While there are many more types of yoga practiced in the east, such as jnana (the Yoga of knowledge) and bhakti (the yoga of devotion), hatha yoga is the main type of yoga most widely practiced in the west. Hatha yoga is widely known, and classes are offered at exercise studios, gyms, schools and colleges, sometimes even at some places of employment.

But within hatha yoga there are also many different yoga schools or forms, and so the description ‘hatha yoga’ has come to mean something a little more specific for us. Usually if you see hatha yoga advertised in your city what you can expect is to perform a series of poses or asanas which, while they can be demanding in terms of the stretching that your body will do, are generally not vigorously energetic. the classes typically end with exercises focused on breathing and relaxation.

The meaning of the word ‘yoga’ is attached to the concept of joining something through specific exercise and meditation. In more spiritual terms, yoga is seen as the joining of body and mind, left side and right side, male and female parts of the self, yin and yang, and, finally the joining of the self with the rest of the universe.

Yoga is rarely practiced for spiritual reasons in our side of the world, but rather, a larger-by-the-day number of people is taking it on because of the benefits it brings in terms of flexibility. But, it is a known fact that yoga also benefits ones moods. If you think of yoga as a way of achieving mental and physical balance you will be on the way to getting the most out of your yoga practice.

Being extremely flexible or double-jointed is surely not a requirement. Hatha yoga is a practice everyone can take on, from small children to elderly folks. Even pregnant, disabled or very overweight people can practice hatha yoga, though it is certainly advisable that in this special situations one relies of the experience of a qualified teacher to find what exercises are beneficial and which ones are not.

You will be taught many asanas, or yogas poses, and your instructor will likely teach you how to safely stretch your body in all directions. There are standing poses, seated poses, poses that you do on hands and knees or lying down and inversions such as shoulder stands. By going through the whole series regularly without forcing your muscles or limbs excessively you can gain flexibility, stamina, strength and better circulation and breathing.

The majority of adult yoga classes usually last anywhere between an hour and 90 minutes. The sessions normally start with breathing exercises or by sitting quietly on the floor to realign from the stress of daily life. After that, most of the class will be dedicated to asanas, and the last ten minutes to more breathing and relaxing exercises. Relaxation is achieved by laying on ones back on the floor with eyes closed. At this point, some fall asleep, but many others are able to remain conscious while they relax.

Of all different types of yoga, hatha yoga is the one that will most likely bring multiple benefits to people in our western corner of the world.