I’m a passionate advocate of Hatha yoga, a style of yoga that helps you align your mind, body, and spirit. The practice started in Northern India over 4000 years ago as a healing practice for the mind and to prepare the body for long hours in seated meditation. It is probably the tradition most recognised in Western culture and the one on which other styles of yoga such as Ashtanga and Vinyasa are built on.
Literally translated from Sanskrit, it means ‘effort’ or ‘force’. This refers to an approach to yoga that starts with physical effort. Traditional Hatha classes begin with the physical work we call ‘asanas’ or ‘poses’, then work towards more subtle practices such as ‘breathwork’ or ‘energetic locks’ (muscular locks in yoga that work to regulate the flow of energy around the body) before moving to the internal practice of meditation.
The very nature of hatha yoga is to gradually connect with your inner self. However, this style of yoga provides a timely reminder that, we need to consistently apply effort if we hope to improve any aspect of our life or practice. Thanks to social media, many think yoga is easy or that ‘being spiritual’ means being vegan, a bit hippy-dippy, and woo-woo. Consequently, people can be easily dispirited when they first begin and find yoga is generally a more challenging practice for the mind than the body and so they give up.
But like any change worth making, an effort is required and the first few steps to lasting change are always the hardest. It’s unrealistic to say that yoga is a ‘cure-all’ for the polarities of life but it is a practice that everyone can benefit from. And whilst I want to live my life with more ‘ease’, I know that to stay positive and on track, I have to put the effort in on the mat to balance that pesky monkey mind and all the external ‘noise’ that comes with being a modern girl in a modern world. That means going ‘inward’ and making the time for introspection.
On the mat, I look for what I am holding on to that is preventing me from moving forward with ease. Stuck emotions, heavy conversations, or time spent with difficult individuals. Am I anxious about something? Sad about something else? It doesn’t matter, the goal is the same every time – to optimise the body’s systems to maximise my potential. I move. I feel. I heal.
And so in this way, I become more aware, not only of my limitations but also of my infinite potential. When I understand this duality within, I can transcend it. This brings health, wellbeing, ease, and steadiness to the body so I can function more happily in the external world and also prepare myself for meditation.
So you see, yoga is not about how you look. It’s about how you feel and what you want your life to be like. And that makes yoga a powerful tool to have in your toolkit wouldn’t you agree?