Hatha Yoga Explained- And 12 Great Hatha Yoga Poses To Leave You Feeling Centered

Take a Hatha Yoga class and fall in love with the wonders of the Hatha Yoga poses. 

Additionally, Hatha Yoga is a wonderful and effective practice to counteract the many negative effects of a busy lifestyle.

In this article:

Learn why this yoga style has become so popular and a primary source of physical and mental health for so many yoga practitioners all over the world. 

We will dive into:

  • An explanation of Hatha Yoga
  • 3 main reasons to practice Hatha Yoga
  • juicy sequence of 12 Hatha Yoga poses to leave you feeling centered.

Ready?

Let’s flow

Hatha Yoga Explained And 12 Great Hatha Yoga Poses To Leave You Feeling Centered

The explanation of Hatha Yoga 

Hatha Yoga is the initial branch of yoga and originally it was an ascetic tradition. Ancient Hatha yogis lived as renunciates, engaging in the disciplines of Hatha Yoga as a means of self-experimentation

The Hatha Yoga poses and accompanying breathwork were meant to prepare the body for deeper spiritual practices such as meditation.

All other physical practices of yoga such as Kundalini, Ashtanga, Flow, Yin, and Iyengar yoga are derived from the Hatha Yoga tradition. 

Hatha Yoga is a system of 84 Hatha Yoga poses in total. 

What does Hatha mean?

In Sanskrit Hatha means force and “effort” and is designated to the physical part of yoga. Pantanjali, 4000 BC describes Hatha Yoga in his Yoga Sutras (the most ancient scriptures that describe the philosophy of yoga) as the 8 limbs of yoga, an eightfold path to a healthy, balanced and ethical life. 

Have a read of this article if you’re interested in learning more: The 8 Limbs Of Yoga: Essential Guide To The Philosophy Of Yoga

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Ultimately Hatha Yoga is a practice in which the postures, the breathwork, and the meditations are means to build better control of your negative thoughts and to move toward a mindful state of being and greater harmony in life. 

Therefore Hatha Yoga strengthens your body and your relationship with yourself through more self-love and self-acceptance.

The Hatha Yoga system consists of 84 Hatha Yoga poses, fifteen primary postures, seven seated, and eight non-seated, as well as a combination of additional postures.

3 great reasons to practice Hatha Yoga 

  1. A Hatha sequence is done one pose at a time, without a continuous flow, which makes it less strenuous, a little “easier” and not nearly as endurance-demanding as a series of compound yoga postures.
  2. You have time to recover after each pose and can focus more on physical alignment, which is important over time to be able to get the most out of your Hatha Yoga.
  3. Each pose can be modified according to your physical condition with the use of props, such as cushions, blocks, and blankets.
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12 hatha yoga poses to leave you peaceful and feeling centered:

How to begin?

  • Sit on your mat with your legs crossed (sukhasana).
  • Take a few breaths and start to feel your body relax with each exhalation.
  • After 5-6 natural breaths go to the yogic breath (belly breath).

How to do belly breath?

  • Place your hands on your belly to begin with to get a feeling of the breath
  • Breath in and out through your nose
  • As you inhale, feel your belly softly push into your hand. Exhale letting your belly drop back towards the spine
  • Repeat and keep deep breathing intentionally throughout your practice.

Now let’s begin the hatha yoga sequence.

It is recommended to read through all the instructions and look at the photos before your start. That way you can fully dive into the flow of this Hatha Yoga Sequence. 

The poses are listed in a beautiful natural Hatha Yoga poses sequence: sitting, standing, and then lying down.

#1: Child’s pose (Balasana)

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One of the easiest Hatha Yoga poses that can be practiced even by beginners.

How to:

  • Sit back on your heels, you can use a blanket between your heels and buttocks if it’s difficult to come down fully. 
  • Bring your knees close together and bend forward
  • Have your chest touch your thighs, feel the shoulders melt around your knees.
  • Let your forehead touch the floor and let your arms rest on the side in front of you on the mat.
  • Breathe into your back.

