also offers great health benefits; this lengthens and stretches the muscles and at the same time it builds stamina, strength and lean muscle and mass. It also increases body heat that kills some bacteria and creates a finely tuned state of consciousness of the workings of the body. The focus of core power yoga is on the coordination of the breath movement, connecting the body, mind and spirit to the warmest level, and can therefore reshape your body and mind!