Urban Yoga in Paris
Here we are Claire and I meeting for a second time for a urban yoga in Paris session. We’ve met at la Defense west of Paris in this really modern business district to make some contrast between the urban cityscape and the relaxation of the yoga.
Hatha yoga is a branch of yoga that emphasizes physical exercises to master the body along with mind as well as exercises to withdraw it from external objects. The word haṭhameans “force” in Sanskrit, and may have this association because the early Indians believed that its practice was challenging and “forced its results to happen” on the yogi. The term “Hatha yoga” connotes a system of supplementary physical techniques within the broader concept of Yoga.
The Hatha yoga origins have been credited by some scholars to the Nath yogi tradition of Shaivism, particularly to Gorakhnath. However, according to James Mallinson, Hatha yoga has more ancient roots and the oldest known twenty texts on Hatha yoga suggest this attribution to the Naths is incorrect. Hatha yoga was a broad movement that developed over a range of sectarian yoga traditions in India, one that was available to all and in some formulations and could be practiced by the householders (grihastha). Important innovations in Hatha yoga, for example, are associated with the Dashanami Sampradaya and the mystical figure of Dattatreya.
The Hatha yoga practice emphasizes proper diet, processes to internally purify the body, proper breathing and its regulation particularly during the yoga practice, and the exercise routine consisting of asanas (bodily postures). The methodology sometimes includes sequences such as the Surya Namaskara, or “salute to the sun”, which consists of several asanas performed as a fluid movement sequence.
The aims of Hatha yoga have traditionally been the same as those of other varieties of yoga. They include physical siddhis (special powers or bodily benefits such as slowing age effects) and spiritual liberation (moksha, mukti). In the 20th century, techniques of Hatha yoga particularly the asanas (physical postures) became popular throughout the world as a form of physical exercise for relaxation, body flexibility, strength and personal concentration. It is now colloquially termed as simply “yoga”. It has also developed into new movements and styles, such as the Iyengar Yoga, but these are not same as the traditional Hatha yoga.
Hatha yoga practice has many elements, both behavioral and of practice. The Hatha yoga texts state that a successful yogi has certain characteristics. Section 1.16 of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, for example, states these characteristics to be utsaha (enthusiasm, fortitude), sahasa (courage, optimistic attitude), dhairya (patience, persistence), jnana tattva (essence for knowledge), nishcaya (resolve, determination) and tyaga (solitude, renunciation).
In the Western culture, Hatha yoga is typically understood as asanas and it can be practiced as such. In the Indian and Tibetan traditions, Hatha yoga is much more. It extends well beyond being a sophisticated physical exercise system, and integrates ideas of ethics, diet, cleansing, pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation and a system for spiritual development of the yogi.
The health impact of the Hata Yoga
The impact of Hatha yoga on physical and mental health has been a topic of systematic studies. Some scholars state that a regular and proper yoga practice yields health benefits.Others state that the results of these studies have been mixed and inconclusive, with cancer studies suggesting none to unclear effectiveness, and others suggesting yoga may reduce risk factors and aid in a patient’s psychological healing process.
Yoga’s combined focus on mindfulness, breathing and physical movements brings health benefits with regular participation. Yoga participants report better sleep, increased energy levels and muscle tone, relief from muscle pain and stiffness, improved circulation and overall better general health. The breathing aspect of yoga can benefit heart rate and blood pressure.
The 2012 “Yoga in America” survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Yoga Journal, shows that the number of adult practitioners in the US is 20.4 million, or 8.7 percent. The survey reported that 44 percent of those not practicing yoga said they are interested in trying it.
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