Hatha relaxation for fitness!

2013May08_HathaYoga_ASportsmen and athletes boast of it helping their training, while svelte celebrities cite yoga as their toned-body secret. Yoga, as a fitness trend has gone mainstream, with the Hatha system of yoga being the most commonly practiced in the West. The majority of people take up this form of yoga to increase their body strength and flexibility. They focus only on the physical and neglect the other aspects of this ancient practice that can help their wellbeing.

Hatha ‘s techniques of controlled breathing, (pranayama), balancing of mind and body and meditation, can bring relief from stress, improve your circulation and even benefit your heart rate and blood pressure.

Hatha was codified by Yogi Swatmarama back in 15th century India, although its origins lay much further back than that. A practice which has been around for centuries must be of some lasting benefit to people. Hatha Yoga gives your body greater flexibility, stronger joints and better coordination. It can help prevent injury in sport, improve posture and can even elongate your spine to alleviate neck pain. These physical pluses are why so many people take up yoga, but the breathing (pranayama) techniques and meditative aspects of Hatha can help.

Breathing (pranayama)

Prana is your vital energy and ayama means to control or increase. So the deep breathing techniques taught in Hatha yoga are aimed at controlling your body’s life force.

Pranayama is aimed at keeping the body healthy. In everyday respiration, we take in air to oxygenate our blood and keep our systems running  and then exhale carbon dioxide to take away toxic wastes. Pranayama makes this process more effective. Most people breath from the chest and use only a small part of their lung capacity.  With the breathing techniques of Hatha Yoga you breathe more slowly and more deeply, increasing lung capacity and bringing more oxygen into the body. Those who regularly practice Hatha claim these breathing techniques have other benefits too:

  • Brings more oxygen into the blood feeding your major organs.

  • Helps draw out waste from your body, helping prevent diseases.

  • Helps digestion by increasing the blood flow to your digestive tract.

  • Increases lung elasticity and capacity.

  • Improves posture.

  • Aids concentration, relaxes and relieves stress.

Recent studies have even shown that oxygen is the most important component in the production of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), the chemical basis of all energy production in the body, as well as cellular reproduction, repair, growth, movement and metabolism. So every proper breath you take is improving your body’s function at a cellular level.

Meditation

With its focus on concentrated breathing and aligning the body and mind, Hatha Yoga takes you away from distractions and forces you to look within. Mediation is an essential element of Hatha and enables you to really focus on your behavior and habits and learn to deal with stress, ease tension, and manage any feelings of anxiety. If you are a person who finds it hard to make big lifestyle changes, yoga can help you to recognise areas where you could improve your life. Meditation has many other benefits:

  • Slows breathing and heart rate and increases blood flow, regulating blood pressure

  • Boosts serotonin levels in your body, which affect your mood and behavior.

  • Reduces tension in the body, relieving pain and helping your body to heal faster.

  • Balances your breathing patterns with your body so your systems are optimised.

  • Inspires better focus for self control, calming anxiety levels and improving decision-making..

So while Hatha Yoga is a great way to improve your body strength and flexibility, you are only getting some of the health benefits if you neglect its more mindful elements. True health not only means taking care of what is outside, but your internal workings and mental health too. This ancient form of fitness offers the whole package, offering you the chance to be a healthier, calmer and more mindful person.

Want to learn more about Hatha Yoga and see how it can complement your workout program? Come talk to a member of our team.

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