Hatha yoga is the path which has physical health and balance as a primary goal, for its practitioners believe that greater mental and spiritual awareness can be brought about with a healthy and pure body.
What is Hatha Yoga?
Hatha yoga is the most widely practiced form of yoga in America. It is the branch of yoga which concentrates on physical health and mental well-being. Hatha yoga uses bodily postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dyana) with the goal of bringing about a sound, healthy body and a clear, peaceful mind. There are nearly 200 hatha yoga postures, with hundreds of variations, which work to make the spine supple and to promote circulation in all the organs, glands, and tissues. Hatha yoga postures also stretch and align the body, promoting balance and flexibility.
Yoga has been touted for its ability to reduce problems with such varying conditions as asthma, backaches, diabetes, constipation, menopause, multiple sclerosis, varicose veins, high blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome and much more. Yoga as a daily exercise program can improve fitness, strength, and flexibility. People who practice yoga correctly every day report that it can promote high levels of overall health and energy. The mental component of yoga can clarify and discipline the mind, and yoga practitioners say its benefits can permeate all facets of a person's life and attitude, raising self-esteem and self-understanding.
What are the Origins of yoga?
Yoga was developed in ancient India as far back as 5,000 years ago; sculptures detailing yoga positions have been found in India which date back to 3000 B.C. Yoga is derived from a Sanskrit word which means "union." The goal of classical yoga is to bring self-transcendence, or enlightenment, through physical, mental and spiritual health. Many people in the West mistakenly believe yoga to be a religion, but its teachers point out that it is a system of living designed to promote health, peace of mind, and deeper awareness of ourselves. There are several branches of yoga, each of which is a different path and philosophy toward self-improvement. Some of these paths include service to others, pursuit of wisdom, non-violence, devotion to God, and observance of spiritual rituals.
* taken from the Medical Dictionary On-Line.