Hatha Yoga: All About This Yoga Style and The Best Exercises

hatha yoga

Hatha Yoga is the most famous style of Yoga and was probably initiated in the 6th and 7th century by the Indian scholar and fisherman Matsyenra and his student Goraksha. In the 14th century, the Hathapradipika was written by Swatmarama. Here he described Hatha Yoga, all asanas and effects and all his techniques.

The word Hatha has several meanings. On the one hand, “Ha” which means sun and “tha” means moon. Put together, “Hatha” can be translated as “powerful” or “conscious”. The exercises themselves are as contradictory as the name because Hatha-Yoga is about balancing the opposites.

It focuses mainly on the physical body with various asanas and breathing exercises (pranayama). A Hatha Yoga class is characterized by slow and relaxed practices – perfect for a beginner. It is about strengthening the sense of balance as well as flexibility and muscles. Hatha Yoga can make you more balanced and strengthen you at the same time.

Advantages and Focal Points of Hatha Yoga

Just a few yoga classes are enough to feel a difference. You will notice that Yoga works not only on the physical but also on the mental level. Studies provide scientific proof at Harvard University or the University of Illinois.

Hatha Yoga is not only the best way for you as a yoga beginner, but also has some significant advantages for you:

  • It helps to reduce stress and to strengthen the body, muscles, mind and soul.
  • Helps to reduce back and neck pain
  • Helps with depression, sleep disorders and high blood pressure
  • The exercises are balanced between movement and effort as well as rest.
  • The asanas harmonize with breathing exercises and meditation.

“A disturbing breath leads to a disturbed consciousness; a regular breath leads to a calm consciousness. The two go hand in hand. That is why the yogi values a steady and calm breath – in this way, he masters his consciousness and thus extends his life. – Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika

The Most Important Hatha Yoga Exercises

Also, in H, different asanas can be divided into groups. There are sitting exercises such as the lotus seat (padmasana), stretching exercises such as the fish (matsyasana) or the bow (dhanurasana) and more demanding exercises such as the headstand (sirshasana) or the crane (bakasana). Although it always looks so easy, a yoga class can take a lot of strength and concentration out of you. You must never give up but practice on yourself and your asanas again and again (preferably daily).

As a beginner, it is important that you slowly get your body used to the new exercises.

Muktasana – Upright seat

Muktasana is, as the German name suggests, one of many sitting postures in Yoga. Here it is important to note that head, neck and spine form a line and you sit comfortably.

hatha yoga

This is how it works:

  1. Sit with your legs crossed on the yoga mat, or a seat cushion, so that your pelvis is upright and your knees can sink as far as possible to the floor. Your knees should be lower than your pelvis.
  2. Place your hands on your knees. The palms of your hands can point up or down.
  3. Relax and linger for a few minutes.

Dhanurasana – Bow

This asana eliminates hesitation and doubt and provides orientation and security. Also, it strengthens the entire back, improves posture and breathing, and thus helps to promote decision-making.

This is how it works:

  1. Lie down on the bow and forehead on the floor. Then bend your knees and grasp your ankles with your hands.
  2. As you inhale, lift your head and pull your legs up with your arms. Thereby the knees lift off the floor, and the groin remains on the ground.
  3. Hold this position for a few breaths and then let your legs and head sink slowly.

Nakrasana – Crocodile

The exercise, also known as crocodile, relieves and frees the lower back. The body is rotated so that the vertebrae and intervertebral discs are released from each other, allowing life energy to flow.

This is how it works:

  1. First, take the supine position and spread your arms at shoulder level.
  2. Then bend your right leg and place it to the left. The shoulders and upper body remain on the ground; the lower hips do not rotate either.
  3. Then turn your head to the right.
  4. Stay in this position for 5 – 10 breaths and then change sides.

Adho Mukha Svanasana – looking down dog

The looking down dog is one of the most famous asanas. This exercise helps with headaches and stimulates the nervous system in the body.

hatha yoga

This is how it works:

  1. It’s best to start at the four-footed stand. Hands should be shoulder-width and knees hip-width apart.
  2. When breathing out, loosen the knees from the mat and put them in place.
  3. For the right body tension, you should push away slightly with your hands so that your heels sink into the mat.
  4. You should hold this position for 1 – 3 minutes and then return to the quadruped or child position.

Balasana – Position of the child

The child position is a very calming and relaxing exercise. It relieves the eyes, nerves, brain, breath and mind as well as the back and shoulders. This asana is a great follow-up exercise for the looking down dog.

This is how it works:

  1. Kneel on the middle of your yoga mat and sit on your heels. The big toes touch each other, and the knees are hip-wide apart.
  2. Now bend forward until your forehead touches the floor.
  3. Now you can either lay your hands with the palms facing down, past your head on the left and right, or you can lay your arms next to your upper body with the palms facing up.
  4. Concentrate here on a calm, even breathing and stay in this position for at least 30 seconds, but no longer than a few minutes.

Bhujangasana – The Cobra

The cobra position imitates the upright posture of a snake. Her legs and hips lie on the ground while the upper body is erect.

This is how it works:

  1. Lie flat on your stomach so that the spine does not make a kink. The tops of your feet also rest flat on the floor, and the heels should rest hip-wide next to each other.
  2. Now bring your elbows back far enough so that you can place your hands close to your body at chest level. Loosen your head from the mat and stand upright.
  3. Vertebrae by vertebrae, now put on your upper body until your arms are stretched out.
  4. Your gaze should be directed forward or slightly upwards and be in line with your spine.
  5. For an even more intensive stretching, you can also look upwards.
  6. Now breathe in and out slowly a few times and enjoy this posture and stretching of the body.
  7. If it is a good time for you, you can switch from the cobra back to the lying position.

We hope you enjoy your first Hatha Yoga exercises. And always remember: “Yoga is not about touching your toes. It is about what you learn on the way down.” – Jigar Gor. Namaste!


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