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The Benefits of Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga, Integral Yoga Teachings   |   January 17, 2012  |   by  Sri Swami Satchidananda

If you wish to eliminate the toxins that have already found room in the body, then Hatha Yoga can help. The Yoga postures and breathing techniques purify the physical body. Even if you have developed some bad habits, by practicing Hatha Yoga you will lose all the undesirable cravings. All the cravings for drugs, smoke, and alcohol are caused by the toxins that are already in the body.

Any kind of craving in your system can be eliminated by Yoga. It could be smoking or drinking, or overeating or oversleeping. You simply start practicing Hatha Yoga, and very soon you will see that the craving is going away by itself.

We all know that when the body is unhealthy, even if there is the slightest trouble in a toe or a tooth, this condition will not allow us to think of anything else. How much more is the distraction from a major organ? Putting aside the concern for spiritual life and meditation, even your studies or business would be impaired. A healthy body is really wanted then, and that can be achieved easily through Hatha Yoga.

There is no better health tonic than Yoga asanas. Physical exercises make us more muscular, but when a little flu comes along, people shake and tremble. It makes me laugh to see so-called intelligent human beings terrified of an invisible little virus. What can it do to you if you have that strength and stamina, that immunity! God never created us as weaklings. Through our own wrong habits we let ourselves become weak or fall sick. So let’s never be weak. We can maintain our vitality. Yoga asanas bring immunity to the body to resist all types of ailments. The asanas are effective not only for prevention of disease, but also as an aid in curing existing diseases. Yoga is a cure for all illnesses, whether physical or mental. As one takes to it, the ailments begin to disappear.

What are the symptoms of good health? They include: real hunger, good digestion, sound sleep, perfect functioning of the various organs of the body, proper pulsation, timely elimination of wastes, interest in doing one’s duties, and happiness of mind. The Yoga asanas give you back your natural good health and vitality by eliminating all the toxins and tension, toning the spine, building the nerves, and correcting any malfunctions in the glands.

The asanas work mostly on the spine. The spine is a column of several bones called vertebrae. All the nerves branch out from these vertebrae, connecting the various organ systems to the brain. If the spine is rigid, nerve impulses cannot flow freely through the body. The internal organs become weakened and subject to disease. If you keep the spine supple, the nerves remain strong and your health is maintained. By doing the cobra pose, Bhujangaasana, for example, the upper back is stretched out and relaxed. By gently bending forward in Paschimottanaasana, the lower back gets stretched out and relaxed. The spine will bend in any way you want when you are healthy and calm.

Corresponding to the gross nervous system in the physical body, there is a subtle nervous system in the astral body. The prana, or life force, operates through these subtle nerves which originate in the spinal column. The ancient yogis said that there are actually 72,000 of these subtle nerves, or nadis, in the body. All the life functions are controlled by the prana. Prana is the subtle power at the basis of life. It is the energy of the mind, the Commander-in-Chief of the vast army of cells which make up the body. When the prana is regular, the cells work in unison, resulting in physical and mental harmony throughout the entire system. This all-important regulation of prana occurs through the regular practice of Yoga asanas and pranayama.

A tense, rigid spine makes us feel old because the energy doesn’t flow freely. A supple spine means a free flow of energy. Even up to seventy or eighty years old you will jump like a little child. You will never be saying, “Oh, I’m tired. I’m getting old.” You’ll never be ashamed to tell your age. Personally, I feel like I’m sixteen, even though I’ve passed sixty. I feel so young. That’s why I’m jumping and playing and always happy.

Symptoms of old age, such as wrinkles and poor complexion, are also caused by poor circulation of the blood which leaves toxins and other waste matter in various parts of the body. The asanas enrich your blood circulation and wash out the toxins, giving the body a younger look and feeling.

Hatha Yoga also tones the endocrine glands that have an important role in preserving the harmonious functioning of the body. These include the pineal, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroids, thymus, adrenals, and gonads. These glands secrete the necessary hormones, giving both physical and psychological benefits. These glands are stimulated not only by physical movements, but by thoughts as well. For instance, if you think of something delicious to eat, you can immediately note that the salivary glands are pouring forth their juices into the mouth. When you walk on a narrow plank bridging two high walls, the fear of falling kindles the pituitary and makes you giddy. An evil thought or a fit of temper disturbs the physical harmony by causing the glands to produce irregular secretions. So, we should always take care of our thoughts, making sure to invite only virtuous ones into the mind. “Even our destiny is decided by our endocrine glands,” said Albert Einstein. The Yoga asanas and breathing techniques help to keep the endocrine glands in perfect balance and healthy condition.

When you do the shoulder stand, Sarvangaasana, for example, the thyroid gland at the base of the throat is toned. The hormone produced by the thyroid complements the other hormones and helps them to do their work. The shoulder stand is very beneficial to the thyroid gland and thus all the glands in the body. Ultimately, the shoulder stand benefits the entire body.

When you do the bow pose, Dhanuraasana, the adrenals are toned. Maybe, if the glands are completely damaged, we may not be able to repair them fully, but slight derangements could easily be corrected. In our years of practice and experience in Hatha Yoga, we have come across many people who have recovered from their ailments, some of them considered “incurable.” With proper diet and proper Yoga practices, asanas, and breathing, one can overcome almost all types of diseases

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