Benefits:

  • Eases stress and soothes the mind.
  • Support your lymphatic system.
  • Quietens the nervous system.

Hold the pose for 60 seconds or more and then slowly come out using your exhalation.

Tip: The Child’s pose can advantageously be repeated in between the other poses.

#2: Head-to-knee pose (Janu Sirsasana)

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This pose is a great pose for runners and athletes post-action because it stretches any tight hamstrings.

How to:

  • Sit in Staff pose (dandasana) with both legs stretched out in front of you
  • Bend your left knee and bring the sole of your left foot to your right inner thigh.
  • Take a deep inhale and lift your arm, extend your torso, and when you exhale forward fold over your extended right leg
  • Imagine that you root down through your sit bones and sense a release in your hips, deepening your fold. 
  • Maintain a straight spine and long neck in an active position, or relax your heart and head down toward the extended leg, allowing the spine to round. 
  • Try to reach your foot or hold onto your ankle or calf. 
  • Inhale, extend the spine. Exhale, deepen the forward bend.

Hold the pose for 60 seconds or more then straighten both legs, shake them off, and repeat the pose on the other side.

Benefits:

  • Calms the brain.
  • Stretches the spine, liver, spleen, hamstrings, groins, and shoulders.

#3: Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

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An amazing yoga pose to reduce stress and bring you back to the center.

How to: 

  • Begin seated in staff pose (dandasana) with your legs extended
  • Take a deep inhalation and on the exhale bend forward and reach for your feet
  • Let your hands rest on your legs, knees, or feet
  • Maintain a straight back and look forward
  • Once in the position breathe slowly in and out through the nose

Hold this pose for 60 seconds or more and then slowly come out using your exhalation.

Benefits:

  • Release tension in lower back and hamstrings.
  • Relaxes your mind.
  • Provides relief in the kidney, liver, and ovaries.

#4: Seated twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

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A lovely pose for an inner reset.

How to:

  • Start the pose in Staff pose (dandasana) with your legs straightened
  • Lift your right knee to place the sole of your right foot on the mat outside of your left knee
  • Bend the left leg alongside your right hip.
  • Place your right hand to the floor outside of your right hip for support and center both your sit bones. 
  • Inhale and raise your left arm, exhale and bring your left elbow on the outside of your right knee. 
  • Press your knee and elbow together to create some resistance.
  • Turn your head and gaze over your right shoulder
  • Lengthen your spine with each inhale and gently twist a bit more with each exhale. 

Hold the pose for 30-60 seconds on each side.

To come out of the pose inhale and lift the left arm over your head, and unwind the body. Repeat on the other side.

Benefits:

  • Stretches the back muscles and hips.
  • Massages the abdominal organs, and supports digestion.
  • Increases blood flow in the spine and flexibility in each vertebra.

#5: Downward-facing Dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)

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For beginners this pose can be a challenge – for intermediate students, it is a release.
The pose is a full-body stretch that has many benefits: 

How to:

  • Start on all fours, hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-width apart. 
  • Place your hands a few inches further than your shoulder, have a good grip with your hands on the mat. 
  • Tuck the toes and lift your knees off the mat. 
  • Stand in the inverted V and breath deeply with the weight of the body on the palms and the feet. 
  • Release your neck and gaze in between your feet.
  • Bring your navel to the spine.
  • Try to get your heels on the mat and open on the back of your legs.
  • Raise the hips as high as possible and enjoy the juicy stretch and the feeling of creating space in your body.

To come out of the pose: walk your feet forward in between your hands and stay for a few breaths in a forward fold with your head hanging down or bring your knees down on the floor and rest in child’s pose.

Benefits:

  • Stretches the lower body, hamstrings, calves, and ankles.
  • Strengthens the upper body and builds strength in your shoulders and arms as well as strong abdominal muscles. 
  • Stimulates your blood flow, as your heart is above your head, gravity increases blood flow and improves the circulation. 

