May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we are highlighting Hatha Yoga, a practice that has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety levels. 

While it’s important to celebrate and take care of mental health every single day, this month is a catalyst for us to learn more, seek help, offer support, and open our hearts and minds. Consider incorporating a hatha yoga practice into your routine to improve your overall mental well-being and emotional regulation.

What is hatha yoga?

Traditionally, hatha yoga has been a catchall term for yoga practices that combine poses (“asanas”) with breathing techniques (“pranayama”). Many of the yoga styles that are popular in the US and that we teach at Yoga District, such as vinyasa and ashtanga, fall under the umbrella of hatha. However, the term “hatha” has also evolved in the US to describe a particular type of yoga class that is typically slow-paced with a focus on proper alignment. It includes breath work and the basic positions of yoga: standing, sitting, forward bend, back bend, twists, balancing, inversions, and lying down. The practice of asanas is done as a dynamic meditation and awareness of what is happening in the body: tissues, organs, skin and breath. In this way the body, mind and self become one. The main point is to reach peace of mind, strength, flexibility and physical well-being. The practice emphasizes the importance of breathing deeper, longer and smoother. 

Reducing stress and anxiety levels

In a 2023 study, researchers studied the influence of hatha yoga on stress, anxiety and attentional suppression. Attentional suppression is the ability to inhibit or reduce attention to specific stimuli or thoughts – which is necessary for executive functions. The researchers designed a randomized controlled trial of people in the general population between the ages of 19 and 39. They found that the participants who engage in hatha yoga experience decreased levels of anxiety and stress, and ultimately concluded that hatha yoga can be a promising intervention for improving overall mental well-being and emotional regulation.

 

Ready to try hatha?

Yoga District offers an online “Gentle Hatha Flow” class every Thursday at 5:30pm ET. Sign up today

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