Hatha Yoga Poses for Beginners
Simple Hatha yoga poses for beginners will help you master the basics before your next yoga class.
Since 1893 when Swami Vivekananda first spoke of the teachings of yoga at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, the Western world began to develop and evolve these ancient practices into an exciting modern culture. Nowadays the options are endless, should I go with Vinyasa flow? That sweaty Bikram class? Or the... what’s Ashtanga? We've all been there. When you upload the schedule of your local yoga studio, you are presented with a plethora of practices which can be overwhelming for the beginning yogi. Do not fret, for this article will give you a foundation of basic Hatha yoga poses for beginners that can be done in the comforts of your own home and for free! Breath deep and stretch as you embark on your journey through the limbs of yoga, leaving your body feeling refresh and renewed every day.
Rabbit pose is best known for strengthening and lengthening the spine as well as relieving stress and is at the top of my list of Hatha yoga poses for beginners. This simple yet effective posture releases built up tension loaded in the upper neck, allowing space for new energy to flow through. What I love most about this asana is how the stretch opens the shoulders and stimulates the third eye chakra, increasing clarity and mental focus. At first, Sasakasana will feel uncomfortable because we are not used to feeling that deep of a stretch in the nape of our necks, so take it slow. There is no rush to get into any yogic pose. Moving into Sasakasana, you will start by sitting with your legs underneath your hips keeping the thumb toes together. Exhale. On the inhale, straighten the back and neck while cupping the bottoms of the feet with your hands. With the exhale, slowly begin lifting the hips and bringing your head down towards your knees. As you lengthen the spine, round the back until the top of the head comes down to the mat. Leave some space between your knees and your face. Hold for eight seconds, inhale coming back to sitting and exhale. Repeat up to eight times maximum.
When I first began practicing yoga, Bhujangasana was one of my favorite poses to perform in the morning before starting my day. Cobra is commonly used in various schools of yoga to strengthen the vertebral column and stretch the abdomen and throat muscles as well as the lungs. It is an ideal addition to yoga poses for beginners because it it stimulating to both the mind and body. Start by lying face first on your mat with your hands under the shoulders in resting position. Begin by inhaling and slowly use the back muscles to pull your body up creating a reverse backbend. Let the arms act as support keeping your focus ahead until you are lifted slightly off the hip bones. Hold for eight seconds and exhale coming back to rest. When I’m performing Bhujangasana, I like to envision an obstacle in the distance that I want to get over. Cobra is a strength pose not only for the body but for developing the mental strength to overcome anything you put your mind to.
Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
My lower back and thighs have always been the least elastic part of my body, struggling for over a year to come into a full forward bend. With daily paschimothanasana one can not only increase flexibility but also strengthen the lower back, making folds and bends a more graceful part of your practice. Start by sitting with your legs in front of you and back straight. Inhale, bringing the hands above your head and lengthen the torso. Exhale, hinging at the hips, keeping the back as straight as possible and bring those hands as far down your legs as you can. Ideally we want to have the right hand grabbing the outside right foot and left hand grabbing the outside left foot. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Release while inhaling back to rest. For modification you can slightly bend the knees on your way down if the stretch is too uncomfortable. Practice this fat reducing bend daily and you’ll be flexing like a gymnast in no time!
Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskar)
My favorite way to start the day is with a series of sun salutations. Beginning your practice with Surya Namaskar is one of the best ways to get the blood flowing by lightly stretching the entire body. Salutations are traditionally recommended during sunrise to harness energy and welcome the day revitalized. However, this set can be done at any time to refresh the muscles and enhance your focus. There are many variations of sun salutations and I would like to invite you to a Hatha focused version I learned when I was studying yoga poses for beginners.
We’ll begin with our hands at heart center and an exhale. Inhale and begin by raising your hands above the crown of your head until you feel a deep stretch in the short-head bicep muscle and down the sides of the belly. Try to keep your shoulders in their rest position, not raising with the arms. Exhale and gently glide your right arm down the right side of your body as your left arm comes over with the head, pulling the left side of the body out of the hip. You should feel a long stretch in the left side of your torso. Inhale, coming back to hands over head and exhale repeating the same movement on the other side of your body. Left hand down, right arm comes over the head and feel a long stretch on the right side of the torso. Inhale, come back to hands over head. Exhale bringing the hands down to your feet for a fold. Inhale, bring the back to a flat table. Exhaling come back into a fold, reverse swan dive back to standing, hands over head and back to heart center. Finish by inhaling into a slight back bend, keeping the head straight, hands out, and exhale back to heart center.
Half Lord of the Fishes (Ardha Matsyendrāsana)
Half Lord of the Fishes is an excellent seated asana for beginners to get that sleepy spine up and moving. Most of us sit in poorly supported chairs throughout the day which can cause spinal and back muscles to tense up losing all their hard earned mobility! Add this extra twist into your practice and feel the benefits as you relieve tension in your back and maintain spinal rotation. With this pose, you can be sure to improve digestion and feel the detox while you replenish these compressed areas with a fresh supply of blood. To experience these benefits, sit with your legs out in front of you and back straight. Bring your right leg over your left thigh placing the right foot on the ground. Gently slide the left leg under the upper right thigh and bring your right hand to the floor behind you. Now that you are prepped for the twist, inhale bringing your left elbow to right kneecap.
While exhaling, turn the upper body and head to the right and descend into your twist. Hold for maximum 30 seconds and come back to rest. Repeat for the left side of the body and experience the benefits Ardha Matsyendrasana can offer!
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Are you feeling sluggish and in need of energy? Look no further than bridge pose, known to stimulate and charge all the chakras and take on any part of the day revitalized. The benefits of Setu Bandha Sarvangasana are enormous as this backbend stretches the chest and neck, promoting healthy thyroid and lungs. For bridge pose, start by inviting your body into supine position on your mat and take a couple of deep breaths. One thing yoga is great for is bringing awareness to your body and your mind. So while we are preparing for Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, let your body soften into the mat. When you feel ready, bring your hands to the sides of the hips and slide your feet up in front of the hips, keeping them equidistant apart and flat on the mat. Take another deep breath, fully exhaling. With your next inhale, begin slowly lifting from the sacrum, vertebrae by vertebrae, until you feel you have reached your maximum potential. Don’t be discouraged if you did not move as far as the day before, for each day will be different. Instead, become aware of the heart bursting through the chest, the warmth in your thighs and the expansion of your lungs as you find peace in this pose. When you feel tired, simply float down onto your mat and be proud, you’ve just moved through one of the more advanced yoga poses for beginners!
Corpse Pose (Shavasana)
If you’ve taken your mat out and followed this article through your first yogic asanas, congratulations. You’ve embarked on a beautiful and rewarding path that will improve the overall well-being of your life. Now it’s time to relax into being a corpse, arguably the most difficult pose. Why? The goal of Shavasana is conscious relaxation, not napping or making a to do list. Meditation and creating an objective awareness with your thoughts is difficult, but you can definitely do it. Therefore, roll that mat back out and get comfy. Laying in supine position, take one last deep breathe and soften into your mat. When you are ready, scan the body for spots of tension. If your lower back is tense, go there and release it. When your body is at ease, simply breathe. Watch your thoughts float through your consciousness like a passing river, recognizing their existence and letting them go. When I am in Shavasana, I like to focus on my third eye chakra for clarity and awareness.
Don’t be afraid to try new things and remember when practicing yoga poses for beginners, please do not put excessive strain on your body. Those optimal results you are searching for will come with time, practice and most of all... patience.