One of the reasons for Hatha Yoga to gain wide acceptance is the fascinating way its benefits have been described in Hatha yogic texts. In this blog we will see how Asana, Pranayama, Bandha etc. have powerful effect on body and mind for lasting youth and vigor.
Why Hatha Yoga is Popular
The popular appeal of Yoga is concentrated mainly around its physical form, called Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga provides many physical practices like asana, cleansing techniques, pranayama and bandhas (lock). The reason for the popularity of such physical aspects of Yoga is that they have a profound influence on the fitness and health of various constituents of human system i.e. the body, mind and the energy. One feels a sense of fulfillment when some kind of healthy change is produced both in the physiology as well as psychology of human personality.
The Hatha Yoga texts describe vividly the positive influence these practices left on our physiology. Swami Swatmarama in Hatha Yoga Pradipika while giving the general introduction to asana, says, asana leads to disease-free body and brings firmness of both body and mind. Likewise the same text describes Uddiyana bandha (abdominal lock) as practice for reversing the ageing, turning an old person into young.
These are not just some eccentric-sounding claims but have medical backing, though with limitations. But today many medical professionals have started recognizing the benefits of yogic practices on wide aspects of human organism and has started recommending light yogic practices along with medication.
The bodily procedures and practices of Hatha Yoga are designed in such a way so as to bring perfect physiological harmony, leading to perfect health and efficiency. While we train our body in Hatha Yoga, our mind is also trained leading to the development of fine capacities of self-control, determination and self-observation. This in turn leads to increased capacity of awareness. This capacity to remain aware during the yoga practice, turns yoga it into a conscious process rather than a mechanical one. The component of awareness brings into operation the ‘neo-cortex’ or the higher brain. The neo-cortex or the frontal lobe of brain is more resourceful with the values of equanimity, calmness, relaxation as compared to the lower brain areas filled with liking and disliking or craving and aversion.
All asanas in Hatha Yoga exercise deep influence on increasing the flexibility of spine and joints and improve blood circulation. These procedures enhance the distribution of nourishment to various parts of body. Secondly, most asanas provide internal massage to digestive organs which results in physiological freshness, rejuvenation and glow on face. Thirdly, Hatha Yoga practices influence the sensitivity and working of nervous system for overall beneficial health outcomes. All these effects justify the case of Hatha Yoga as a system for maintaining health, youth and vigor especially in the context of modern living which provides threat to a healthier life every day.
Likewise pranayama exercises deep influence on our body and mind. Regular practice of pranayama makes breath deep, slow and rhythmic. Change in the quality of breath brings about a corresponding change in the quality of mind. Hatha yoga says when the breath is slow, the mind is calm and clear. This calming of the mind bridges the gap between the body and the mind and one can experience more unity in thought and action and vice-versa.