Why Should You Become a Hatha Yoga Instructor?
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Hatha Yoga has been the same for centuries. However, our perception of it has changed.
In the Western World, Hatha Yoga is all about balancing the body and the mind. Hatha, however, means “force” so any yoga posture you do is Hatha Yoga.
Hatha Yoga is the most ancient style of yoga. Practiced by monks who needed a gentle physical exercise after meditating all day, it is the foundation upon which other yoga styles are built.
In this article, we are taking a look at why you should become a Hatha Yoga Teacher and detail the history of Hatha Yoga, what makes this style different, its benefits, what a class entails, and the styles that have derived from it.
But First, What Is Hatha Yoga?
Hatha Yoga is the practice of physical postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama).
In the West, these stand at the core of yoga practice and that’s why Hatha Yoga is known as “general yoga”.
The postures are typically performed more slowly, statically, and are held for longer than in a Vinyasa or Ashtanga class. This pace challenges your strength and flexibility, welcoming a deep stretch, with an emphasis on mindfulness and relaxation. The focus is on controlling both the posture and the breath.
Literally (in Sanskrit), “Hatha” means “force” and is used in reference to the physical posture. Therefore, any yoga posture with our body can be considered Hatha Yoga.
As mentioned above, in the West, popular thinking is linked to Hatha Yoga’s duality: the constant need to balance the “sun” (ha) and the “moon” (tha). Thus, the practice is designed to align the body, mind, and spirit, preparing you for deeper spiritual practices.
History of Hatha Yoga
Originally, Hatha Yoga practices were entirely focused on the breath and how to control it. Nowadays, this branch represents just a part of Hatha Yoga: Pranayama.
5,000 years ago, a seal was discovered, showing a figure that resembles someone in the Lotus posture. But nothing else was found until the mention of yoga in the ancient text the Atharva Veda. This suggests yoga only existed after 1000 BC.
The term dates to the 11th century when Gorakhnath, a Hindu master yogi and founder of the Kanphata Yogis, described the physical and spiritual discipline of Hatha. However, the style is based on ancient yogic traditions dating back to Patanjali.
Classic Hatha Yoga was developed in the 15th century by Swami Swatamarama using older Sanskrit texts, teachings of gurus, and his own experience. Hatha Yoga Pradipika described 15 primary postures, as well as an amalgamation of additional postures, totaling 84 asanas.
It was brought to the United States in 1893, as a spiritual practice. And it wasn’t until 1920 that yogis combined asanas with other exercises to create a more physical than spiritual practice.
From its traditional use to master the body to attain spiritual perfection, to becoming a mainstream form of exercise, Hatha Yoga continues to evolve.
While the origins of Hatha Yoga might remind shrouded in mystery, one thing is for certain: it creates change. You’ll feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Elements of Hatha Yoga
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Hatha Yoga is part of Raja Yoga, one of the paths of yoga. There are four paths, and they can be followed together or separately.
Raja Yoga is the physical part, also known as Classical Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga (eight-limbed yoga).
According to Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Hatha has three elements: physical poses (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dyana).
In Hatha Yoga, there are 84 asanas, considered main postures. The purpose is to be completely comfortable in the yoga pose. And only practice and repetition can help achieve that by adjusting the pose and accepting the tension.
What to Expect from a Hatha Yoga Class
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A class labeled “Hatha Yoga” will most likely be gentle and suitable for beginners. It includes basic yoga poses with a focus on breath and meditation.
The classes can range anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes and typically start with a gentle warm-up. Thet will continue with more physical poses, with emphasis an on the classical form, while each posture is explored in detail. And they end with a short meditation.
There is generally no flow between poses, except for the warm-up.
A Hatha Yoga class is a great opportunity to stretch, release tension, and unwind. It can be a great complement to a cardio workout. It is a slower-paced class than Vinyasa Yoga.
