Hatha yoga is the most widely practiced form of yoga in America. It is the branch of yoga which concentrates on physical health and mental well-being. Hatha yoga uses bodily postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation (dyana) with the goal of bringing about a sound, healthy body and a clear, peaceful mind. There are nearly 200 hatha yoga postures, with hundreds of variations, which work to make the spine supple and to promote circulation in all the organs, glands, and tissues. Hatha yoga postures also stretch and align the body, promoting balance and flexibility.
In a celebrated 1990 study, Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease (Random House), a cardiologist showed that yoga and meditation combined with a low-fat diet and group support could significantly reduce the blockage of coronary arteries. Other studies have shown yoga's benefit in reducing stress-related problems such as high blood pressure and cholesterol. Meditation has been adopted by medical schools and clinics as an effective stress management technique. Hatha yoga is also used by physical therapists to improve many injuries and disabilities, as the gentleness and adaptability of yoga make it an excellent rehabilitation program.
Yoga as a daily exercise program can improve fitness, strength, and flexibility. People who practice yoga correctly every day report that it can promote high levels of over-all health and energy. The mental component of yoga can clarify and discipline the mind, and yoga practitioners say its benefits can permeate all facets of a person's life and attitude, raising self-esteem and self-understanding.
Douglas Dupler, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,