Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga dates as far as 5,000 years ago in ancient India.  In Sanskrit, ha means "sun",  tha means "moon",  and yoga means "union".  Hatha yoga concentrates on balance of opposites, physical health and mental well-being through bodily postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama).  Asana and pranayama are the 3rd and 4th steps in the Eight Limbs of Yoga (1-Yamas: restraints,  2-Niyamas: observances,  3-Asana: pose,  4-Pranayama: breath,  5-Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses,  6-Dharana: intense focus,  7-Dhyana: state of meditation,  8-Samadhi: state of oneness).   There are 1000+ hatha yoga postures/variations focused on strengthening the spine, improving circulation, stretching & aligning the body, and improving balance & flexibility.  Positive impact and benefit from hatha yoga has been documented related to stress, anxiety, blood pressure, cholesterol, asthma, diabetes, constipation, menopause, varicose veins, carpal tunnel syndrome, and many others.  Several examples of hatha yoga include Bikram yoga popularized by Bikram Choudhury, Ashtanga yoga popularized by K. Patabhi Jois, and lyengar yoga developed by B.K.S. lyengar, just naming a few.

 

Bikram Method Yoga 

Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952) was a yoga master and author of his book, Autobiography of a Yogi.  He introduced his younger brother Bishnu Charan Ghosh to yogic exercise & physical education and became his guru.

Bishnu Charan Ghosh (1903-1970) was also a yoga master who scientifically documented the practice of yoga and its ability to cure ailments and heal the body.  He developed a yoga regimen which integrated spiritual inspiration and disciplined physical exercise.  In the 1920's, he founded the first Ghosh College of Physical Education in Calcutta followed by additional global locations and travelled globally giving yogic demonstrations and lectures.  His students and disciples have been recognized globally as teachers, including Bikram and Rajashree Choudhury, who launched this system of Hatha yoga in the United States. 

The Bikram Method of hot yoga includes a specific sequence of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises which have been investigated scientifically.  In 2008, a study conducted at Colorado State University showed significant improvement of muscle control, balance and strength as a result of this practice [1].  In a subsequent research paper, the authors reported that Bikram Method practitioners showed significant gains in spine, hamstring & shoulder flexibility, improved their whole body strength, and decreased their body fat [2].  Bikram Method also helps to reduce cholesterol and the concentration of blood sugar, thus improving metabolic health [3, 4]. Over the last decade, the number of people diagnosed with osteoporosis has increased dramatically due to many factors.  Research has shown that the Bikram Method can preserve and increase bone mineral density in women and can therefore be an effective countermeasure for preventing osteoporosis [5].  In addition to the physical health benefits, there are also positive psychological effects. A 2011 study suggested that Bikram Method provides the tools to decrease stress which potentially has an effect on chronic stress-related illnesses [6].  A pilot trial is also underway at Massachusetts General Hospital.  At Hot Yoga RTP/Cary Morrisville, we are so proud of practitioners who have experienced many benefits including reduced stress, weight loss, improved sleep, reduced blood pressure, improved strength & flexibility, arthritis relief, reduction of hormonal side effects and more!

Yin Yoga

Yin yoga was first developed by Paulie Zink when he combined the practice of Indian Hatha yoga (e.g. Bikram, Ashtanga and Challenge) with Chinese Taoist traditions. He combined postures and movements with visual & verbal insights based on his experiences with yoga since he was fourteen years old.  He studied Taoist yoga, Qigong and Kung Fu for many years before teaching his own techniques.

 

While all yoga has similar goals and objectives, the traditional yoga practiced in North America is frequently Yang.  Yin yoga is the counterbalance to the practice of Yang yoga, and is sometimes referred to as "yoga for the joints."

Yin yoga targets the ligaments and joints.  Postures are held for longer periods of time to stretch and strengthen connective tissue which is much deeper than muscular tissue.  Yang yoga is considered more dynamic, because it stretches and strengthens muscular tissue with an emphasis on internal heating. Yin yoga focuses on connections in the pelvis, hips, and even the lower spine.  Most Yin postures involve sitting or laying down. Many yoga masters feel the combination of yin and yang creates balance and gives the body the full exercise it truly needs.  Yin yoga is appropriate for all skill levels.

 
Ashtanga Yoga
 

The Ashtanga yoga system was codified and popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois during the 20th century.  Sri K. Pattabhi Jois began his yoga studies in 1927 at the age of 12, and by 1948, he established the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute.  Ashtanga means eight limbs or branches.  Asana, or physical yoga, is one branch, and breath (pranayama) is another branch.  Breath has a leading role in Ashtanga practice.  Breathing should be long and deep with the sound, like the ocean.  The Ashtanga system includes specific sequences (Primary, Intermediate, Advanced) and begin with salutations (Surya Namaskara A, Surya Namaskara B), followed by a standing series, seated sequence, and closing sequence.  

References:
[1] Hart, C. E. F. & Tracy, B. L. 2008. Yoga as steadiness training: effects on motor variability in young adults. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(5): 1659-69.
[2] Tracy, B. L. & Hart, C. E. F. 2012, in press. Bikram yoga training and physical fitness in healthy young adults. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning, DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825c340f.
[3] Hunter, S. D. et al. 2013. The Effect of Bikram Yoga on Arterial Stiffness in Young and Older Adults. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 19(12): 930-934.
[4] Hunter, S. D. et al. 2013. Improvements in glucose tolerance with Bikram yoga in older obese adults: A pilot study. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 17(4): 404-407.
[5] Sangiorgio, S. N. et al. 2014. Optimization of Physical Activity as a Countermeasure of Bone Loss: A 5-Year Study of Bikram Yoga Practice in Females. Health, 6: 1124-1132. [6] Hewett, Z. L. et al. 2011. An Examination of the Effectiveness of an 8-week Bikram Yoga Program on Mindfulness, Perceived Stress, and Physical Fitness. Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness, 9(2): 87-92.

 

Colorado State 3

Mass Hospital 3