Hatha Yoga: Past, Present and Beyond, with Sue Elkind and Naime Jezzeny

By Sue Elkind and Naime Jezzeny
WebMD Live Events Transcript

Experienced yoga instructors Sue Elkind and Naime Jezzeny introduce the WebMD audience to Hatha Yoga.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Sue Elkind and Naime Jezzeny have been practicing and teaching yoga for the last decade. They are the co-owners of City Yoga, the immensely popular yoga studio in Los Angeles. Sue and Naime, welcome to WebMD Live.

What is yoga?

Jezzeny: The word yoga means "union" or like "to yoke," to bring together. The term yoga is generally considered to be about the word first appeared about 5000 years ago in some ancient texts called the Vedas. Yoga as we know it now, there are many different types. Yoga as we know it now, which is practiced as Hatha yoga and that's the physical yoga. It translates to the yoga of force. Yoga is just a term that is a way to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Hatha yoga is just one way to achieve spiritual enlightenment by using body. Practitioners of Hatha yoga believe that to purify the mind, you had to purify the body first.

Moderator: Does that have to do with a certain amount of detachment from the material world?

Jezzeny: Yes. Ultimately the way, the ultimate goal of yoga is considered to be to calm the fluctuations of your mind. Basically the fluctuations in our mind are attachments to everything outside of us, external from the self. It's just a way to detach yourself and more clearly see the true self, your true nature.

Moderator: What makes "Hatha Yoga" different from other types of yoga?

Elkind: As Naime has said, most yoga as we know it today falls under the category of Hatha. There are many styles of Hatha yoga. All include the physical body as a means to attain that mental and spiritual freedom. The other types of yoga where the physical practice is not as important include Bhakti yoga, and this is translated to devotional yoga and it's through chanting and ancient scriptures. The next would be Jnana, and that's translated to yoga of wisdom and that's more -- a good example is Krishnamurti. That's Jnana yoga intellect. Karma yoga translates to yoga of action. If you practice karma yoga, you practice selfless service. You do good deeds without self interest. You find a lot of these types of yoga practiced more in India.

Moderator: So not all yoga is a physical activity?

Elkind: Exactly.

Moderator: When did Hatha yoga originate? What are the roots of Hatha yoga?

Jezzeny: It only started about 1000 to 1200 years ago. Hatha yoga was originally believed to have started to be practiced somewhere around the 9th or 10th century. It was originally looked at as being a lower form of yoga. Probably the bible of Hatha yoga is called the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It's a text written about practices involved in Hatha yoga which involve both postures, asanas and pranayama (breathing techniques). In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, they only mention about 14 or 15 postures in about 750 pages that this book is. Most of the postures are variations on the cross-legged seated position. Meditation is very important. Basically Hatha Yoga--the postures were to prepare the body to be able to sit comfortably and meditate.

Moderator: How important do you feel diet is to the practice of yoga?

Elkind: I believe diet is very important. I believe that, without sounding too radical, you are what you eat !! I don't necessarily believe you need to be vegetarian, but you need to be sensitive to how your body feels when you're eating. Many times we eat to quench our emotions .more than to nourish our bodies. I believe that, as much as you can, my philosophy is to eat organic and natural. If you don't know ingredients, chances are they're not going to give you highest nutrients. That really affects your mental state. I believe certain foods have vibrations. If you eat natural organic meat, at least you're taking on less of a harsh vibration. I think diet is important and I think it says a lot about how you feel about yourself. You treat your body as a temple and you nourish it because you feel it's important.