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After teaching an extensive yoga postures series I lovingly observe class participants relaxing deeply. This photo was taken in the early 1990s.

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I'll have other inspiring and informative stories and articles available for you with hatha yoga definitions and clarification of 360 Yoga, a new style I created through divine inspiration in 2006. Visit 360 again since it takes time to download my yoga postures series, stories and such. I need quality time for personal practice, too! Blessings and Om Shanti,

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your yogini, Rev Nancy, DD, PhD

360 Yoga Postures Series "Hatha Yoga"

The first in this yoga postures series will help you understand the meaning of hatha yoga. It was one of my first published articles 35 years ago. Thank goodness I've come along way in my writing skills as a professor, poet and author.

(TOPIC: The meaning of Hatha Yoga - Hatha Yoga Definitions)

Reprinted from The Focus, A Guide to New Age Living, Volume 1, No. 2, page 14, published by the American Metaphysical Society, McLean, Virginia, ©Copyright, 1979

HATHA YOGA by Nancy M (Ash)

Yoga (a Sanskrit word meaning 'to yoke') involves a state in which man/woman is "yoked together" with the Divine. An ancient science of physical, mental and spiritual training which originated in India thousands of years ago, yoga is not a religion or merely an esoteric system of exercises, such as standing on one's head or other various "pretzel" positions. It is, rather, a process of self-identification ... an exciting journey which begins with the perfection of the physical body and evolves into the awakening of the consciousness of the soul. The union of the body with the higher awareness of the divine essence of spirit within leads to physical, mental and spiritual health and harmony. Therefore, one who practices a technique of yoga (such as hatha yoga) is using a practical form of disciplined exercise as a tool to attain the state of yoga. According to this philosophy, one can speak of the yoga of art, the yoga of love, the yoga of music, the yoga of gardening etc., because each technique, if performed with intense concentration, positive thinking, and discipline can lead to a higher state of consciousness.

Although there are many specific paths or schools of yoga: Jnana Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga, let us concentrate on the more classic path which is Hatha Yoga. The science of Hatha Yoga ("ha" meaning sun and "tha" meaning moon) basically is composed of two aspects: physical exercise and mental concentration. Both body and mind work together, synthesized by the breath, which is controlled by the mental faculties, and coordinated by the physical action of the lungs. This popular system of yoga, adopted by our western culture, is designed to purify the blood and organs, balance the glandular system and provide maximum flexibility and strength to the skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems.

The key to this process of storing energy in the body and the releasing of stress and tension is breathing and relaxation. Slow and deep breathing helps you to relax. But what does the word "relax" really mean? One comes home from a long hard day at work to relax by drinking a beer while watching television. The organs are still working to process the beer and the mind is still working with the emotions to process the television. How can the body and mind really be relaxing if they are not resting?

True relaxation is a wonderful experience that allows the entire body (nerves, organs, glands, mind and emotions etc.) to consciously rest. This restful state is actually more beneficial than sleep; it is a light sensation—a euphoria which must be experienced to be appreciated fully. Many people with severe diseases, such as cancer, are being taught to use this technique of deep relaxation to aid them in their own healing process.

Before you begin learning how to relax, create a suitable atmosphere which is conducive for relaxation. Find a quiet room (take the phone off the hook) with ample space on the floor so that you can lie comfortably on your back. Position your legs two to three feet apart, arms loosely alongside the body, palms facing upwards, fingers half closed, head in a position which will avoid contraction of the neck muscles ... and close your eyes. Starting with slow deep breaths, (inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your nose) begin to suggest to yourself to feel relaxed. Repeat to yourself (silently) "I relax my body, my body is relaxed." Focus your attention to your breathing for about two minutes.

Next, begin to visualize your toes and mentally relax your toes by silently repeating to yourself, "I relax my toes, my toes are relaxed." Continue consciously relaxing each part of your body: ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, buttocks, genital area, lower back, abdominal area, chest, middle back, fingers, palms, wrists, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, upper chest, upper back, neck, face, and scalp (in this order). Then consciously relax all of your internal organs and endocrine glands (study an anatomy book for the exact location of these which will help you to visualize them.)

Finally, mentally suggest to your mind, which is housed in the organ of the brain, to relax. Now, allow yourself a few minutes of quiet. Become aware of a sensation of gravity, feeling the floor beneath you. What you will experience will be your own euphoria. My way of describing this delightful space is "bliss”—an altered state of consciousness.

Mastering the art of true deep relaxation is a preliminary step in the process of hatha yoga. Once mastered, one can apply this technique to the asanas, helping to perfect them. In order to receive the full benefits from the postures, one must be totally relaxed otherwise the muscles are tight and tense.

NOTE: Nancy teaches a series of Yoga classes for the American Metaphysical Society. For further reading Nancy suggests "The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga" by Swami Vishnu-devananda.

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There's more to share in Yoga Postures Series (most articles are short & sweet) to help you in an auspicious journey to wholeness. Learn about the 360 Yoga Style, the meaning of hatha yoga, hatha yoga definitions, my story and amazing, mind-blowing seniors (60-100+ years 'young') I taught for 15 years.

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More in the series: Meaning of Hatha Yoga, Beginning Yoga, Stretching

Articles 360 Yoga: Savasana, Pose of Relaxation & Soul Portal

Article: Meaning of Hatha Yoga - 360 Yoga Style

More Articles in the Yoga postures series

More stories upcoming in this yoga postures series. Thanks for visiting today. Namasté, Nancy

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