Ashtanga, Asana, Vinyasa, Vrikshasana, Iyengar, – if you are beginner of yoga practice, all these names and terms can get quite confusing.
So, let’s take it back to basics, and start with Hatha Yoga.
Hatha yoga traditionally isn’t a style of yoga as such, but it describes a kind of yoga where asanas are practiced. Asana is the word for ‘pose’. So, Hatha yoga is the kind of yoga that uses poses.
Hatha yoga developed in the Western world into a particular style. A style that is gentle and basic, focusing on alignment, as well as the physical and mental benefits of each pose.
For a beginner yogi, Hatha yoga is ideal.
Benefits of Hatha Yoga For Beginners
Boosts Your Immune System
The twisting and stretching stimulates the lymphatic system, as well as increases the draining of toxins in the body. This helps to fight illness and improve health.
Yoga – when done regularly – can have a positive effect on reducing anxiety and depression.
Strengthen And Tone Body
Yoga uses your bodyweight, and bodyweight exercise is great to strengthen and tone your body. A lot of the poses in a Hatha yoga class are held for a period of time, or repeated throughout.
Lower Stress Levels
This comes from learning to use your breath.
The way you use your breath during your Hatha yoga practice actually stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is the rest and digest system, and being able to stimulate it leads to stealing a busy mind and lowering the heart rate.
Flexibility is developed by holding postures that stretch and twist your muscles. It is important to develop your flexibility as it decreases the risk of injury and lubricates your joints.
6 Best Hatha Yoga For Beginners Poses
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
The mountain pose is the foundation of all the standing poses. It is a good pose to use as a starting position, as a resting pose, and also as a pose to improve your posture.
To do Mountain Pose, stand with your feet together and arms at your side. Your big toes are touching, and your heels slightly apart (only slightly). Lift your toes and spread them wide, then place them on the ground, ensuring all toes and the bottom of your feet are connected to the ground.
Engage your thighs and lift your kneecaps slightly. Find a neutral pelvis (don’t tuck it in too much, and don’t arch your back too much). Lift your sternum, pull your shoulder blades back, and pull your shoulders down away from your ears.
Turn your palms to face forward (keeping your arms at your side), keep your chin parallel to the floor and relax your face and jaw. Feel yourself standing tall from the soles of your feet to the crown of your head.
Tree Pose (Vrikshasana)
While this is a beginner’s pose, it can actually be quite challenging. It teaches you to be in alignment with your body – understanding what your body can manage, and what it is not quite ready for.
Start in your Mountain Pose.
Shift you weight over to your left leg – being careful to not lift the inner left foot off the floor.
Lift your right foot off the floor while bending your knee, and with your right hand, clasp your right ankle.
While holding your ankle, place the sole of the right foot against the inner thigh of your left leg. Point your toes towards the floor, and press your right heel into your thigh/groin area (depending how high you can get your foot).
Take care not to push your hip out or lean over. Your pelvis must be directly over your left foot.
Keep your gaze soft, looking at a spot on the floor slightly ahead of you. Place your palms together in a ‘prayer’ position, keeping your shoulders back and down, and stay there for a few breaths.
Standing Forward Bend Pose (Uttanasana)
The standing Forward Bend pose is great for releasing the muscles in your lower back, and helps release the tightness and lengthen the muscles that run along your spine.
Start again from the Mountain Pose (can you see how this make such a great starting position?), with your hands on your hips.
Exhale, and slowly bend forward from the hips. Ensure that you are bending from your hips, not your waist.
Pull your torso forward as you bend, so you don’t end up hunching over.
Keep your knees straight as you bend over.
If you can reach, place your palms on the floor slightly in front of, or beside, your feet. If you can’t quite get there, you can place your fingertips instead of your palms down.
If that is not yet manageable, cross your forearms in front of your legs and hold your elbows.
Keep pressing your heels firmly into the ground, and feel your tailbone lifting towards the ceiling.
While you are there, keep inhaling and exhaling. With each inhale, lift and lengthen your torso slightly. With each exhale, go into your bend a further more each time.
Take care not to tense your neck – simple let your head hang.
When returning to Mountain Pose, stand up with a straight torso, rather than rolling up.
Downward Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Probably one of the most well-known yoga poses, the Downward Facing Dog Pose has many great benefits.
It strengthens your abdominal muscles, improves circulation, improves digestion, and can even help relax and calm your mind (when the next and cervical spine are stretched, stress is released).
Even as a beginner, it is easy to know when you are doing the pose correctly. If your joints are feeling stressed, or you are feeling unstable, then adjust slightly.
To get into the pose, start on the floor on your hands and knees. Place your knees directly below your hips, and have your hands slightly in front of your shoulders. Spread your fingers out, and have your index fingers parallel.
Tuck your toes under, and as you exhale, lift your knees off the floor. Draw your navel towards the back of your spine as you lift.
To keep this pose ‘beginner friendly’, keep your knees bent and your heels lifted off the floor at first. If you can manage, straighten your legs and drop your heels to the floor.
Push your hands into the floor (feel as if you are pushing the floor away), and lengthen your neck, while keeping your shoulder blades down.
Low Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana)
If you sit at a desk most of the day, then this is a pose to practice daily!
It stretches out tight hips, hamstrings, and quads.
To begin this pose, start from Downward Facing Dog Pose. On an exhale, step your right foot forward, and place it between your hands.
Lower your left knee to the ground, release your toes and place the top of your left foot on the ground.
Keep your right knee directly over your ankle, not leaning forward towards the toes. Place your hands gently on your knees.
Continue to breathe deeply. With each exhale, soften the weight of your body into your hips, towards the floor.
When you are finished the pose, tuck your toes back under your foot, place your palms on the mat, then step backwards into Downward Dog.
After a few breaths, step forward again but with your left leg and repeat.