In short, Hatha Yoga combines physical postures (asanas) with breathing techniques (pranayama). And when you practice regularly it can help unite your whole self, bringing balance to your life.
It’s not a way to invert yourself in obscure poses straightaway, or to sit for hours on end searching for enlightenment. It’s not even a ‘fix me’ alternative practice where you learn to move into strong positions. Instead, Hatha Yoga invites you to explore your self while on the mat.
In a supportive session you’ll notice changes in how you can move your body and how you feel your breath. Your body will open up and you’ll feel like you’re gaining greater awareness. Overall you’ll feel more grounded.
Now part of me wonders if you’re rolling your eyes at all this: ‘I still don’t see how yoga can help me. Too much to fit in already thanks!’
Well yes, life does ask for us to do a lot in our day but that’s where yoga can help. Although we’re often materially well-off in the western world, many of us are also emotionally and time-management poor.
Read on to see what Hatha Yoga could do for you…
How can Hatha Yoga help you?
It’s weightlifting for the brain
Practicing yoga can alter your brain structure and function, possibly even counteracting age-related memory decline. It ‘strengthens parts of the brain that play a key role in memory, attention, awareness, thought, and language. Think of it as weightlifting for the brain’ (Harvard Health Publishing, 2021).
Yoga also increases levels of the brain chemical GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) which is associated with better mood and decreased anxiety. So you’ll be better able to deal with the challenges of everyday life.
It can help you deal with trauma
Bessel van Der Kolk has developed and studied a range of effective treatments for traumatic stress and developmental trauma. Including some ground-breaking research on the benefits of yoga. He says: ‘Yoga turned out to be a terrific way to (re)gain a relationship with the interior world and with it a caring, loving, sensual relationship to the self’ (Bessel van Der Kolk, 2014. p.273).
But if you’ve experienced (or are experiencing) trauma, the thought of sharing anything to do with it in a yoga studio might be too much.
And what if you’re a man, like me?
It can be incredibly difficult to come into a class of mostly female participants. Our egos can play all sorts of tricks on why we’re not supposed to be there. The thought of being the only man in the room can be hugely off-putting.
Does that sound familiar?
Are there times where you’d have preferred to come to a class rather than use a gym for exercise, but just couldn’t make yourself do it?
I get it.
The thought of both these things once made me feel the same way. When even getting out bed from beneath the covers was difficult, how was I supposed to tolerate a yoga class?!
But I did. And after many years of work on myself, with help from lots of amazing people and inspiring teachers, I realised yoga’s true potential…
It can help you achieve balance
Yoga is a simple technique that can help you get a better balance of sleep, breathing and mental health. As a certified Friends of Yoga teacher (200hr, due to complete the full diploma early 2022) I can help you achieve this.
To date intense training and regular practice has helped me focus deeply on yogic philosophy and how the asanas (poses) can support you with greater balance. I also know firsthand, as an asthmatic, how much yoga can help with breathing.
Could Hatha Yoga be a starting point for you?
Hatha Yoga: your new beginning?
As I said before, yoga is not a ‘fix it’ pill or prescriptive idea, but it is a beginning. A starting point for you to look within and say, ‘Actually, this could be a good time to look at my movement how it connects with my whole being.’
While you do need a regular commitment of time, Hatha Yoga can help you move better, reduce anxiety and overcome trauma. So you can lead a well-balanced life.
Here’s a pranayama breathing exercise which has served me well. Why not start with this and see what you think?
And if you’d like to take the next step (with Hatha Yoga or any of our wellness approaches) do get in touch. I look forward to welcoming you to Sweet Mental Health.