Hatha Yoga is not the exercise that the Western world might have you believe. Sure, there might be side-effects of strength and flexibility, but these are not the goal of Hatha Yoga.
It’s about preparing the body for spiritual practice and growth by optimizing the body’s systems, maximizing our human potential.
Ha means sun, and ta means moon; masculine and feminine.
Everything you can cast your eyes on has an element of sun in, as it’s our source of life or prana.
But fly too close to the sun and you’ll get burnt, right? So we also need the cooling, calming energies of the moon to bring us into balance.
In many Indian languages, the word hatha means adamant, or with force.
Don’t worry, though. This doesn’t mean forcing yourself into painful twists and knots!
It simply means you are consciously putting your body into a different position.
By adopting a specific asana, you can change how you think, feel and experience the world around you.
Ever dragged yourself to a class feeling low in energy, but left feeling revitalized and ready to take on the world?
That’s Hatha Yoga.
As you tune in to your body, you start to listen more and those listening skills don’t just switch off the moment you step off the mat.
So although it is a practice of physical postures designed to tone the internal organs, and stimulate the systems in our bodies, it’s also working on a mental level. It’s only one of the eight limbs of yoga, providing you with a perfect physical practice to support your entire yogic lifestyle.
I love it.
I’ll share with you a hatha yoga sequence for beginners that I made so that you have a good place to start. Then you can explore your own flow from there.
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How to Create a Hatha Yoga Sequence for Beginners
You’ll want to craft out a gentle yoga sequence starting with simple asanas, leading to more challenging ones and then coming back to more basic postures before your final relaxation, sweet savasana.
Start with a few basic grounding poses to help you arrive in your body and become aware of your breath and physical sensations. This could be as simple as an easy seat, child’s pose or even lying in savasana.
Then you’re ready to start to integrate that awareness with movement. Cat-cow is the perfect way to warm-up your spine, as detailed later.
Then comes Surya Namaskar, sun salutations, to warm up the body. That’s right, you don’t need to practice hot yoga, you already have the equipment you need to get your body sufficiently toasty!
I’m not kidding, sun salutations create heat, boost your blood flow and stretch all the major muscle groups in the body.
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Just as you took time to warm up, you need time to slow things back down, instead of screeching to a holt.
This is the more lunar part of the practice and is just as important as the active standing postures.
So breathe into it, stay present with the sensations, and enjoy slowing down.
Have you heard anyone say a bad word about savasana? Nope, I didn’t think so.
Savasana is our time for total relaxation and integration and no practice would be complete without it.
Give yourself 5 minutes, if not 10 to really soak it all up.
1. Cat-cow (Marjaryasana–bitilasana)
Come into a table-top position with your hands and feet on the mat. Inhale, dropping the waist, extending your tailbone backwards as you lift your chest forwards.
Exhale, rounding the spine like an angry cat, so your navel reaches up and your head drops down.
Take several rounds combining your breath and movement.
This warms up the spine and stimulates the spinal nerves that are wrapped around it.
2. Right-side Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Step the right foot between your hands with your knee stacked above your foot. Drop into low lunge if you need to. Inhale lifting your arms.
Drop the right fingertips to the floor as you reach up and over through the left fingers stretching the left side body.
3. Right-side Side Angle (Uttitha Parsvakonasana)
Place your right hand on the inside of the right foot and the left foot flat on the floor with toes facing the side of your mat. Reach the left hand overhead with the palm facing down.
4. Right-side Side Lunge (Skandasana)
Place both hands in front of your body, flex through the left foot and let the right hip sink into the stretch.
5. Wide-legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
From skandasana, bend the left knee and walk the hands to the middle, so your weight is placed evenly between both feet. Inhale to extend through the spine and straighten your legs; exhale to fold.
6. Left-side Side Lunge (Skandasana)
Bend your left knee and walk your hands over to the left, flexing through the right foot and sinking into the stretch.
7. Left-side Side Angle (Uttitha Parsvakonasana)
Plant the left palm on the inside of the left foot, swivel the sole of the right foot flat to the mat and breathe in as you lift the right arm across the body and over the head.
8. Left-side Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Lift the right heel and spin onto the ball of the foot. Frame the left foot with both hands, coming into a lunge. Lift the arms up, drop the left fingertips to the floor and stretch the right arm over to the left.
Place the hands either side of the left foot and press down as you lift the left foot and place it next to the right foot, hips-width apart.
10. Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)
Place the left foot on the outside of the left hand and extend the right knee. Keep the spine long and gaze forward.
11. Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana)
Press into the hands, lift the left foot off the ground, placing the knee behind the left hand with the outside of the foot in front of the right hip. Untuck the right toes and slide the right leg onto the mat with the toes facing down, sinking the hips down.