Yoga is an ancient holistic system that practised regularly will calm the mind. It is also believed to connect the body and spirit with the universal consciousness.
In yoga philosophy, dedicated yogis or yoginis seek to attain the eighth limb of yoga; "samadhi" (bliss, self-realisation or enlightenment) through continued practise.
This may or may not happen in this lifetime though, particularly if one desires it too much! Originally developed in India and summarised by Patanjali in his famous yoga sutras, the practise and study of yoga formed a significant part of the ancient vedic texts. In fact, there is some indication that yoga might date back well over 5000 years.
What is meant by Hatha Yoga?
When the Sanskrit word "hatha", meaning "force", is broken down into two parts, it is generally understood that first part "ha" represents the sun - light or daytime, warmth and/or high pressure energy, while the second part, "tha", represents the moon or darkness/night, coolness and low pressure energy.
The word "yoga" means "to yoke" or "union" and therefore, in this context, "Hatha Yoga" could be described as a system of yoga that seeks to unionise the body's opposing forces in such a way as to create harmony and equilibrium. It could also be said that, with regards to yoga, "hatha" is a similar concept to the notion of yin/yang balance in Chinese philosophy.
In his book The Tree of Yoga, BKS Iyengar describes Hatha Yoga as:
"The way towards realisation and union of the individual with the Supreme Soul through rigorous discipline and through balancing the solar and lunar energies in the human system"
Generally speaking then, all yoga, whether titled Astanga-vinyasa, Bikram, Kundalini or Raja, is still Hatha Yoga, because, during a practise the body's entire physiological structure is activated in a manner that stimulates circulation via fluid movement and increases the flow of purified breath and prana throughout the body. These detoxifying forces flood the system with fresh energy, leaving the practitioner calm and revitalised.
What is Hatha Vinyasa Yoga?
Yogasphere offers a modern variation of traditional vinyasa yoga (a fluid form of yoga that involves linking movement in and out of postures with the breath) to suit our Western bodies. With vinyasa yoga, the focus tends to be the movement rather than just the actual pose. Individual postures are generally not held for very long before moving into the next and the aim is for this to become meditative. Indeed, many yogis consider this dynamic relaxation to be comparable to "the dance of the universe".
Vinyasa yoga can be slightly more physically challenging than other forms of yoga, but, with a little enthusiasm, this particular fluid vinyasa style is completely 'doable' for most people who can get in and out of bed, sit down on the floor and get up again, and walk up and down the stairs without issue.
Does yoga work?
These days. many of us are chained to desks or drive all day for work. This amount of sitting combined with repetitive tasks means lots of people suffer from chronic niggles and stress induced ailments. In fact, by the time we reach adulthood, nearly all of us will have compromised our natural spine in some way. These issues are addressed with each carefully considered sequence which more or less stays the same throughout the duration of a course. This means the full benefits of a vinyasa-style yoga practice (i.e. a dynamic meditation) can be achieved. Participants are continually encouraged to work at their own level by applying variations and modifications of each posture or movement to best suit their unique body.
In the end though...
... yoga is not something that you do; rather, it is something that you are, and persistence should be the objective rather than attachment to the idea of success or failure. Never, never give up! Most people need to commit fully to at least one sequence or 4-6 classes before everything begins to improve - balance, coordination, strength and flexibility. Then the lights go on! Expect to feel a little frustrated the first few times as with any new activity but try sitting with all those thoughts and feelings that come up - generally the ego talking - without buying into them. That is the essence of yoga - not bending, stretching or fancy poses.