In the West, the most widely taught form of yoga is Hatha yoga with classes offering students exercises to stretch and flex the body, develop breath awareness, relaxation and meditation.
Asanas (yoga postures) strengthen and tone the body and improve the flow of energy – regulating physical systems of the body and breath, and stilling the mind for meditation.
The asanas used in a class will vary from teacher to teacher and depend on the abilities of the students. The objective in asana work is not how far you can stretch or contort your body, but to combine stability (stira) with ease/relaxation (sukha).
Simple breathing techniques are taught to develop awareness and relaxation of the breath. These are then developed into ‘pranayama’ exercises – controlling and moving prana through the breath. Prana means the ‘vital’ or ‘life force energy’.
Not all exercises are suitable for those with respiratory or circulatory conditions, so be sure to advise your teacher if you have a condition before you start a class.
Different meditation techniques are integrated into the asana, breath work and relaxation.