A traditional Hatha Yoga class ends with the participants holding their hands together in a prayer-like pose over the heart, bowing, and saying “Namaste”.
If you attend a Hatha Yoga class and find it too slow for your liking, you can try a more vigorous workout, such as Vinyasa Yoga or Power Yoga.
Benefits of Hatha Yoga
No matter what style of yoga you practice, there are numerous health benefits associated with each of them.
However, there have been quite a lot of studies that have repeatedly shown a wide variety of benefits that Hatha Yoga has for both mental and physical health.
Hatha is the yoga style that’s usually undertaken to relieve stress. Regular practice promotes mental calmness and can significantly reduce perceived stress and symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Regular practice not only helps people fall asleep faster but also improves their sleep quality.
It is a powerful tool for self-transformation. Because you’re asked to bring your attention to the breath, you are more present, grounded, and in the moment.
Since the poses are held for longer, Hatha is known to improve balance and core strength, flexibility, stamina, and range of motion.
More specifically, it improves flexibility in the spine and hamstrings. Since core stability is key to good posture, Hatha builds core muscle strength.
It is recommended for older adults who need to improve the range of motion in the joints. Furthermore, certain poses help to promote bone density.
Yoga Styles Based on Hatha
Hatha is an umbrella term for all the yoga styles that incorporate the three elements – yoga poses, breathing techniques, and meditation.
In the West, many styles can be classified as Hatha. It simply means the practice of physical postures, therefore Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Iyengar, and Power Yoga are all Hatha.
Ashtanga Yoga is a rigorous style and a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga. Ashtanga means “eight limbs”. Therefore, it focuses on practicing the eight limbs of yoga through challenging poses performed at a quick pace. Practitioners flow through the poses more quickly than in a Hatha class. An Ashtanga series uses predefined sequences that are the same every time.
>>Read more: An Insightful Introduction to Ashtanga Yoga
Vinyasa Yoga is a dynamic yoga style characterized by continual movements that flow in harmony with the breath. The poses in a Vinyasa class are linked together to form a fast-paced sequence that’s recommended for fit and agile yogis. The order of the poses changes often and the flows vary from one class to the other.
>>Read more: What is Vinyasa Yoga?
Iyengar Yoga was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar in the 1960s and derived directly from classic Hatha Yoga traditions. It is one of the world’s most practiced yoga methods, revered for its therapeutic benefits. The focus is on alignment, sequencing, and timing in the asanas. The use of props is encouraged to hold the poses in alignment.
Power Yoga is often regarded as hardcore Vinyasa. It’s faster and more intense than most yoga styles, with the main focus on building strength.
Who Should Practice Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga is a great choice for any level of practitioner. However, being gentle and slow-paced, it is ideal for beginners.
Hatha feels less intimidating than other styles, allowing the practitioner to become familiarized and get comfortable with the poses.
Thanks to this, anyone can practice Hatha Yoga, no matter their age, flexibility, or previous experience.
However, Hatha Yoga should not be mistaken for “easy yoga”. It can be challenging, both physically and mentally. Sometimes, students are asked to stay in fairly difficult asanas for several breaths.
You probably won’t sweat much in a Hatha class, but you will leave the studio feeling leaner, looser, and more relaxed.
Why Should You Teach Hatha Yoga
If you are interested in joining a yoga teacher training course and don’t know the right fit for you, Hatha Yoga is the perfect place to start.
Being the foundation of all other yoga styles, becoming a Hatha Yoga teacher will pave your way to specializing in a particular style (in the future, if you wish).
As a Hatha Yoga Teacher, you need to keep in mind that the level of flexibility differs between individuals, and no one should feel like they don’t belong in the class. The class plan should balance the body, mind, emotion, and spirit.
The environment should be nurturing and safe, allowing for gradual challenges and stimulation for the students.
If Hatha Yoga is too slow for you, why not study to teach something more fast-paced? Join a Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training course and deepen your knowledge of this dynamic yoga style!