Hatha is the umbrella term for any type of yoga that practices physical postures. Most types of yoga taught in the west actually stem from hatha yoga. Studios often use the term to describe their beginners’ classes, which are slower in pace and focus on teaching the basics.
Hatha yoga poses for beginners often focus on balance, breathing, and stretching the body to increase flexibility.
Did you know that ‘Ha’ means ‘Sun’ and ‘Tha’ means ‘Moon’? Hatha aims to unify the solar and lunar energies in the body – balancing our masculine and feminine sides to achieve inner peace and happiness.
Now you know a little more about hatha, let’s talk about some of its benefits.
Hatha Yoga Benefits
Many people decide to take up yoga as a form of stress relief, and studies have actually proven that practicing hatha yoga can lower the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the body. One of the ways it reduces stress and relieves tension in the body is by controlled breathing, also known as pranayama.
Hatha yoga also has physical benefits too. It’s great for strengthening the muscles in your body, particularly in your core and around your spine. In turn, this improves your posture and can help you perform better in physical activities like sports and reduce your chances of injury.
As well as strengthening your body, hatha yoga will improve your muscle tone and increase your overall flexibility, by elongating your muscles and lubricating the joints.
Although people of all abilities enjoy hatha yoga for its physical, emotional and spiritual benefits, it’s the best type for beginners to start with. Classes will usually teach hatha yoga poses for beginners, along with breathing techniques. Poses will be carried out at a much slower pace than in other types of yoga, which will give you the opportunity to understand and master them.
Building a strong foundation is essential for growth in yoga ability!
Are you ready to see what hatha yoga has to offer? Here are 12 poses for beginners to get you started.
Hatha Yoga Poses for Beginners
1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
This one may look like you’re ‘just standing’ but it’s a key part of finding balance and is integral to hatha yoga practice.
- Stand with your legs slightly apart and your hands by the side of your body, palms facing outwards
- Keep your torso and spine straight, ensuring they are aligned with your legs and your weight is evenly distributed
- Inhale as you bring your arms up, over your head and fold your hands into a prayer position
- Hold for at least 60 seconds, as you breathe deeply in and out
2. Vrikshasana (Tree Pose)
Tree pose is great for improving your balance and will follow on nicely from mountain pose in a hatha yoga sequence.
- Start in mountain pose
- Shift your weight to your right foot
- Raise your left foot up and gently rest it on your inner thigh
- Make sure your knee is turned out to the side and keep your pelvis open
- Focus on keeping your balance, as you breathe deeply in and out
- Hold for a few breaths before repeating on the opposite leg
3. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose)
This is one of the hatha yoga poses for beginners that will get easier with practice. As a beginner, you may not be able to do the full stretch but your hamstrings will become accustomed to it, over time.
- Stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart
- Stretch your arms up, over your head and begin to bend and the waist
- Lower your upper body so that your forehead and chest rest near your thighs
- If you can, hold onto the back of your ankles with your hands
- Hold the posture for 20-30 seconds, before slowly releasing
4. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
When you think of yoga, we bet the downward dog pose is the first that springs to mind. It’s a really important hatha yoga pose that stretches the body, in particular, your hamstrings, arms, and calves. It’s also great for releasing tension and strengthening the body.
- Position yourself on your hands and knees
- Keep your hands in line with your shoulders and your knees in line with your hips
- Slowly lift your knees, until they are straightened
- Make sure your head is in line with your arms
- Hold for 20-30 seconds, remembering to breathe deeply
Source: Yoga Journal
5. Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
This pose is a backbend that will stretch your chest, neck, and spine.
- Lie down on your back with your knees bent, keeping your feet flat on the floor
- Your arms should rest by your side
- Move your heels so they’re as close to your bottom as possible
- Inhale and as you exhale, press your feet and arms into the mat and push your hips towards the ceiling
- Lift your chin off your chest and keep your shoulders down
- Hold the pose for up to a minute
- Gently release and slowly roll your spine back down to your mat
6. Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend Pose)
Like with the standing forward bend, this is one of the hatha yoga poses for beginners that will take a little time to get right. With daily practice, the seated forward bend pose will greatly increase your flexibility, whilst also strengthening your lower back.