#6: Goddess pose (Utkata Konasana)

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A super centering standing pose.

How to:

  • Start the pose in Standing pose (Tadasana) with your feet hip-width & parallel at the top of your mat.
  • Take a big, open step with your right foot toward the back of your mat. 
  • Turn your toes out to a 45-degree angle. 
  • Bend your knees and place them directly over the ankles. 
  • Drop the tailbone and sink the hips while engaging the core. 
  • Open your arms, spread your fingers, your pinky fingers rotate inward. 
  • Hands face each other, allowing shoulder blades to glide down your back.
  • Lift through the heart center and take the floating ribs in, lengthening through the spine

Hold the pose for 5-6 deep breaths.

To come out of the pose: straighten your legs and walk your feet back to Standing pose.

Benefits:

  • Tones your core and glute muscles.
  • Boosts your energy.
  • Lengthens spine & improves posture.

#7: Triangle pose (Trikonasana)

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A super stretch for both beginners and advanced yogis and can benefit both your physical and mental health.

How to:

  • Begin in Standing pose (Tadasana). 
  • Start on your right side. 
  • Open your legs a little more than hip apart. 
  • Turn your right foot in at a 90-degree angle and your left into a 45-degree angle. 
  • Support your right knee and a straight leg by turning your knee cap in line with your 2nd toe and root the outer edge of your left foot by lifting the arch of the foot.
  • Inhale and lift both arms while reaching far to the right. Exhale and bend at the level of the hips. 
  • Place your right-hand palm facing forward inside your right ankle or calf. Stretch the left towards the ceiling. 
  • Turn your head to take your gaze up toward your left fingertips or down at your right foot, if that is more comfortable.

Tip: To help you stretch, use a block, place it inside your right foot and place your hand on the block (choose the height of the block to get the maximum support).

Hold the pose for about 30-60 seconds.

Benefits:

  • Increases stability. 
  • Stretches and lengthens the spine
  • Opens the hips and shoulders.

#8: Tree pose (Vrkasana)

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The best of the hatha yoga poses to help you feel centred and grounded while establishing strength and balance.

How to:

  • Start in Standing pose (Tadasana).
  • Spread your toes and root down through the soles of the feet.
  • Inhale deeply and lift your chest and exhale and draw your shoulder blades down your back.
  • Find a steady gazing spot and draw your navel to your spine for a fixed point of balance and strength.
  • Bring your weight onto your left foot, keep the feeling of rooting to the ground.
  • Now lift your right foot and place it on your left inner thigh or place it anywhere else on the left leg, avoid the knee. (Placing the right foot on the top of the left foot is still a balance).
  • Pelvis leveled and hips in line. 
  • Place your hands in prayer (Anjali Mudra) in front of your chest, palms together, and find your balance.
  • Raise your arms above your head and open them, palms facing forward, like the branches of a tree.
  • Deep belly breath.

Tip: balances are about trying and doing your best, not being perfect. A balance varies from day to day according to your mood, hormones, and stress level. Keep trying if you fall out of it. You will still get the benefits!

Hold the pose for 60 seconds and then change side.

To come out of the pose: bring your right foot down, find your roots in Standing pose (Tadasana), and then change to your right leg.

Benefits:

  • Improves your balance, and body awareness.
  • Calms and relaxes the mind.
  • Gives you a sense of a strong inner core.

#9: Squat pose (Malasana)

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An excellent centring pose and support of good pelvic floor health.

How to:

  • Begin standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  • Turn your feet outwards and sit down by releasing your hips and pelvic floor towards the floor. Your heels might lift a bit.
  • (If you find it difficult to keep your heels on the mat use a folded blanket under your heels to support you in dropping deeper into the squat).
  • Bring your elbows inside your knees, press your palms together, use your elbows to draw your knees apart, and lengthen your spine to the best of your ability.
  • Take your upper arms inside your knees and bend the elbows and bring the palms together into Anjali mudra (prayer position).
  • Allow the pressure of your elbows to open the knees slightly.
  • Keep your spine straight, your butt moving toward the floor, and your shoulders relaxed away from your ears.

