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As a practitioner and teacher of hatha yoga, I would like to outline my understanding of what it is; the difference between hatha yoga and aerobic exercises; and how it can be implemented to increase one's efficiency, energy level, and physical and mental well-being.
Hatha yoga is a system of health culture that originated nearly five thousand years ago in India. It was founded by noble, active, and practical-minded men. They wanted to devise a comprehensive method to bring strength, vigor and suppleness to the body; to resist disease and ward off premature decay and old age; and to engender peace and calm to the restless and distracted mind. The ultimate purpose of hatha yoga was to foster physical and mental preparation for "raja" yoga, the yoga of meditation.* However, hatha yoga can be and is used mostly in this country for its own physical and mental benefit.
The term "hatha" refers to a balanced and harmonized body. The term "yoga" means "joined together" or "unity". Hatha yoga helps us to unify, master, harmonize, and control the forces and functions related to the body. The three major techniques used to accomplish this are the following:
(1) body postures, called "asanas";
*There are four types of yoga: Raja yoga, the yoga of self-realization and meditation; Juana yoga, the yoga of knowledge; Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion, and Karma yoga, the yoga of work or action.
Before analyzing each of these techniques, I would like to indicate some of the basic differences between hatha yoga and ordinary exercises by the following chart:
| HATHA YOGA
Energy retained and directed inward.
Breathing is normal and relaxed, deep
Circulation is increased and directed to
specific internal organs.
Develops and tones nervous system, glands,
and internal systems
Physically body is revitalized and relaxed.
Postures are held comfortably.There is
no strain.Energy is increased.
Mentally, mind is quieted
Movements are slow and graceful, and
done with control.
No Competition with your neighbor
or your own body.
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Energy is disbursed; projected
outward as implied by the
Breathing is accelerated to
compensate for oxygen debt.
Circulation is increased and
drawn to body surface.
Develops muscles, particularly in
cardio-vascular and organs;
strengthens ligaments and muscles
in all body respiratory systems.
Physically, positive effects, but body
tends to exhaustion. The depletion
of energy. There is often straining
and a great amount of tension.
Mentally, positive effects by reduction
of anxiety and depression.
Movements are quick.
Competition is emp[hasized. Often
the body is pushed to a point of strain.
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