Hatha yoga can mean a lot of things. One widely-used definition of hatha is "movement," so any asana class is a hatha class. Most group yoga classes in the United States could be categorized as hatha yoga. There is a subset of classes specifically labeled hatha, which is characterized by a focus on gentle asana without any flow between poses. Hatha is endlessly adaptable to each teacher's personal style and each student's needs. For that reason, it can be hard to generalize about. This overview will focus on classes labeled Hatha yoga, and we'll learn more about other hatha specialties (vinyasa, anusara, iyengar, ashtanga, etc.) in future columns.
Hatha Yoga Overview
Hatha yoga can be for all levels, depending on the teacher. The classes are typically gentle, but there may be classes that take on tougher poses. Read class descriptions carefully, or talk to the teacher ahead of time, to make sure you attend an appropriate class.
For this type of yoga, it's hard to rate some of these criteria definitively because the teacher has a lot of freedom to choose what they teach. If you want more or less of a mind-body element, keep trying different teachers until you find a good fit.
Fun fact: To properly pronounce the word "Hatha," don't pronounce the th sound. Pronounce a hard t, so the word sounds like hot-ha.
Purpose Of Hatha Yoga
Hatha yoga classes use the breath to create a link between the body and the mind. Hatha classes build flexibility and strength while minimizing the chance of injury. This well-rounded style balances and opens the body. You will learn to still the mind and be present in the moment.
Benefits Of Hatha Yoga
In addition to more flexibility and strength, a hatha yoga practice will lead to all the other usual benefits of yoga--reduced stress, lower blood pressure, more energy and better sleep.
Is Hatha Yoga For Me?
Are you patient? Do you need to become more patient? Would you like to learn more about the alignment points for each pose? Most hatha classes move a little slower and give you a chance to really get into the pose. If all you want to do is move and sweat, this probably isn't the class style for you. If you want to experience a gentle, more nuanced practice, this is a good option.