Health is the basis of all the good things in life. “Health is wealth” as the age-old adage goes. Without it, even the most beautiful sights of nature, the most favorable circumstances and relationships, become essenceless, joyless and devoid of grace.
Health implies a harmonious psychophysical state of being. It implies the harmonious functioning of both the body and the mind. A truly healthy person has a strong will, disciplined senses, obedient mind and a body free from disease. In Yoga, it is well recognized that the body and mind are the instruments of the soul. Therefore, everyone who desires success, happiness, peace and immortality must learn to discipline, purify and keep the body and mind in a healthy state.
Hatha Yoga is the world’s oldest and most complete system of psychophysical exercises developed by Sages of ancient India. It is the method of harmonizing the body with the mind, and when this is established, a person truly enjoys good health.
Hatha Yoga is actually a branch of Raja Yoga. It includes Asanas or various Yogic poses; Pranayama or conscious, controlled breathing exercises; Mudras or special poses involving deep mental concentration; Bandhas or “ties” involving the concentration of Prana at certain areas of the body; and Hatha Yoga Kriyas or purificatory exercises.
The most recognized aspect of Hatha Yoga is Asanas—a system of physical poses or postures which, when done with poise, grace and mental focus in conjunction with Pranayama, promotes vibrant health in the entire nervous system by allowing the subtle life-force, or Prana, to flow freely through the body.
In addition, if done correctly, Hatha Yoga exercises rejuvenate and keep healthy the endocrine glands and the lymphatic system, insuring optimum health for one’s entire lifespan. This is what distinguishes Hatha Yoga from other exercises and makes it a superior system of physical culture.
Pranayama or correct breathing is also considered a part of Hatha Yoga. The word Pranayama is made up of two words “Prana” or life force, and “Ayama” meaning “to lengthen or regulate.” The Prana or breath is closely connected with the mind. It is the subtlest form of energy that underlies all physical and mental activity. It is Prana that performs various vital functions to keep the body alive. Breathing is an effect of Prana. Therefore, by lengthening, controlling and regulating the breath (harmonizing it), one gains control over the subtle Prana, which is linked to the mind. Pranayama is vital to the development of mental, physical and spiritual strength.
Deep conscious breathing with creative visualizations, or in conjunction with Mantras, or just mentally following the breath in and out rhythmically, have a tremendously calming effect on the mind. It also is a powerful tool for concentration—a precursor to effective meditation. It paves the way to the awakening of Kundalini Shakti (the mystic energy of the soul). Learn and practice a few salient Pranayama techniques every day.