- Sit on your yoga mat with your legs out in front of you, keeping your back straight
- Breathe in and bring your hands above your head to elongate your torso
- As you breathe out, bend forward at the hips, keeping your back as straight as possible
- Reach your hands as far down as your legs as you can
- You should feel a stretch but you shouldn’t be in pain, bend your knees slightly if it’s too much for you
- Hold for 20-30 seconds
7. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Seated Spinal Twist Pose)
This seated asana has various different names, with one being ‘Half Lord of the Fish.’ It’s great for relieving tension in the spine and encouraging mobility.
- Sit on your mat with your legs together, stretched out in front of you
- Lift your right leg over your left leg, placing the sole of your foot on the floor next to your left thigh
- Bend your left knee and place your leg under the upper part of your right thigh
- Place your right hand on the floor behind you
- Inhale as you twist your body until your left elbow reaches your right kneecap
- Exhale and turn your upper body and head to the right to deepen your twist
- Hold for 30 seconds, rest and repeat on the other side
Like many hatha yoga poses for beginners, the seated spinal twist pose sounds more complicated than it actually is. Follow the video for guidance and you’ll see it’s an easy yoga twist for beginners.
Source: Very Well Fit
8. Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
This asana is designed to engage the entire body while strengthening and toning the thighs, knees, and ankles in particular.
- Begin standing in a wide-legged position
- Breathe in as you raise both arms up, keeping them parallel with the floor
- Breathe out and slowly drop your right hand down to your right foot
- Keep your left arm extended towards the ceiling
- Hold for several breaths
- Repeat on the opposite side
9. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Don’t worry, the cobra pose sounds more complicated than it actually is! Essentially, it’s a gentle backbend that will stretch your abdomen and shoulders, while opening up your lungs.
- Start by lying on your front, with your face down
- Place your hands under your shoulders, ensuring your elbow are tucked in
- Slowly lift your upper body off the mat, pressing your palms into the ground
- Look up slightly and continue to breathe deeply
10. Virabhadrasana II (Warrior 2 Pose)
The name is a bit of a give away to the fact this pose is all about building strength.
- Stand with your legs wide, turning your right toe out
- Inhale as you raise your arms up, keeping them parallel with the floor
- Exhale as you bend your right knee (never go past the toes)
- Turn your head to look over your right hand
- Hold for several breaths
- Repeat on the opposite side (turning your left toe out, bending the left knee and looking over your left hand)
11. Balasana (Child’s Pose)
Child’s pose is a restorative forward bend that is often practiced between other yoga poses for beginners to relieve tension and allow the body to rest momentarily.
- Kneel on your mat and reach forward with your arms
- Drop your head to your mat
- Close your eyes as you enjoy the stretch, breathing deeply in and out
12. Shavasana (Corpse Pose)
Most hatha yoga classes will finish off with the corpse pose. It’s a restorative pose that’s all about relaxation – you’re bound to love it!
- Lie back on your mat, resting your arms by your sides, with your legs hip-width apart
- Close your eyes and breathe deeply in and out
- Hold for several minutes until you feel fully relaxed
Hatha Yoga Sequence
Once you have mastered these basic beginners poses, you may want to put them into a sequence. Think about which poses will work well together but remember, it’s not vinyasa yoga, so you can pause in between and perform restorative poses too!
Below, we’ve shared an example of a hatha yoga sequence for beginners that you can use for inspiration.
As we said at the very beginning of this post, most yoga types stem from hatha, so it’s definitely worth learning the basic poses, as they’ll be fundamental to your yoga practice, no matter which direction you take it in.
What is your favorite hatha yoga pose?
Share in the comments below!