Hold the pose for 30-60 seconds and come out by sitting back on the mat and straightening the legs.

Benefits: 

  • Stretches the thighs, groin, hips, ankles, and torso.
  • Tones the abdominal muscles and improves the function of the colon to help with elimination.
  • Improves balance, concentration, and focus.

#10: Reclined butterfly pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

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Among the top 3 best relaxing poses for a yoga cool-down.

How to:

  • Begin the pose lying down on the mat.
  • Adjust your shoulder blades to be right in the mat, releasing your shoulders.
  • Open your knees to the side as you bring your heels to your groins and soles of the feet together. Your arms alongside your body or on your belly and heart.
  • Close your eyes and breathe deeply.

Hold the pose for as long as you want – you can easily stay for 3-5 minutes to get a deep relaxation and hip opener.

To come out, bring the knees together and hug your knees to your chest, maybe circle your knees to release the hips.

Tip: If you feel pain in opening your hips for an extended period change the position of your legs. Either in crossed-legged (Sukhasana) and straighten your legs out in front of you.

Benefits:

  • Reduces stress and calms the mind.
  • Improves blood circulation and stimulates the heart.
  • Leaves you feeling grounded and energized.

#11: Supine spinal twist (Supta Matsyandrasana)

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A wonderful cool down pose and also called the universal twist as it is a full spinal twist.

How to:

  • Begin lying down on your back, and bring your arms to the side. 
  • Bend the right knee, sole of the foot on the floor.
  • With your left hand grab outside of your right knee and softly pull the knee to the left side, all the way to touch the floor on the left (let your right hip lift off the floor as well as your right hand and arm).
  • Keep the right knee on the floor held by your left arm.
  • Start the rotation of your upper right chest by opening your right arm to the right
  • Feel as you breathe deeply how your right arm, elbow, and hand sinks into the floor.
  • Gaze to your right. 

Hold the pose for 1-3 minutes.

To come out of the pose, inhale and bring your right arm to the center above your face, exhale and bring it on the top of the left hand, holding the right knee. 

Next, inhale turn your body back and land wherever you land on the mat. Once your back is on the mat, adjust and center your body and then do the other side.

Tip: To place the opposite arm correctly imagine a clock, if your head is 12, then your arm and hand would be between 1 or 2, don’t force your knee to touch the floor, you can support it with a pillow under the knee.

Repeat on the other side.

Benefits:

  • It is considered a heart opener, because of the chest stretch.
  • A very relaxing pose as well as revitalizes and hydrates the spinal disks.
  • Improves spinal mobility

#12: Savasana – Corpse pose

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The ultimate of all Hatha Yoga poses 🙂 the final pose of your practice if you do a full sequence.

How to:

  • Lie flat on your back with legs close together. 
  • Bring your chin towards your chest for a long and relaxed neck
  • Shoulder blades flat in the mat and arms alongside your body with palms facing up. 
  • Let your eyes and face soften, release your jaw and close your eyes
  • Deep belly breathing. Follow your breath in and out of your nose.

Benefits:

  • Full body relaxation by putting the body at ease
  • Slows breathing, lowers blood pressure, and quietens the nervous system.
  • Lowers the heart rate.

Hold this pose for 5 minutes or as long as you like.

Now that you have completed a great sequence for being centered – are you ready for some challenging balance poses? – Check them out here!

Or before you go through these Hatha Yoga poses, how about these great 5 warm-up poses.

Chalotte Fruergaard

Chalotte Fruergaard

Chalotte Fruergaard is a yogi elder, living in the country side in Denmark, where she has a yoga studio by the sea. She is passionate about bodywork, yoga and meditation and besides teaching yoga and leading retreats, she is a relationship coach and a spiritual mentor.

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