What do you want most out of life?

Maybe a new job, a new car or a relationship? Many of the things we want in life can make us happy for a short while, but once we dig deeper, we realise that we seek things that make us feel better. We seek a certain state of contentment and happiness with ourselves, but is this possible?

Imagine you can be ok with yourself? You can love and respect your body while you learn how to calm your mind and reduce the impact of stress. Imagine you can experience first-hand how a greater body-mind connection can bring you closer to accepting yourself fully, make you feel more connected to others and help you live a more peaceful life?

Modern life is filled with stress and anxiety. Continuously we perform and compete against others, forgetting about investing and taking care of ourselves. We feel tired and sometimes lose touch with our own authenticity. A frequent yoga practice can be the change you’ve always wanted and there is no better yoga type for all ages than Hatha yoga.

In this article you’ll learn all about the core benefits of yoga, as backed by science. You will learn how a frequent Hatha yoga practice can change your body and transform your mind to bring you closer to a happy, holistically healthy version of you.

Let’s dive into Hatha yoga and discover how it can transform your life.

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What is Hatha Yoga All About?

Asking a yoga teacher, yogi or performing a what is Hatha Yoga Google search might give you clues into how complex the world of yoga and Hatha is.

Some say yoga is a physical exercise, others say it’s linked to breathwork, spiritual mantras and meditation.

Yoga is a set of intricate practices, and it’s filled with different layers and ancient traditions. It still uses one of the oldest recorded languages in the world, called Sanskrit, and evolved from being an ascetic, spiritually focused practice, to a more physically dominated, ‘no-harm’ discipline that is practised in yoga classes across the globe.

A great Hatha yoga class will include elements of breathwork, physical poses called asanas and maybe even a little meditation. The overall objective of these practices is to bring balance and unity to your mind, body and soul.

Yoga translated directly means ‘union’.

Many yogis know which pose or breathing technique helps to ease pain or quieten their minds. Image Credit: Surface on Unspalsh

It is tricky to explain a Sanskrit term to English speaking people, especially if there are no related English terms and meaning could be influenced by a small tweak in the pronunciation.

This is clear when we explore the meaning of the word Hatha. If you pronounce it as ‘hah-tha’ it means slaughter or sad and depressed man. Pronounced correctly as ‘hat-tah’ it refers to the force and persistence we’ll associate with a yogic practice and lifestyle.

Yoga philosophy has always been interested in how we merge, assimilate or connect the various parts of ourselves: our physical bodies with our minds, our general external existence to our inner nature. The duality of yoga teaches us that we are more than what we automatically perceive ourselves to be. To be the best version of ourselves we need to study ourselves, bring full awareness to our thoughts and actions, and in so doing we slowly transform our lives and the world.

Yoga has seen exponential development over the last 600 years. Different yoga styles developed, and Hatha yoga became a popular style of its own. Today Hatha yoga is one of the most accessible, balanced and scalable types of yoga and is thus ideal for any beginner. It tends to be slightly slower than other forms like Bikram yoga and most asanas you see in classes nowadays come from ancient hatha poses.

Learn more about the history of Hatha yoga here.

The Intangible Benefits of Hatha Yoga.

Hatha yoga helps to improve your strength, but it is certainly not the most physical form of yoga. You will do different asanas to work up a sweat while you work on your balance and breathing, but during a class you will hold each pose for a bit longer than you would in a class. It is not about doing more poses, but about going deeper into the poses and becoming fully aware of your body and the sensations you create within.

Hatha yoga is aimed at opening energy channels within the body, and it allows a lot of room for introspection around emotions and personal mental state despite its physical nature. It’s a bit more difficult to measure spiritual and contemplative practices, but by making time and allowing for guidance through introspective exercises it will bring you more in touch with your own body and mind.

Yoga can teach us not to become the slaves of our emotions and thoughts.  It’s important to note that we don’t want to ignore or suppress our emotions, we just want to manage them, move through an emotional experience without holding onto it or allowing it to dominate our thoughts and lives.

Can you get out of your thinking mind and just focus on the present?

Imagine you can train your brain not to be anxious about the future and to completely release the past? This is what yoga aims to do and as you turn your focus inward during your practice and forge connections between your spirit, body and mind. You will slowly learn to accept and let go that which you cannot control while gradually working towards becoming your best version by changing that which you can.

