Hatha Yoga: All about the yoga style

What is hatha yoga?

Hatha Yoga is probably the best known of all yoga styles worldwide and focuses on asanas (movement) and pranayama (breath) – but meditation also plays a role. The yoga style includes many classic yoga exercises such as sun salutation or looking down dog and is therefore particularly suitable for beginners. The term comes from Sanskrit and is composed of "Ha" (sun, strength) and "tha" (moon, stillness) – in Hatha Yoga two opposing forces are supposed to be combined.

There is even a kind of basic work for Hatha Yoga, the so-called Yoga Pradipika. Translated, Pradipika means something like lamp, lamp or light. Like Hatha Yoga as a style itself, the Yoga Pradipika is probably the best-known script of yoga worldwide.

What are the benefits of hatha yoga?

Hatha Yoga focuses on flowing, calm movements and breathing exercises, which are primarily used for relaxation. This is what makes this style of yoga so appealing to beginners. Regular hatha yoga has the following advantages:

  • Improves balance
  • Strengthens the muscles and flexibility
  • Relieves stress and has a relaxing effect / Stress resistance increases
  • Relieves tension and blockages
  • Blood circulation is improved
  • Sleep disorders subside
  • Heartbeat is calmed down
  • Thoughts and the mind calm down
  • Back pain and neck pain subside

The many positive effects can be attributed to the combination of asanas and pranayama. Of course, yoga cannot work miracles – especially if you are just starting out, you should give yoga some time to develop its health benefits. The more often you practice it, the easier the exercises are and the more fluid they appear. Mind and emotions calm down, it is easier to focus on the here and now.

Yoga: important for beginners

Beginners in particular should listen to their bodies when doing yoga. The aim of the Hatha exercises is to do something for your health and to feel your own limits carefully – but not to ruthlessly ignore it. That is why it is also important to carry out the yoga exercises cleanly, initially at best under professional supervision. Otherwise you only need comfortable yoga clothing and maybe a comfortable pad at the start – there are plenty of yoga mats, for example.

These yoga exercises are part of hatha yoga

There are usually three phases to yoga: Warm up, the so-called flow phase and the final relaxation. The following exemplary exercises are typical of Hatha and are immediately associated with yoga, especially in the West:

1. Cat and cow

These two exercises together with the downward-looking dog are ideal warm-up exercises in yoga to relax and warm up the muscles. To do this, you go into the four-footed position and look straight down.

Hatha Yoga: cow

When you breathe in, you make a cat hump, by rounding the spine and stretching it towards the ceiling (cat). When exhaling, the view goes up and you let the body "sag" in the middle (cow).

2. Looking down dog

Hatha Yoga: Looking Down Dog

You start again in the four-legged booth. Then you stand slightly on your toes, push your hands forward and push your whole body up so that an inverted V appears. You can hold this pose for a moment or alternately push your heels slightly towards the floor to stretch the hind leg muscles. Then you either return to the cat and cow or start the flow phase of yoga.

3. Plank

Hatha Yoga: Plank

The good thing about the flow phase in yoga is that you can vary and expand it as you wish. An often used exercise is the plank. You stretch your legs one behind the other from the four-footed position and hold yourself on the balls of your feet at the back and with your arms outstretched on your hands like you are doing a push-up. Make sure that your back stays straight and that no hollow back forms. The stomach becomes tense, then this position is held for a few breaths. Then carefully lower.

4. Cobra

Hatha Yoga: Cobra

For the cobra, you lie flat on your stomach, your arms are bent sideways on your body, your chest and forehead touch the floor. Now you raise your head and, with the support of your arms, gradually push your upper body up and back as far as possible. Hold this position for two to three deep breaths and then carefully let yourself sink forward again.

5. The child

Hatha Yoga: child

The position of the child is the ideal relaxation in between in yoga. To do this, sit on the balls of your feet and push your upper body down towards the mat. You can either extend your arms parallel to the front for a long time or put them back towards your legs. At best, the forehead touches the ground at the front. This position is held for a few breaths, then you slowly come back to the quadruped position.

Savasana as a final relaxation

It sounds a bit strange at first, but the most famous final exercise in hatha yoga is the so-called savasana – the corpse pose. To do this, lie down on your back and stretch your arms and legs out sideways. The feet point outwards and the palms face down. So you stay there for a few minutes and breathe deeply and slowly in and out of your stomach. Then end your yoga session by slowly sitting up and getting up.

Recommended reading: Tired of hatha yoga? Here we explain how Osho meditation and Zen meditation work and how to learn meditation.

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