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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Beginners Guide to Yoga - Five Ways Hatha Yoga Fills You With Energy

By Ntathu Allen

Have you noticed the growing number of yoga studios and yoga centres advertising yoga classes for beginners in your neighbourhood?

Have you thought of signing up for a class yet shy away from attending as you feel you are too old, too stiff, or just too busy and tired to find the time to go?

Perhaps you are an athlete or regularly work-out in the gym and feel hatha yoga is too gentle for you to include as part of your exercise programme. If this is the case, did you know that many top sport Teams and athletes, for example, The Australasian Women's Cricket Team and Serena and Venus Williams have been known to include yoga as part of their training schedule, for improved flexibility and endurance?

What Is Hatha Yoga?

As a form of exercise, yoga consists of a programme of:

Stretching exercises,(known as asanas) which gently open and stretch the body, increasing flexibility, suppleness and strength.

Breathing practices (known as pranayama) designed to cleanse the body and calm the nervous system and emotions.

Guided relaxation to release body tension and promote a sense of well-being.

Meditation to help calm and focus your mind and encourage you to experience a sense of inner peace and calm.

What Does "Yoga" Mean?

The traditional meaning of the word 'yoga' originates from the Sanskrit word 'yuj' meaning to yoke, union, join together as one. Traditionally speaking, the goal of yoga is to achieve union, connection with the Divine. In more general terms, yoga is seen as a practical way to help you achieve a state of inner balance, wholeness and calm into your life.

Hatha yoga, is the generic term used to describe the different types of yoga and is one the most popular types practiced in the west. Iygenar yoga, ashtanga, Bikram (Hot) and Bhakti yoga are examples of other schools of yoga.

The word "Hatha" is made up of "Ha" - sun and "tha" - moon. So, Hatha yoga literally means sun and moon joining together as one. The sun and moon represents the masculine (sun) and feminine (moon) principles as the opposing polarities of life. For example, black and white, heaven and earth, active and passive, yin and yang. This emphasis on polarising opposites represents the duality of nature and the human desire to seek union, wholeness and balance between the mind, body and soul. When these are in balance, you have perfect health, energy and vitality.

What Are The Benefits Of Yoga?

As a yoga teacher with over seven years personal practice, I too had great apprehension when I first started Yoga. I was recovering from the loss of my dear cousin and my brother and sought yoga as a means of regaining inner balance and peace.

Like you, many of the students who I teach yoga are complete beginners. Initially they had lots of anxieties and worries.

However, after a few yoga classes they feel the practice has made a huge difference to their lives. They feel healthier, more alert and energised. The following five points are some of the benefits told to me by my students.

One: Yoga makes you feel more alive and energised. One student says she used to always feel tired and worn-out yet after her first session she felt like she could run a marathon!

Two: Yoga encourages you to listen and respect your body. Yoga is not competitive. In a class, you are encouraged to take your time and work within your own range of movement. It does not matter what other students are able to do, whether you can touch your toes or do a handstand. The emphasis is for you to be aware of how your body feels in the different poses.

Three: Yoga helps to gently release negative energy and tension in the body. Through the use of breathing exercises, known as pranayama, yoga allows the body to relax. As you relax, you feel calmer and more at ease in your body. A lot of students say this is the main reason why they enjoy practicing yoga.

Four: Yogic philosophy promotes tolerance and acceptance of all. Yoga encourages you to see the best in everyone and to be the best you can be. Some classes include meditation. In meditation, the mind becomes calm and quiet, which helps you to give you a fresh perspective on challenging situations.

Five: Yoga poses develop suppleness and strength in your body. This helps to relieve stiffness, joint aches and pain in the back, neck and shoulders. As your body becomes stronger, more flexible, you feel better and more able to do the things you enjoy.

So, there you go. Next time you pass a yoga centre and you are not sure whether to take a class, why not pop in and enjoy a hatha yoga class. You'll be glad you did. Email me and let know how you get on. I will be delighted to support you in your yoga practice.