The word YOGA comes from a Sanskrit word meaning union, to yoke or to join; the union of opposites.
It originated in India hundreds of years ago, and incorporates physical exercises (poses or asana’s), breathing techniques (pranayama), meditation or mindful relaxation, and philosophies for living in harmony with yourself and others. It is not aligned with any religion, though is complimentary to most people’s belief systems and spirituality.
There are 8 limbs of yoga:
Yamas – how one deals with the world
Niyamas – how one deals with one’s self
Asanas – doing physical poses. Many of the 8 limbs can be practiced within this limb.
Pranayama – focused breathing
Pratyahara – minimizing of the 5 senses
Dharana – concentration
Dhyana – meditation
Samadhi – bliss or enlightenment
….and there are 6 approaches to the 8 limbs of yoga:
Hatha – yoga, cultivating the physical body.
Raja – yoga, transcending the mind or mental space
Bhakti – yoga, nurturing and loving one’s self and others.
Karma – yoga, loving acts and selfless work
Tantra – yoga, celebrating and expressing artistically, and spiritual ritual.
Jnana – yoga, the journey toward wisdom and enlightenment.
Most yoga practiced in the western world is Hatha Yoga – which means any form of yoga that involves the act of doing poses (asanas), breathing with intention (pranayama) and creating a deep state of internal focus.
The word Hatha is translated as: Ha = Sun. Tha = Moon. Hatha = the union of sun & moon, which comes back to the definition of yoga - the union of opposites. To practice Hatha is to unite opposites. It is the physical approach to the 8 limbs of yoga. When you think about it, it bears an obvious relation to the opposites we experience in class: front/back, left/right, up/down, in/out, and mind/body.
Typically one will encounter different ‘styles’ of yoga in the western world, eg. Ashtanga, Iyengar, Bikram, Power Vinyasa, Kundalini, Ki - and some classes will even be described as Hatha. This can be interpreted as a “Hatha” style yoga class being probably a mixture of influences drawn from several other styles of yoga (such as Ashtanga, Iyengar, etc).
The style of Hatha yoga I teach has a flowing style to it, drawing influence from Ashtanga and Iyengar yoga, infusing traditional yoga poses with fitness principles (ie. safety guidelines) to make the poses completely safe and more accessible for most individuals. The mind and the body join to rejuvenate, strengthen and stretch the body, relax the mind and revitalize the spirit. All shapes, sizes and ages will enjoy the benefits.