Hatha yoga is a form of yoga which involves slow movements and prolonged poses in order to focus on stretching as a priority over breathing techniques. The goal with Hatha yoga is that with time, the focus on physical posture will lead to improved breathing and meditative practices. Hatha yoga incorporates a lot of the same poses as other forms of yoga, yet the focus on physicality from the beginning means that strength, balance and flexibility is built quickly with regular practice.
10 Hatha Yoga Poses and Benefits
Hatha yoga is all about finding balance within the body and releasing any negative energy and it has the ability to really change people’s lives. We have put together a list of 10 different Hatha yoga poses for beginners, to help you get started and feel the benefits as soon as possible!
The first pose, and one of the most simple, is Tadasana, otherwise known as Mountain Pose. To do this pose, you stand nice and tall with your feet together, interlock your fingers and lift the arms above the head so that the palms are facing upwards. Keep a slight bend in your knees to prevent them from locking. Try to push your tailbone downwards and fix your gaze in order to feel balanced. Hold the pose for around a minute to give your body a chance to enjoy this wonderful stretch, although try to avoid over arching the back as this can lead to injuries. Enjoy and breathe deeply!
This is a fantastic warm up pose that engages muscles in all areas of the body and is brilliant for improving your posture.
Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Mukha Svanasana, also known as Downward Facing Dog, is one of the most well-known yoga poses. This is a simple pose that can be performed by most people and it can help to increase flexibility over time. It will also help to tone the muscles throughout the whole body! You will gain full body flexibility and increase blood circulation, so this is a fantastic and simple pose to refer back to throughout practice.
Start on all fours with your hands and knees on the floor. Your hands should be positioned directly underneath your shoulders. Tuck your toes under your feet and when you breathe out, push your hips upwards whilst straightening your legs to form a triangle shape with your body. Avoid squeezing your shoulders into your ears by being conscious of creating space between them. Keep your stomach engaged to maintain a strong position and push through your hands to create space.
Try to create a straight line from your wrists all the way up to your tailbone. Experienced yogis will be able to place their feet flat, however keeping your heels in the air is absolutely fine. You may feel like you want to pedal the legs by straightening one and bending the other and alternating, which can help to relieve feelings of tightness.
Another wonderful beginners stretch is Child’s Pose. Many yogi’s will incorporate this pose towards the beginning and end of practice, as well as throughout when the body needs a moment to relax and refocus. Coming from Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog), you can move into a child’s pose by lowering the knees to the floor. From here, widen your knees to the width of the mat, or as far towards the edge as you can go, whilst keeping your feet together.
Then walk your hands down the middle of the mat until your forehead and forearms are resting on the mat. If you can’t quite reach that, just go as far as is comfortable. Relax your entire body and make sure that you soften your shoulders and keep your neck relaxed. Close your eyes and enjoy the pose, as it is one that you will grow to love, especially when your body is in need of a short break.
Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend Pose)
Another wonderful pose that you will always come back to, no matter your experience, is Paschimottanasana, also known as Seated Forward Bend Pose. There are endless amounts of benefits to this pose, most importantly that it stretches the entire body. It’s great for relieving stress and tension through the back particularly. This is a brilliant post that will help to translate into progress in other areas of your yoga.
To do this pose, sit on the floor with your legs stretched out straight in front of you. Keep your back straight and lean forwards to gradually move your hands down your legs and towards your shins or feet. How far you can go will depend on how flexible you are, so don’t push yourself too much as you will gradually become more flexible over time. With each exhale, try to move very slightly lower to feel more of a stretch.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Uttanasana, or Standing Forward Bend, has many of the benefits of Paschimottanasana, with the addition of many more. This pose helps to stimulate essential organs, strengthen muscles throughout the body, improves circulation and increases flexibility. For a good stretch on the entire backside of the body, this is the pose for you.
For this pose, start with your feet slightly apart or completely together. Reach up to the sky and sweep your arms down either side of the body, tipping at the hips and folding as far as you can with your fingers pointing towards your feet. Keep your feet flat on the floor and only bend as far forwards as is comfortable. Keep the knees very slightly bent to avoid locking and enjoy the stretch! With each exhale, move slightly deeper into the stretch.
Cat (Marjaryasana) and Cow (Bitilasana) Poses
At the beginning of a yoga practice, most people will practice the Cat and Cow poses together in order to warm up the body and more specifically, the back. It helps to improve posture, balance and prevent injury during practice. These poses are also particularly good for easing back pain and helping people to ease into their yoga practice and relax. Rather than arching just the lower back, focus on moving the entire back up and down for a better stretch and to prevent injury.
Start on all fours with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. As you inhale, drop your belly towards the floor and lift the tailbone to create an arch in the back for the cow pose. This will mainly stretch the chest and torso and remember to keep the shoulders relaxed. Then, on the exhale round the back and tuck in the tailbone for the cat pose. Push through your fingers to help with the lift and draw in your navel.
Keep alternating these poses until you feel warm and prepared to continue your practice. This is the ideal beginner pose as it improves posture and balance, relieves stress and can also help with coordinating breathing and movements.
Baddha Konasana (Cobbler Pose)
Baddha Konasana, or Cobbler’s Pose, is another simple pose which can really help to improve flexibility in the back, hamstrings, hips and groin. Start by sitting on your seat bones and bringing the soles of your feet together, letting your knees fall to the side. Move your feet as close as you can to the body, stopping before you feel any discomfort. Hold your feet with both hands and whilst keeping your back straight and tall, slowly move your chest towards the floor.
You should begin to feel a good stretch in the groin and inner thighs. Take your time and gradually work towards moving lower each time. If you struggle with a groin injury, try sitting with a blanket under the thighs to relieve pressure.
Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
Utkatasana, also called Chair Pose, is another full body stretch that can strengthen muscles throughout the body and help you to progress. Start by standing with your feet about hip-width apart with your arms down by your side. As you breathe in, bend your knees and keep your chest lifted until you are almost in a standing seat. Keep your spine long and draw your shoulder blades downwards. Keep the core engaged and squeeze the buttocks, whilst sinking the weight into the heels. Hold this pose and breathe as you do it, as it can be challenging.
This pose helps to strengthen the entire body, making it an important staple in any routine in order to help with progression over time.
Bhujangasana (Baby Cobra)
Another brilliant pose for people who suffer with lower back pain, Bhujangasana or Baby Cobra can provide a boost of energy and help to fight fatigue, as well as providing a wonderful stretch for the back. Start by lying flat on your front and pointing your toes backwards. Lift your arms to plant your arms in line with your ribcage and very gently push the front of your body upwards. Keep pushing until you feel a nice stretch in the back without discomfort. Look up towards the ceiling, tipping your neck backwards. If your neck feels uncomfortable, gaze forwards. Keep your shoulders back and down and keep your hips on the mat.
You will feel the benefits of this stretch all over the body!
Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
Shavasana, or Corpse Pose, is one of the most simple yet important yoga poses. You simply lie down flat on your back in a comfortable position with your legs flat and your arms out wide with your palms facing upwards. Find a position that feels comfortable to you without any strain anywhere on the body. Start breathing naturally and allow your whole body to relax into the ground.
Shavasana helps to calm the central nervous system, reduce stress, help with fatigue and anxiety and reduce blood pressure. It is also important to help with the development of consciousness. This pose should become a regular part of your yoga practice to give your mind and body the opportunity to recuperate.
So, there you have it! 10 Hatha yoga poses for beginners. With these simple poses you will begin to notice improvements in your strength and flexibility to help you make progress over time. Remember to only do as much as you feel comfortable with and always seek professional help for modifications.