We are proud to offer a class called, Hatha Yoga, at ROC & Soul Fitness. We cannot speak more highly of the benefits that Hatha yoga offers. This class is PERFECT for ALL YOGI’S, especially those who are beginners at yoga practice, as well as experienced yogi’s alike. Our Hatha Yoga Instructor, Alyssa is taking over our blog this month for an interview about the style of Hatha Yoga.
Q:How did you get involved in Hatha Yoga?
A: I didn't realize my first yoga class was a Hatha inspired yoga class. In fact when I first became interested in yoga I didn't know there were different styles of yoga! Eventually I did try other styles like Vinyasa yoga, but I kept going to the Hatha Yoga classes because they were honestly just close to where I was living at the time. The more I researched and talked to other yoga students, the more I thought I "should" be in a Vinyasa class because it seemed more "intermediate" to me, which may be true for some classes with some instructors. But as I kept practicing Hatha Yoga I realized there was so much I could do with it and learn from it! I still enjoy a beautiful, flowing class, but my mind is flowing constantly every day in life, so Hatha Yoga has been a good practice for me when it comes to staying grounded and discovering my own strength.
Q:How do you describe Hatha yoga to others?
A: Hatha Yoga is a slower style of yoga in which postures are held one at a time, alignment is attained and then the pose is released mindfully. During each pose the student can come into a deep breath like Ujjayi or maybe some micromovements. Students are encouraged to find a place in the pose where going any deeper would be too much, any less would be not enough, and to breathe into that space.
Q: What are the benefits of Hatha yoga?
A: Because poses are held one at a time, and for several breaths, I've found that one benefit I've gained as a Hatha Yoga student is the opportunity to learn and practice safe alignment in the poses. That's why I feel it is great for beginners - there's more time for the student to receive more alignment cues and assists as needed, to learn about the different muscles working in their bodies, and to practice compassionate self-observation in each pose. Hatha yoga can also be a serious workout, even for seasoned yogis, if the students are willing to explore their potential in each pose. It's great for functional strength and stability for all types of bodies.
There are also the benefits of the mind. One of the most important things I've learned from Hatha Yoga is that I do myself a disservice when I "jump ship" the moment things get uncomfortable, both on the mat and in my life. When we practice breathing and studying what we feel in the body, including the uncomfortable parts, we are also conditioning our minds. This practice can translate to our daily lives as a tool to help us stay present and grounded, even through the hardest and most uncomfortable parts of being human. Feeling into everything and experiencing life fully.
Q:How is Hatha it different than other yoga practices?
A: Although there's less flow and movement in Hatha Yoga than in other types of yoga, it can still be a really a graceful process for everyone. I truly believe that yoga is for everybody and every body, and in my relatively brief experiences taking and teaching Hatha yoga classes, I've learned that there is always a way to modify each pose so everyone can experience its benefits, even if it looks totally different from the "traditional" shape. That's not to say that modifications can't be made in other types of classes to support all bodies -- even in a Vinyasa class, modifications can be made using a wall or a chair -- but generally in Hatha yoga there's more time for students to explore what works for them in each pose.
Q: Alyssa, you were trained at a beautiful yoga facility, please tell us about your experience there and your recent trip there?
A: I completed my 200hr training in June 2017 at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge Massachusetts. I can only hope to find the words to describe this place and my experience there! The Kripalu Yoga tradition was inspired by the teachings and practice of Swami Kripalu. On my first night of training I sat in front of a poster with some words of wisdom from Swami Kripalu. It read, "The highest spiritual practice is self-observation without judgement". That was so profound to me, but it became the groundwork for everything we did.
We were trained in a cohort of about 30 students. A lot of us chose to live at the facility during the 12 day modules (x2). We came from all over the place, and our ages ranged from 24 to 70+. We had two amazing and gifted training leaders, Brahmani Liebman and Jashoda Edmunds, and the most talented and supportive mentors, guest yoga instructors and lecturers.
We all became family so quickly. It was hard not to when we shared so much of ourselves each and every day. It was such a safe place for me, and I think I speak for many others when I say that. I could tell that so much thought went into even the simplest things, and I feel like while the structure of the training was set up to challenge us, it was also set up to support us as much as possible throughout the entire experience. I think going in I underestimated just how transformational the training would be.
I loved everything about the Kripalu facility itself: the 8 person dormitory I lived in, the silent breakfast, the FOOD. Some of my favorite memories are from the meals we shared together, especially over the summer when we could enjoy our meals outside and then walk down to the lake, through the meditation garden or in the Labyrinth. There was also a class at 12:00pm called Let Your Yoga Dance. My first experience was on Saturday afternoon when they have live drummers perform. I danced until I couldn't breathe! I know some people who went almost every single day on our lunch break.
I tried to participate in evening activities and program samplers when I could. I fell in love with music again when I was there. I didn't really realize it until I went to Kripalu, but sometime after college I had just stopped listening to music I loved. For nearly two years! How sad is that? Anyway at Kripalu they have Kirtan on Wednesday evenings, and it was the first time I heard live chanting music performed like that, or really paid attention. As a group we just listened and danced and cried and laughed...and held each other. It was indescribable. During the second module I would listen to music every morning, and since graduation it has become part of my daily self-care routine.
I fell in love with this place and the people I met there, and with myself. I wanted so badly to share this place with the people I love, so in the beginning of December I brought my boyfriend to Kripalu for a weekend retreat with Brahmani and Jashoda. We practiced meditation, Yin yoga and some restorative yoga. We met up with a lot of my friends from training, and for me it felt like coming home. I did regret not getting any body work done at all during my training, because they offer so many different types of massages, energy healing, and Ayurvedic body work at Kripalu. But my boyfriend and I ended the retreat weekend with Thai massages, and I made him listen to chants the entire way home!