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What Is Hatha Yoga? Definition, Benefits & What To Expect

Updated: Jul 21, 2021

If you have looked through the class offerings at your local yoga studio, you may have noticed a style of yoga known as hatha yoga.

It's one of the most popular yoga techniques, with a history from ancient times to the present day. But, exactly, what is hatha? What are the advantages, and what can you expect if you take a class?



What is hatha yoga?

Hatha yoga is a general name for any style of yoga that incorporates both poses ("asanas") and breathing methods ("pranayama").

Hatha encompasses several of the major yoga styles in the Japan, including ashtanga, restorative, vinyasa, Iyengar, and others.

“Ha” - Sun

“Tha” - Moon


According to Ashutosh San, Chief Sewa Officer at Patanjali Japan Foundation and certified yoga teacher and examiner of Yoga Certification Board, Ministry of AYUSH Government of Bharat (India), the term "hatha" has evolved in Japan to describe a specific type of yoga class that is typically slow-paced and focuses on proper alignment.




What are the health benefits?

There is some research that focuses specifically on the benefits of hatha, but most of those studies define hatha as an umbrella term (i.e., yoga that combines poses and breathing techniques) rather than specifying it as slow-paced and alignment-focused yoga.


With that in mind, the studies indicate that the broad category of hatha yoga may have a number of benefits, including:


Benefit No. 1 - Less anxiety:

A meta-analysis of 17 studies (501 patients) published in 2016 provides preliminary support for hatha as a treatment for anxiety. SOURCE - Leading Newspaper of Japan.


Benefit No. 2 - Better balance:

A small 2014 study of 34 men discovered that those who completed a five-month hatha yoga Programme improved their postural control. The authors conclude that hatha yoga training can improve body balance based on their findings. SOURCE - Leading Research Pannel of UK.


Benefit No. 3 - Fitness improvements:

A 2015 study of Japanese adults discovered that a 12-week hatha yoga Programme improved several fitness components such as cardio endurance, muscle strength and endurance, and flexibility.

  • Body purification

  • Balance of the mental and physical energies

  • Connect with pure consciousness


Hatha is great for beginners and more experienced yogis.

Hatha is a great type of yoga for beginners because it is a slower form of yoga with a greater emphasis on pose instruction (rather than simply performing them).

Hatha may also be beneficial for people who have difficulty focusing, according to Ashutosh.

"Poses are usually broken down, so your mind doesn't wander as much," he explains. "You are repeatedly brought back to action."




Hatha Yoga Poses for Beginners

Below we will walk you through the various poses which will help you to do Hatha Yoga for better health.

Tadasana

The tadasana is a foundational asana for all standing yoga asanas and is a staple of Hatha yoga for beginners.


tadasan


It activates all muscle groups and improves body posture. To avoid injuries, practice tadasana on an empty stomach and with control.


How to do Tadasana

  • Stand up straight, with your feet together and your toes touching. You can wear your heels slightly apart.

  • Place your hands alongside your body and make sure your thighs are firm.

  • Raise your kneecaps but don't tighten your lower stomach.

  • As you lift your inner ankles, make sure the arches are straight.

  • Turn your upper thighs inward gently and stretch your tailbone toward the floor. Raise your pubis toward your navel.

  • For balance, look straight ahead and fix your gaze on a single point.

  • Inhale deeply as you stretch your arms upward; allow your entire body to stretch from head to toe.

  • Hold for a maximum of 60 seconds. Exhale as you let go.



Vrikshasana

The tree pose stretches the legs, arms, and back while also promoting mental balance.

Vrikshasana is a Hatha yoga pose for beginners that relieves sciatica, strengthens the legs, opens the hips, and improves balance. It is also known to improve concentration.



Vrikshasana (Tree Pose)


How to do the Vrikshasana

  • Stand straight with your arms at your sides.

  • Place the inside of your right thigh on the inside of your left thigh. Place the sole flat and firmly on the thigh's root. Make sure your left leg is straight.

  • Find your balance, breathe, and slowly raise your arms from the sides over your head. Namaste mudra is formed by joining your palms together.

  • To maintain balance, look straight ahead at a single point in front of you.

  • Take long, deep breaths while your body is tightly stretched and your spine is straight. With each inhalation, try to relax.

  • Gently lower your hands and let go of the leg.

  • After a few seconds of rest, repeat the pose with the other leg.



Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)

The standing forward bend, or Uttanasana, is beneficial to both the body and the mind.

Although it is simple, it is far from easy because it requires flexible hamstrings, calves, hips, and, most importantly, patience. This straightforward pose reflects the ebbs and flows of your body and life.



How to do Uttanasana

  • Place your hands on your hips and stand up straight. Exhale and bend forward, hinged at the hips.

  • Stretch all the way from your hips to your head.

  • Put your fingers on the ground or a block. Relax the back of your neck and head.

  • As you inhale, feel your torso lengthen, and as you exhale, feel your chest reach for your toes.

  • Maintain the pose for up to 60 seconds.

  • Allow your hands to return to your hips and slowly raise your torso to exit the pose.


Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing Dog Pose)

Adho Mukha Svanasana, one of the most common yoga asanas, increases blood flow to the brain.

The downward-facing dog pose stimulates, strengthens, and lengthens the muscles. It tones the core and waist, lengthens and strengthens the hamstrings and calves, and strengthens the back.



How to do Adho Mukha Svanasana

  • Position yourself on all fours so that your body resembles a table. Check that your hands are parallel to your shoulders and your feet are parallel to your hips.

  • Lift your hips as you exhale. Straighten your elbows and knees at the same time. Your body should be in a ‘inverted V' position, with your toes pointing outward.

