Hatha Yoga is about learning to balance two opposing forces. Ha being sun and tha being moon. We can take this concept and move it out into different areas.
Hatha Yoga is a branch of yoga which begins with the physical body. B.K.S. Iyengar was a leader in showing how alignment in the yoga postures is very important. Another great teacher of Hatha Yoga is T.K.V. Desikachar. He believed that yoga is not ‘one size fits all’ and needs to be carefully adapted to one’s own body type, age, health, cultural, etc.
It is very important to balance these two concepts:
alignment + what is happening in your body right now = the best yoga practice
Begin by following alignment cues as a guide to know your body better. Then use slight movement adjustments to find stability and ease in your body. Begin to listen to what your body is saying to you. Pull back when something is off and hurts! Just like we don’t respond well to being forced into a corner, neither does our body. Sense the tension created when we force and sense ease when we gently use small movement adjustments and props to aid us to find the right balance. Be kind to yourself. You are important. Being kind is more important than getting the posture ‘so called right’. This is the practice day in and day out.
It is your body and life after all. You do not need to fit into someone else’s mold; however, their mold may point to something within you to explore. Become your own inner teacher. Explore, experiment and appreciate the uniqueness of you in this moment.
Truly you don’t need to be flexible to benefit from hatha yoga.
Truly you don’t need to be young to benefit from hatha yoga.
If you can breathe, you can do yoga.
If you have a body, you can do yoga.
Yoga can be practiced anywhere and at anytime. Outside is the best.
They say that life should come with a manual. Hatha Yoga is a system that could be the first book of that life manual.
Yoga was created thousands of years ago in what we now call India by highly evolved and aware sages. They developed a physical, energetic, emotional, mental and spiritual system to guide us into being a more complete, whole, and healthy human being. It is a practice with many different areas of which Hatha Yoga is one. At its core, yoga is a way to harmonize the many different aspects of oneself (ie. physical, energetic, emotional, mental and spiritual). As well, it nurtures the higher capacity of us humans to be more compassionate, mindful, cooperative and peaceful.
The language of initial transmission of yoga is Sanskrit. The word ‘yoga’ is from the Sanskrit root yuk meaning ‘union’ or ‘yoke’. The word ‘hatha’ is a combination of the syllables ha and tha which signify respectively the ‘sun’ and ‘moon’. The sun being a positive male energy and the moon being a negative female energy. The purpose of Hatha Yoga is therefore to bring into a harmonious balance both energies (yoke of ha+tha) beginning with a system of physical maintenance and awareness.
Explore the hatha yoga journey now. It is simple.
Start with Mountain Pose (tadasana):
- If comfortable, remove any footwear. Stand with your feet hip width apart. Toes are pointing forward and if possible have the outside edges of your feet parallel.
- Note: if standing is not available to you right now, you can still be a mountain while sitting with feet flat on the ground. Feel your sitting bones connected to the chair. Ensure you are not leaning back in the chair.
- Place your hands on your hips. Bend the knees slightly, press your feet into the floor. Keep a firm connection with feet while bringing your legs into a straight position. Ideally the backs of your knees are to be in alignment with your heels. Depending on your body, give your body time to adjust to this alignment.
- Keep hands on hips. Hinge at the hips a little (not your lower back) and send your buttocks back. You should feel the weight shift into your heels. Still keep your big toe mound and little toe mound connected to the ground along with your heels.
- Engage your feet by bringing them together without moving them. Feel your inner thigh muscles engage. Keeping a long tall spine with its natural curves, tilt your pelvis and spine back to centre over top of your thighs, knees and ankles. Your buttocks should feel like they are hanging over the edge of a wall. This helps place the thighs right under the pelvis. And see if your abdominal muscles kick in.
- Place one hand on your front ribs and one on the back ribs. Smooth your ribs down and sense them connecting into your abdomen.
- Allow your arms to hang by your sides. Shoulders are feeling broad both in the front and back. Head is balanced on top of the shoulders with chin parallel to the ground.
- Check in: feet connected to earth; inner thighs engaged; buttocks back; shoulder, hip, knee and heels are aligned; chin parallel; and gaze is forward.
Down and Up: Place your attention on your feet. Feel your feet connect downwards and at the same time sense an energy moving up through the inner legs into the pelvis, up the spine and out of the crown of the head. Not sensing it? Try pushing your toe knuckles into the ground. Over time you can build your capacity to sense this bilateral energy of connecting downward and rising up at the same time. Also, sense yourself being grounded and centred at the same time.
Back and Front: Feel your back body engaged and supporting you. Feel your front body long (this is that youthful look we are all looking for 🙂
Side to Side: Feel your body broad at the pelvis and at the shoulders. See if you can with your breath expand gently your rib cage at the sides. Can you make your arms move out to the side with your breath? Have fun, explore, and experiment. Notice what you notice.
How does the posture make you feel? Can you find ease in the posture? If not that is okay? Wiggle around a bit to release tension and then allow your body to settle into an easeful position with your head nicely balanced on your shoulders? Smile. Does that change anything for you?
Can you imagine and sense yourself as a mountain? What is the view like at the mountain top? Cloudy? Clear? Allow your gaze to move far out. Without moving your head, what do you see in your peripheral vision? Can you sense what is behind you?
Gratitude. Amazing to think of all the creatures on earth we humans can stand upright naturally! What a gift. Now take a little stroll and feel yourself as a moving mountain! Sense yourself moving with grace and ease. Know you are AMAZING!
Bring the Mountain Pose into your everyday. Pay attention to how you are standing at home, in a line-up, speaking to someone. The opportunities are endless.