Ashtanga Yoga is one of the most popular yoga classes today. It’s a challenging series rooted…
Yoga has gained popularity in modern times as a form of exercise and physical fitness. Most of these modern postural yoga schools and styles are branches of Hatha Yoga. From the most basic seated pose to the most advanced yoga poses requiring a high degree of flexibility, the Hatha Yoga sequence is a spiritual discipline that involves mastering the body in order to attain liberation.
One of the sources for this discipline is the medieval text called the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It lays down this practice which not only involves the asanas, but also breathing techniques called pranayama, meditation practices, and guidelines on what to eat and how to live a moral life.
The Sanskrit word Hatha means “force” or “effort.” It’s believed that yoga – or union – is achieved through putting in the effort and disciplining the mind and body. So even though Hatha Yoga classes today are sometimes referred to as “easy yoga”, especially compared to dynamic Vinyasa flow or Power yoga classes, they still require effort and can be physically demanding in that they involve poses that target every cell, muscle, and tissue in the body.
How to Sequence a Hatha Yoga Class
There are many ways to sequence a Hatha Yoga class and all schools of thought have their individual benefits when it comes to the way they approach sequencing. Bikram Yoga, for example, is known for never deviating from its series of 26 postures, which are practiced in a heated room for the duration of 90 minutes.
Classes may also be designed around certain themes or body parts, an approach that requires knowledge of the anatomy of asanas and how they can strengthen, stabilize, and lengthen muscles and skeletal groups.
Generally speaking, most classes follow a pattern of beginning with Standing Poses, followed by Kneeling Poses, Seated Poses, Lying Down Poses, and finally ending with what is considered the most important asana of all, Savasana.
A Hatha Yoga Sequence for Beginners
This sample Hatha Yoga sequence uses foundational postures, which all beginners should master and even seasoned yoga practitioners should often practice because it’s always possible to go even deeper into an asana.
Remember that this isn’t a Vinyasa class where you move with your breath. Spend time in each pose. Try a minimum of 5 breaths or, in the words of BKS Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar Yoga, “stay in the asana as long as you can.”
While not all Hatha Yoga classes begin with a warm-up, it’s always a good idea to make sure your entire body is limber and ready to be stretched and strengthened, especially if you’re a beginner who is looking for a workout. It’s important to warm up the spine and stretch it in all possible directions by doing some slow and mindful forward- and backbends (like in Cat and Cow), side bends and twists. Don’t forget to warm up your joints, especially the ones you’ll be working with in class.
A Hatha Yoga Sequence You Can do at Home
After your warm-up, you can do the following asanas and either hold each one for 5 breaths or, alternatively, you can link the poses with half Vinyasas to give your body some movement in between holding the different poses.
These poses are meant to strengthen your major muscle groups and work on building stability and balance.
- Tadasana aka Mountain Pose
- Virabhadrasana aka Warrior I and II
- Vriksasana aka Tree Pose
These postures work your core and lower body.
- Adho and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana aka Downward and Upward Facing Dog
- Phalakasana aka Plank
- Ustrasana aka Camel Pose
Seated Poses help you focus on lengthening and gaining flexibility and mobility.
- Paschimottanasana aka Seated Forward Bend
- Bound Angle Pose aka Butterfly
- Ardha Matsyendrasana aka Half Lord of the Fisches
Lying Down Poses
These poses take advantage of the heat you’ve built up during this practice and continue to work on your abs and back muscles.
- Salamba Bhujangasana aka Sphinx Pose
- Eka Pada Rajakapotasana aka Pigeon Pose
- Setu Bandhasana aka Bridge Pose
Traditionally, many Hatha Yoga poses end with an inversion before transitioning into the final resting pose.
- Salamba Sarvangasana aka Shoulderstand
- Halasana aka Plough Pose
Corpse Pose, Savasana, or Final Resting Pose is considered the most important yoga asana. From the outside it may look like you’re just lying down on your back, but you’re definitely not here to snooze. Even with your eyes closed, the goal of the practice is to be completely present in the moment and allow yourself to melt into all the benefits of the Hatha Yoga practice you just completed. Stay in this pose for at least 10 minutes. If you have time, you can and even stay in it for longer.
Conclusion on Hatha Yoga Sequence
Even with simple poses, a Hatha Yoga sequence can still be challenging enough to provide you with a good workout while at the same time giving you some important information about your body, your needs, your mental state, and your emotions. Hatha Yoga provides this amazing benefit because you hold the individual poses for a long enough time, which allows the free nerve endings to give you a feedback about your inner and outer state.
In each pose, take time to breathe and meditate. Hatha Yoga is a discipline that requires effort, but that doesn’t mean it’s a race to achieve any specific shape or outcome. The sequence is meant to prepare every cell in your body for meditation and a union of your mind, body, and spirit.