Many people think that anything involving poses and stretches is Yoga, but Hatha Yoga is a far deeper practice with very specific goals. These goals include bringing health, wellbeing, ease and steadiness to the body so that we can function happily in the world and also to prepare the body for meditation. If our physical self is full of vitality and energy, or in yogic terms, filled with prana, then our mind and spirit are able to function with balance and steadiness of purpose. Through Hatha Yoga we are fine tuning our ability to stay focused, grounded, and open.
When we attend an Integral Yoga class, along with a sequence of poses or asanas, a complete class will include breathing practices (pranayama), relaxation (Yoga Nidra), and meditation. Synchronizing breath with the asanas during the Hatha portion of the class, as well as working with the more formal pranayama practices, allows us to become familiar with the steadying, calming effect that deep breath work brings. Yoga Nidra allows us to slow the body, breath, and mind down in a systematic way and to reap the benefits of a more rested and calm self.
Finally, meditation facilitates gathering all the energy or prana that we have accumulated in the class, through the poses, breath work, and relaxation and focusing this prana on a single object of attention. This practice of focused attention brings a growing sense of strength, patience, clarity, and calm to our often distracted and anxious mind. We learn to work skillfully with our prana in order to work more skillfully with whatever arises, either in our inner life or out in the world.
About the Author:
Swami Ramananda is the president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco and a greatly respected master teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition, who has been practicing Yoga for more than 35 years. He offers practical methods for integrating the timeless teachings and practices of Yoga into daily life. He leads beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level Yoga Teacher Training programs in San Francisco and a variety of programs in many locations in the United States, Europe, and South America. Swami Ramananda trains Yoga teachers to carry Yoga into corporate, hospital, and medical settings and has taught mind/body wellness programs in many places. He is a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance, a national registry that supports and promotes Yoga teachers as professionals.