  • Press your hands into the ground to lengthen your neck. Allow your ears to come into contact with your inner arms.

  • Hold for a few seconds.

  • To let go of the hold, bend your knees.



Setu Bandhasana (Also known as Kandhrasana)

The Bridge Pose is a Hatha Yoga posture that strengthens the core and lower body while also lengthening the spine.

Setu Bandhasana increases energy levels in the body and stimulates the nervous and endocrine systems.



Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)


How to do Setu Bandhasana

  • Lie on your back on a yoga mat and bend both knees. Place your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.

  • Keep your arms parallel to your body, palms facing down. Your fingertips should lightly brush against your heels.

  • Inhale and press your feet into the floor to lift your hips; roll your spine off the floor. Maintain a hip-width distance between your knees.

  • Press down into your arms and shoulders to lift your chest.

  • Lift your hips as high as you can with your legs and buttocks.

  • Hold for 4-8 breaths.

  • To release, exhale and slowly roll the spine back to the floor.



Halasana (Plough Pose)

The Halasana, which is synonymous with the plough, is one of the Hatha Yoga poses associated with discovering treasures within.

The Plough Pose benefits include reduced stress and fatigue, as well as a calm brain, flexible shoulders and spine, and relief from menopausal symptoms.

The pose can help with insomnia, sinusitis, infertility, back pain, and headaches.



Halasana (Plough Pose)


How to do Halasana

  • Lie flat on your back on a mat, with your arms beside your body. Your palms should be facing down.

  • Inhale and lift your feet off the ground using your abdominal muscles. Your feet should be at a right angle to your torso at this point.

  • Push your hands into the floor to raise your hips off the ground. Your feet should be directly above and beyond your head, and your back should be perpendicular to the ground.

  • Hold the position for a few seconds while concentrating on your breathing.

  • Exhale and slowly return your feet to their original position, avoiding any jerky movements.



Sirsasana (Head Stand)

Headstand has incredible health benefits. This Hatha Yoga pose stimulates the flow of blood to the head, neck, and face.

Sirsasana reduces swelling and nervous congestion by relaxing the flow of blood to the lower extremities. The Headstand relaxes the heart while also releasing the kidneys and adrenal glands.



sirsasan


How to do Sirsasana

  • As in the downward-facing dog pose, get on all fours.

  • Place your forearms on the floor, and your elbows should be directly under your shoulders.

  • Make a cup with your palms by clasping your hands together and interlacing your fingers.

  • Then, with your palms cupping the back of your head, place the top of your head on the floor.

  • Extend your legs as you would in the downward-facing dog position.

  • Slowly walk your feet as close to your head as possible.

  • Lift your legs off the floor with a push. Don't try to dive right into the full extension. Allow your legs to hang freely, with your thighs bent and your hips hinged and your back straight.

  • Next, align your thighs with your backbone and allow your shins to hang toward the back.

  • Hold this position for a few moments and take a few deep breaths.

  • Exhale and gradually bend your knees to fully extend your lower body.

  • Hold the pose for at least 10 seconds, keeping your core engaged.



Salabhasana (Locust Pose)

Salabhasana resembles a locust at rest, but it is far more difficult than resting. The Locust Pose stimulates the internal organs and improves blood circulation.

This Hatha Yoga pose for beginners helps to regulate the acid-base balance while also strengthening the thighs, shoulders, legs, hips, and calf muscles.

Salabhasana is included in the yoga for weight loss routine because it regulates metabolism and reduces stress and tension.


Salabhasana (Locust Pose)


How to do Salabhasana

  • Lie on your stomach on a yoga mat, with your hands by your sides.

  • Lift your legs and upper torso as you exhale.

  • Lift your legs higher up using your inner thighs without bending your knees. Allow your weight to be supported by your abdomen and lower ribs. Use your hands to provide support.

  • Hold the pose for up to one minute before slowly releasing it.



Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)

The shoulder stand, also known as Sarvangasana, is a Hatha Yoga asana that affects the functionality of all body parts.

The Shoulder Stand, also known as the "queen of asanas," is beneficial to both mental and physical health. In Sarvangasana, the entire body is balanced on the shoulders.



Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand)


How to do Sarvangasana

  • Lie on your back with your hands by your sides.

  • With one movement, support your back with your hands and lift your legs, buttocks, and back (in that order)

  • Lower your hands down your upper back and bring your elbows closer together. By pressing down on your elbows, you can straighten your legs and spine. Make sure your entire weight is on your shoulders and upper arms, not your neck or head.

  • Do not allow your legs to sway. Raise your heels and bring your toes directly above your nose. Do not press the neck into the floor; if you feel any pressure on it, release the pose.

  • Deep breaths should be taken, and the pose should be held for 30-60 seconds.

  • To release, bring your knees up to your brow. Slowly lower your hands to the floor and then your spine to the floor.

  • Allow yourself at least one minute to unwind.



Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)

The Bow Pose is named after the spinal cord, which is the most important part of the body.

The Bow Pose strengthens both the abdominal and back muscles. It has been shown to stimulate the reproductive organs as well as open up the neck, chest, and shoulders.

It stretches the back and relieves stress and menstrual discomfort.



Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)


How to Dhanurasana

  • Lie on your stomach on the mat, feet hip-width apart. Maintain your arms beside your body.

  • Fold your knees gently and hold your ankles

  • Inhale, then lift your chest and legs off the ground, pulling your legs back.

  • Maintain a straight face and don't let your face stress you out.

  • While holding the pose, focus on your breathing and keep your body as taut as a bow.

  • Take a few long, deep breaths.

  • After 15-20 seconds, relax the pose.


Patanjali Japan Foundation offers various short term and long term yoga classes in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Kobe, Kawasaki, Kyoto and all over the Japan.

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