Hatha Yoga or Effort Yoga

Hatha Yoga is yoga practiced through physical exercise. Hatha means effort in Sanskrit. It is based on the balance of opposing principles:

– the material and the immaterial, represented by the body and the mind;

– the mobility and immobility of the body, in performing the poses;

– stamina, to maintain them, and relaxation;

– effort and becoming calm, both physically and mentally.

Not to forget breathing: inspiration and expiration give rhythm to the movements, and breathing control is essential.

The aim of Hatha Yoga is to rid the disciple’s mind of all disturbance, by focussing on the self.

Some poses are more difficult to perform than others. They involve movements which stretch muscles and require stamina, and also stability to strengthen weaker parts of the body.

At first the exertion is physical, but the greatest difficulty is in keeping the body still, to maintain the pose, so even the seemingly easy poses need great concentration, and real mental strength takes over from the strength of the body.

The body in the service of the soul

What distinguishes Hatha Yoga from other physical activities is that its prime aim is to bring peace of mind: you use the body to strengthen the mind.
Stress, or mind pollution, brings tensions which directly affect the body: they bend the back, stiffen muscles and pollute the mind. The body is more exposed to pain or injury and because of this the mind also is weakened: aggressive behavior, instability, depression…

Little by little, stressed people lose touch with themselves, and become weak. This phenomenon is increasingly common today, as our way of life is so sedentary. We lose awareness of our bodies, placing all our burdens on our minds, which gradually close up.

The effects of Hatha Yoga

Short term effects

Hatha Yoga uses physical sensations to focus the mind on the present moment.
To perform these exercises as effectively as possible, the disciple should let go and centre themselves. For a while, everyday problems and worries about the future should be left aside. The body releases its tensions and the freed mind can open up again.

Long term effects

Hatha Yoga uses effort to restore harmony and the connection between body and mind, which have been lost.

The disciple has to assume and hold poses they are not used to. They must employ physical stamina, breath control and concentration. The pupil must therefore try to create a close connection between the body and the mind.

Regular practitioners of Hatha Yoga will use what they have learned doing exercises to help manage stressful situations without being overcome. Just as their mind and body have supported them during their physical effort, they will be supported during their mental effort to remain calm and stable.

The mind and the body become more and more flexible, and less vulnerable to physical and emotional pain.

The benefits:

– Better breathing.
– Better stress management.
– Greater physical flexibility.
– Calming of the mind.
– Greater self-confidence.
– The ability to maintain a sense of self, with more mental stability.
– A better relationship with oneself and others.

It is particularly beneficial

– For those who are hyperactive or too exposed to stress. Hatha Yoga teaches them to centre themselves. By helping them to be detached from external disturbances, it brings welcome relief from stress.

– For passive people, who are in a state of physical and mental inertia, and want to have more energy. Hatha Yoga allows them to get back in touch with their bodies. In a more toned and flexible body, the mind is livelier and more open to the world.

Hatha Yoga is only one of many different types of yoga. It is one of the more physical ones which is why its also known as “effort” yoga. Don’t let the fact that its a physical yoga scare you from trying it.




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