Yoga is a whole lot more than just another form of exercise. It brings with it a wide range of both physical and mental benefits that you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
On the physical side of things, yoga is great for increasing your flexibility, muscle strength and tone. It can also help you maintain a balanced metabolism, can protect your body from injury, and it can even improve your respiration, your energy and your vitality. According to the American Osteopathic Association, the insights gained from practicing yoga has also been proven to help people manage stress, increase body awareness, and can even help create an essential sense of mental clarity and calmness.
But if you've never practiced yoga before on a regular basis, all of this can quickly seem overwhelming. How can you be sure that you're performing poses in the right way, or that you're even picking the right poses to meet your needs in the first place? Luckily, this isn't nearly as difficult as you might think it is. There are a few terrific Hatha yoga poses in particular that you're definitely going to want to learn more about.
What Is Hatha Yoga?
In many ways, Hatha is the best form of yoga for beginners because its primary focus is on the basics in the first place. Hatha yoga classes traditionally have a slower pace than others (perfect for people who are still getting a handle on things), and you're only actually required to hold each pose for a few basic breaths.
Because Hatha yoga is defined as a type that teaches a balance between the body and the mind through physical postures, all yoga is technically Hatha yoga from a certain perspective. Try the poses below and see how easy it can be for beginners to do yoga.
STANDING FORWARD BEND
You may have heard Standing Forward Bend referred to by another name – the "Foot to Hand" pose. With your feet positioned hip-width apart, inhale and extend your spine. Then, exhale and bend at the hips – try to tuck your hands under the front of your feet if possible. In the best of circumstances, your wrists would actually be touching your toes.
Try to hold this pose for between 30 seconds and one minute, then inhale and return to a standing position.
The Tree pose begins by standing with your feet together and your arms at your sides. While shifting the majority of your weight onto your left leg, bend your right knee and place the bottom of your right foot inside your left thigh. Try to keep your hips facing forward throughout this time.
Once you're safely balancing yourself, move your hands to a "prayer" position in front of your chest and inhale. Hold for 30 seconds, then release and exhale as you bring your body back to a normal posture. Then, repeat with the opposite side of your body.
There are a few different variants of the Warrior pose, but since Hatha yoga is all about the basics, we will discuss Warrior I to maintain that spirit.
With your feet spread about three feet apart, turn your right foot outward at a 90-degree angle. Relax your shoulders, then carefully extend your arms out to the sides of your body (with your palms facing down). Bend your right leg at a 90-degree angle, but be careful not to extend your knee OVER your ankle. Hold this position for as long as you can and then switch sides.
Another terrific Hatha yoga pose is called Downward-Facing Dog, which is an integral part of the Sun Salutation sequence. It's great for working every part of your body, which can also make it a challenge to hold for a long time. Regardless, it is definitely the perfect way to get a taste for what Hatha yoga can do for you in the long term.
Begin on your hands and knees. Spread your fingers out on your yoga mat and turn your toes inward, under your body. Exhale your breath and lift your knees up off the floor, making sure to keep them bent ever so slightly. Focus your mind on pushing your heels DOWN to the floor, then hold this position for as long as you can. When you feel like you can't hold it for any longer, inhale and return to a normal position.
Finally, we have the Bridge pose – something that is great for working your chest, your neck and your spine. Lay down on your back and bend your knees while keeping your arms flat at your sides and your feet planted firmly on the floor. Move your heels upward, as close to your backside as you can get them. Exhale and press your feet and arms into the mat while letting your hips push you upward. Lift your chin ever so slightly, but press your shoulder blades down.
It is typically recommended that you hold this position for between 30 seconds and one minute. Once you feel like you can't go any longer, release and begin to inhale. Slowly roll your spine down toward the floor for the best results. Repeat all of this as often as you can, or at least as often as you feel comfortable doing so.
If all five of these great poses have one thing in common, it is undoubtedly the way that they allow you to focus on your breathing and how it affects the world around you. Breathing is more than just a bodily necessity – it says a lot about who we are and what we're made of, without ever actually saying a word at all.
In truth, paying attention to the rhythm, the pace, the sound and the depth of your natural breath gives you the perfect opportunity to free your body – and your mind – from some of the stress that you've been carrying with you. Practicing Hatha yoga poses like these on a regular basis is a great way to focus your attention inward where it belongs.
Remember that when holding yoga poses, you're supposed to hold the POSE and NOT your breath. Always breathe normally to unlock the full benefits to which you are entitled. Namaste.
If you're interested in more and are located in the Pensacola or Milton Florida area, click below and sign up for a class led by Melissa Garner, LMHC, RYT!
If you are unable to attend one of the Pensacola or Milton workshops, but want more Hatha yoga, check out Hatha Yoga Illustrated.