When you go to a yoga class (or retreat) or practice yoga at home, you will do for your own reasons. This is how it should be, as time goes on naturally your reasons for attending will change. As you become aware of the effects of yoga on your body, your awareness of body, breath and mind is developed. You become more attuned to the reality of your existence. The yoga class helps you to experience the moment through body and breath and escape the mind. Simply put, you learn to switch your mode of living from the mind where most of us reside most of the time, to the wider experience of your existence.
Yoga obviously achieves more than this. It also shows you how to relax, and during the course of a class (especially pranayama and relaxation), you experience states of calmness and deep relaxation. The space provided in a yoga class to experience yourself without distractions is healing, let alone the stretching and strengthening and all the other positive effects that yoga has on the body, breath and mind.
Elsewhere I have said that Hatha yoga helps those practicing Raja Yoga, but it also helps someone to get to the point they can start Raja Yoga. Although in some cases you might start with Raja Yoga. So how is it that Hatha Yoga assists with Raja Yoga? Raja yoga depends on awareness, but it also needs a level of concentration which is something also developed through a hatha yoga. Raja yoga also uses meditation, hatha yoga helps prepare the body to be able to sit for the periods of time used in meditation and to develop the awareness raja yoga needs. In the yoga sutras one method of calming the mind is through the breath, hatha yoga cultivates the breath and teaches different breathing practices (pranayama). There is more crossover between the two forms of yoga to many to explain in a short article like this.
Therefore if you have been wanting more from yoga, but still like yoga you may like to explore the other aspects of hatha yoga with a view to starting to explore raja yoga. Or at least use a new found motivation and direction to keep attending yoga for more reasons than just because its nice and you like it. Although thats never a badreason to go to yoga.
Posted in Hatha Yoga