Fitness: Slow Down and Focus with Hatha Yoga

The ancient practice of Hatha yoga helps me stop, breathe, and focus on one thing which runs contrary to my busy life as a modern day multi-tasker.

Sound familiar? Racing to get everything done? This is reason número uno why we’re stressed, feeling burned out, and ironically, less productive.

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Hatha yoga builds focus and relieves stress. What’s not to love?  Courtesy: yogapah.com

Often described as a gentle yoga class, hatha yoga features basic poses held for long periods of time while incorporating breathing exercises and seated meditations.

Just breathe.

Inhale.

Exhale.

¿Sound fácil? It’s not!

Even experienced yogis agree that it can be hard to concentrate on your breath without mentally reviewing your to-do list or stressing over work problems. After months of practicing hatha weekly, I still struggle to quiet my chattering mind!

It does get easier with practice. Whenever that nagging inner voice interrupts–If only I’d gone to power yoga, I’d be saving time by fitting in my strength trainingI reset.

Not by gritting my teeth whilst muttering shhh!

Instead, I count breaths and remind myself that being still is an intense workout–for my mind.

After an hour of physical and mental stillness, I roll up my mat recharged and ready to take on whatever comes next.

The benefits are double–for your mind and body:

4 Benefits of Hatha Yoga

  1. Reduce stress. Getting more oxygen to your brain reduces anxiety, which can in turn decrease your risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression.
  2. Build muscle. Controlled breathing strengthens and tones your abdominal muscles. Just because you’re not moving doesn’t mean you’re not working!
  3. Improve endurance. Regular deep breathing can strengthen your cardiovascular system, allowing your heart and lungs to deliver more oxygen to your cells, making hatha a great cross-training option for my favorite sport, distance running which I write about in Fitness: 45 Minute Run to the Mailbox. Read more health benefits here.
  4. Improve focus. Did you know you can build mental stamina through practice? Concentrate on your breathing in yoga and improve your focus at work.

Can’t make it to class?

Find a quiet space at home to and follow this beginners hatha video.

Not a yogi?

You can still reap yoga benefits doing these breathing exercises anywhere, anytime.

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Take a deep breath. Courtesy: @NatalieGFierro

There is a time for what I like to call “efficient exercise,” such as making your commute a workout as I recommend in 2 Ways to Keep PE on your Schedule or choosing a short, full body workout like circuit training, as I describe in Four Reasons to Love Circuit Training.

But remember:

To keep up the pace, sometimes you have to take a break.

Hatha yoga is one way to slow down, breathing for a healthier body and mind.

You’ll gain the focus and energy you need to “do it all.”

The Wise Latina Club's Natalie Wagner Fierro

A teacher by day, The Wise Latina Club’s Natalie Wagner Fierro is the co-founder of the Institute for Student Health. She equally loves food (cooking or dining in Washington’s restaurants) and burning calories by distance running, practicing yoga, and archery. Click here to read more about and connect with Natalie.

What’s your favorite way to slow down?

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