Hatha Yoga is a series of asanas or postures that seek to open up the channels in the body for free flow of energy, thereby creating harmony and balance between two opposing forces. The result is that the body develops a balance between strength and flexibility along with surrender and submission in each pose.
All the poses for this 60-minute sequence for a beginner Hatha Yoga class come from the books Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati and The Yoga Bible by Christina Brown.
The descriptions following the poses in this list are critical to performing the postures properly and not a detailed description of how to perform them. I recommend acquiring the above books, which are excellent texts, or searching the Yoga Journal Pose Finder for that information.
Hatha Yoga For Overall Fitness
When practiced regularly, Hatha yoga poses improve multiple aspects important to physical fitness. As revealed in a study published in a 2001 issue of Preventive Cardiology, a minimum of two yoga classes attended per week — these included 10 minutes of dynamic warm-up poses and 50 minutes of asana — for eight weeks improved oxygen uptake, muscular strength and endurance and joint mobility.
The first point to remember is that if you feel sharp pain in the joints or muscles, you must immediately stop the asana. It may be that the pose is not right for you or there is something wrong with your body alignment. If your body just feels the exertion of the exercise you can continue to push yourself to maintain your posture.
A basic Hatha yoga class consists of :
Pranayama (breathing exercises),
Sun Salutation, and
13 asanas (postures). Variations of these postures are usually included, and others added according to the standard of the students.
5 Basic Hatha Yoga Poses:
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Holding poses for a longer period of time is an extremely beneficial addition to your practice.
Holding a pose for a longer period helps build strength and stamina. For example when you hold Warrior II for a longer period, the muscles of your legs and arms have to work harder to maintain the pose.
When you hold a pose, you have time to actually feel, to adjust and to readjust. Watch out for allowing your mind to become completely occupied with this. While it’s fine to take some time to focus on your alignment don’t allow it to become your sole focus in the pose.
Holding a pose for longer then you are used to can often give space for emotions to arise. You go beyond the point that is comfortable (obviously you come out of the pose if it feels painful or does not feel ‘right’). Going beyond the comfort zone can bring up fear and other emotions.
Then there are prone poses such as Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) and Shalabhasana (Locust Pose) that even adepts do not hold for more than a minute. On the other hand, certain poses such as Sirshasana (Head Stand) and Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) may comfortably be held with practice for up to ten minutes. Here again, different schools of Yoga have differing views. It actually all depends upon a variety of factors including your gender, age, physical fitness, medical health, flexibility and needs.
All of the meditative poses, however, can be held for longer periods of time, without any complications. For these types of postures, it is actually beneficial to retain the asana without needing to take a break. These poses include the Easy Pose (Sukhasana), the Corpse Pose (Shavasana), and the Thunderbolt Pose (Vajrasana). Asanas are meant to strengthen the mind and spirit, while toning the body, in a safe progressive manner.