Hatha and Pranayama Yoga
Hatha Yoga encompasses the physical poses or asanas for which is Yoga so well known. The styles of hatha Yoga differ based on the emphasis that someone has placed on desired outcome, the practice environment and/or sequence of poses, the detail that one wants embraced, and just about any other factor that one can associate with physical movement. I learned that the difference between hatha Yoga and physical exercise is that physical exercise targets physical outcomes related to muscle strength, size, and endurance; whereas asanas performed with intent target the harmonization of the mind, body, and spirit. 'Yoga' itself means to yoke or unite. 'Ha' (sun) and 'tha' (moon) brings forth the idea of unitiing the sun and moon (yang and yin) in a balance.
Pranayama Yoga is the Yoga of breath. 'Prana' is the equivalent of the Chinese 'Chi' and Japanese 'Ki'--the life force of the body. 'Ayana' is control. Learning to control the breath supports learning to control one's life force. The Yoga Journal provides a very good over view of pranayama here.
Yoga for Special Populations
When I first began teaching Yoga, I taught at a big chain fitness club. My students were all females in their late 50's to 60's who had no athlethic or fitness backgrounds--very sedentary. I looked at that as my beginning beginners' class. I had to first get them accustomed to moving their bodies and hold very small static stretches before I could ever expect them to get into some basic Yoga asanas. However, real Yoga was happening in that class as those ladies began to become aware of their bodies and body movement for the first time in years, if not in their lives.
I offer instruction for beginning beginners, plus size people, and men whose athleticism has turn their bodies to 'stone'.
Yoga style meditation occurs in many forms--walking, chanting, silence, sitting, standing, laying on one's back, special breathing, movement, bandhas (contraction of various parts of the body), and mudras (holding of fingers and hands in a specific configuration). I have explored several of these and hope to continue my exploration. Group meditation sessions involves a sharing of energy among the participants, even though the participants may have little if any verbal or physical interactions. Let's share our intent to achieve Samadhi--Oneness with the Universe.
Yoga for Personal Training
Having made the distinction between hatha Yoga and physical exercise, I want to acknowledge that Yoga supports the physical improvement of the body in terms of strength, endurance, flexibility, and muscle tone. While I do not suggest that Yoga is a route to winning a body building contest, a regular Yoga practice offers weight loss and management, muscle strength and toning, endurance, and, of course, increased flexibility. The route may not be as fast as hitting the weights in a gym, but for the patient among us, achieving physical goals are definitive possibilities, especially if you embrace more than the hatha Yoga facet of the Yoga lifestyle.