Yoga helps us to break through thoughts and emotional patterns that don’t serve us anymore. Intense research studies have shown that yoga transforms the physical brain in a process called neuroplasticity. The reinforcement of positive thoughts and focus on uplifting thoughts will strengthen neural pathways and slowly your thoughts become more dominated with the thoughts you choose.

Imagine you could study and control your thoughts to eliminate judgemental self-talk and criticism. Wouldn’t that create a happier and healthier you?

Science has proven how a regular yoga practice improves mental health and overall associative thinking. Brain studies have also shown how practising yoga and meditation can reduce the size of the amygdala, the area in your brain that's associated with fear and negative emotions. Attention, control and concentration areas in the brain are also enhanced and your brain will gradually reduce the amount of cortisol, a stress hormone, while it increases the happy hormones like GABA and serotonin.

The Physical Benefits of Doing Hatha

Now you know that yoga can physically change your brain to be happier, but what about changes in your body?

For many people the talk of energy centres, chakras and doshas are too abstract. They want more practical evidence around the physical benefits of yoga. Luckily all the ancient wisdom we learnt from the long-gone yogis is being proven as scientifically correct through numerous studies.

woman performing seated twist yoga asana
Certain twists and compression poses help to massage the internal organs. - Source: Pexels

Do you want to find a calming way to lose weight or reduce pain? Are you all about the health or fitness benefits that come from a yoga workout? If so, you'll find these factual benefits of practising hatha yoga interesting:

  1. Improve heart and circulatory health – Hatha is a great way to get a moderate cardiovascular workout, depending on your level of fitness. The sun salutations and balancing poses will increase your heart rate, and most people enjoy more of a ‘glow’ than a hard-hitting downpour of sweat. The resources to back-up the benefits of cardiovascular exercise to our bodies are endless, but include physical affects like the lowering of blood pressure, reduction of cholesterol and improvements around blood circulation throughout the body. It has also been proven that a yogic lifestyle, inclusive of healthy diet, yoga and mindfulness, can reverse heart damage and heal the muscles of the heart itself.
  2. Strengthen your body and enhance your posture – Hatha will make you hold and balance in some tricky asanas. It might be frustrating at first, but you’ll learn self-compassion and in the process, you’ll work on your core, back and overall muscular strength. Strengthening your back, opening your hamstrings, mobilising the joints and lengthening muscles will lead to the slow correction of your posture. If you work at a desk and sit for long periods, yoga has some of the best exercises for fixing those shortened muscles. The resistance training will also lead to stronger bones and greater bone density.
  3. Better mobility, flexibility and balance – Working your body, joints and muscles in new ways means you make them less prone to injury. This will make everyday tasks, like picking up children, easier and safer. Yoga will improve your overall flexibility and you'll just move through life with greater ease.
  4. Cleaner body and healthy metabolism – Regular yoga will also help to regulate your weight as it stimulates and balances out your metabolism. You will sweat with each session, which will help to purify your body and rid it of toxins. Certain compression poses and twists will also massage the internal organs and digestive system to aid with this detoxifying process to leave you with a clean system and glowing skin.
  5. Improved respiration and vitality – Breathing exercises (Pranayama) is integral to a yoga practice. You will learn how to breathe deep and slow while learning how to use your breath to carry your body through stressful or challenging times. This could be one of the greatest benefits in life, but it’ll also physically benefit your body by regulating the amount of oxygen you have in your blood.

The Yoga Experience Within Your Reach

The greatest gift you will ever give yourself will be to participate and engage in a frequent yoga practice. It’s not only about the clear mind, healthy body and returning to yourself, it’s about allowing yourself to discover your true essence.

Join a studio near you or book a free trial session with a Superprof yoga teacher. We have a list of yoga profiles you can browse through and you can specifically search for a Hatha yoga instructor if you are new to yoga. Most trainers are also qualified to adapt classes to suit your level of fitness and flexibility. They will do modified Hatha yoga poses and, if you are interested in the principles of Hatha yoga, they can place more focus on that aspect during your class. It's your practice, your body, and they want you to love the experience.

Are you ready to give yourself one of the most valuable gifts in life? Book your first yoga session today on Superprof.

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Mauritz

Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.