Hatha yoga represents opposing energies: hot and cold (fire and water, following the same concept as the yin-yang), male and female, positive and negative, sun and moon. Hatha yoga attempts to balance mind and body via:
• physical exercises, or “asanas”,
• controlled breathing, and
• the calming of the mind through relaxation and meditation. Asanas teach poise, balance and strength and are practiced to improve the body’s physical health and clear the mind in preparation for meditation in the pursuit of enlightenment.
Asanas purify, strengthen and give flexibility to the body. When we do asana not only do we start to perspire, which eliminates toxins from the body, but we also place pressure on some of the glands in our body, helping us to rid the body of impurities and toxins associated with daily life. Through asana physical purification starts to happen, which also affects our subtle bodies. Without physical purification the move to subtle levels of consciousness cannot effectively happen. Asanas work to awaken and empower one’s innate but dormant nervous/psychic systems (often referred to as the nadis, chakras, energy, body, subtle body, etc.) so that even greater conscious integration and realization can occur through consistent effort.
Purification Through Posture and Breathing
The first four limbs of Yoga (Yama, Niyana, Asana & Pranayama) serve to bring the mind and body into harmony and balance. A strong emphasis is placed upon the necessity of purification and detoxification of the body, and various practices are encouraged to purify the body and the senses, of which asana is the most accessible and easiest to master for most people in the West. The practice of asanas mirror many of the lifestyle changes recommended today by the health sector and can be invaluable to maintaining one’s quality of health.
Yoga Postures (Asana)
The most widely known yoga practice in the West is asana, often known as Hatha yoga (asana means “ease” in Sanskrit). It includes a variety of physical postures and exercises that create immediate changes in the body. There are two main types of asana today: meditative and therapeutic.
Meditative asanas bring the spine and head into perfect alignment, promoting proper blood flow throughout the body, and bringing the mind into a state of relaxation and stillness that facilitates increased concentration during meditation. At the same time, these asanas keep the glands, lungs, and heart properly energized.
Therapeutic asanas such as the cobra locust, spinal twist, and shoulder stand are geared toward improving health and physical well-being, and have been commonly prescribed for patients with back, neck, and joint pain.
Discipline and Awareness
Although yoga postures may involve very little movement, the mind is involved in the performance of every asana, to provide discipline, awareness, and a relaxed openness. The discipline and awareness help maintain the posture, and the relaxation and openness help stimulate the circulation of prana (life energy), allowing the student to fully experience the power and essence of the posture.
“Practicing with total awareness within the body is advanced yoga, no matter how easy the posture; practicing with your attention scattered is the practice of a beginner, no matter how difficult the posture. Hatha yoga trains the mind as well as the body, so focus your attention without lapse.” H. David Coulter.
According to the Yoga Sutras, a properly executed asana creates a balance between movement and stillness–exertion and surrender–which is precisely the state of a healthy body. The practitioner learns to regulate autonomic functions like heartbeat and breath, while physical tensions fade into relaxation.
Hi, my name is Willie Cloete. I am a yoga teacher in Pretoria, presenting Hatha Yoga to people crossing my path or who has been lead to my classes. The purpose of the yoga I teach it to make it simple and accessible to the Western body and mindset, but not neglecting the principal Eastern philosophy behind it. Here are some of the ideas I try to convey in my classes to my yogis:
The purpose of yoga – ‘who am i?’
Yoga means ‘union’ with God. It is the answer to the great question that, sooner or later, every soul on the verge of awakening will ask: ‘Who am I?’ Yoga leads us to the experience of the truth, both in our physical state as well as in our spiritual state.
Yoga – supreme spiritual science
Yoga is the ancient science of the mystics – eternal, universal and transcendent. Its origins are lost in Indo-Atlantean pre-history, but Yoga has always been practised by advanced members of human society who have recognised it as our divinely-intended, evolution-promoting way of life.
Integral yoga – accessing spirit through body and mind
The practice of Yoga integrate the whole being – mind, body and spirit. Yoga does not define body and mind as separate, but recognises both as an integrated entity. The Yogi begins to understand the ‘connectivity’ of the entire universe through his or her experience of the essential unity of the different aspects of the Self and, by extension, all creation.
Hatha yoga – within the body beautiful, the spirit soars free
What I present is Hatha Yoga in essence, but I also teach the yoga of synthesis. In other words I will included other practices such as Karma Yoga (doing charity), Bhakti Yoga(devotional aspect of yoga), Japa Yoga (to do mantras) and Dhyana Yoga (meditation) in my yoga classes. However, the main aim of my classes will be to:
• restore the mind to peace and tranquility,
• to alleviate the stress and anxiety of modern living and,
• ultimately, to transcend the perceived limitations of the body in order to set the mind free.
Yoga asanas (postures) actually balance the chemicals of the brain which naturally facilitates enhanced mental functioning.
Hatha Yoga comprises:
• Asana (postures);
• Pranayama (life-force control via breathing techniques);
• Bandha (energy locks); and
• Mudra (energy-directing poses and gestures).
Hatha Yoga is unique as an exercise system in that there is no strain on the body. Each posture targets a specific part or body system so that the entire physical being benefits. The stretches, inversions, forward and backward bends and twists of the asanas build up strength and stamina, tone and define muscles, activate the endocrine system and supply fresh blood to vital organs. Yoga practice actually cleanses the body, ridding it of toxins and vastly improving overall health.
The effects of Yoga are never purely physical. The postures, when correctly taught, enable the practitioner to take control of his or her physical and mental well-being; to triumph over the obstacles of daily living and to find inner peace. Its true purpose is to improve the yogi’s control of the vital energy whereby the brain and mind may be calmed; thus facilitating the advanced inner practices of Pratyahara (abstraction of attention and energy), Dharana (concentration) and Dhyana (meditation).
Guided relaxation and meditation – peace and bliss
Short guided meditations will guide you to soothing depths of relaxation and soaring heights of mental concentration. Learn how to use mantra repetition for relaxation and mudra for healing body and mind. My beautiful guided relaxations facilitate an easy, flowing entry into meditation.
Deeper into yoga – let your light shine!
Yoga is a gradual process on training mind, body and spirit and as time progresses I will take you to higher states of understanding. Much of the work in the beginning is the foundation for your more advanced work as you progress and develop right understanding.