The physical training system of Hatha Yoga is based upon the classic Asanas or static poses of the body although exercises for both development of strength and acquiring flexibility are included in the disciplines.
In regard to dynamic exercise, the standard Surya Namaskara or the Sun Salute is the traditional universal exercise consisting of 12 movements. The series of 12 positions is repeated a number of times as set by the teacher, usually 3 x, 7 x or 12 x are those given in the western school. In Ashrams in India where concentration is given to healing the sick, patients are asked to perform the series an unlimited number of times – until the body breaks out in induced perspiration that is believed to be the beginning of a cure for most diseases.
The exercise programmes used in western Yoga classes however, are devised by the individual teacher who adapts his or her knowledge of physical culture and training to the yogic system and prescribed principles regarding physical exercise, in the process of formulating regulated and dynamic body movements.
Classwork is balanced between the Asanas and the exercises, with a period of time also appointed to Pranayama, Dharana and Dhyana and the passive aspects of Yoga training.
The principles which apply in exercise according to the Yoga philosophy are –
Environment: pleasant and natural outdoor environment if possible. No air conditioning if exercising indoors.
Comfortable cotton clothing: or alternative natural fabric – no synthetics.
No food in the stomach: this rule is important for obvious health reasons.
Non violence: no movement is to be forced, rather an attitude of gentle persuasion.
Slow motion: although rhythmic exercises are given, they are the easiest exercises and students graduate to advance to slow motion exercises which are much more difficult.
Balance execution of each Exercise: if a movement is designed for one side of the body it must be repeated on the other.
Breath Control: Conscious breath control accompanies every movement, in every exercise. The fundamental reason it to intensify vitality so that one is never tired at the conclusion. Specific breath control is used with the various exercises and asanas requiring personal instruction.
Rest : a short period of rest follows the execution of each exercise of exertion so that the exponent becomes aware of the energies released and has opportunity to relax before the next.
Personal Mat: Each student, practising at home or in classes uses a personal mat.
Yogic exercise principles and movements are being added to complement many western health and fitness programmes but are best applied with consideration of the philosophicattitudes and practical purposes of the science. Students of any age can benefit by exercises adapted for their personal needs.