Beginning Hatha Practice

Basic Hatha Practice


This is a basic hatha yoga practice you can do on your own or with a friend.


General tips: watch your alignment. Do not hyper-extend your elbows or knees. When lunging, do not bring the knee further forward than the ankle. Keep breathing. Keep smiling.


Begin by taking some time to just breathe in “easy sitting” pose (legs crossed) or diamond pose (kneeling, sitting on your feet). Breathe into your belly, chest, and collarbone. Breathe through your nostrils. Fill and empty your lungs completely. Begin to relax.



Start off in Table pose, on your hands and knees. Alternate between Cat pose and Cow pose with the breath.

Cow: On the inhale, drop the belly to arch the back, lift the gaze, tuck the toes.

Cat: On the exhale, lift the belly to arch the opposite way, drop the head, put the top of the feet flat on the ground.


Basic Sun Salutation:

Mountain: Stand straight, spine long, pelvis tilted neither forward nor back, ankles, hips, and shoulders all in a line from the floor.


Then Raise the arms to the sky, elongating your spine even more. Arch your back only slightly.


Move into a Standing Forward Fold by folding at your hips, and only rolling at the spine after your pelvis won’t tilt forward any further. Lift your sit-bones to draw your belly closer to your legs and stretch your hamstrings.


Step the right foot back for Low Lunge (right knee down). Your left ankle should be directly beneath or in front of your left knee. Feel the stretch either behind your left leg or on your right hip flexor as your hips drop toward the floor. Lift your arms, gaze, and rib cage toward the sky to elongate your spine.


Downward Facing Dog (Down Dog): Bring your hands back to your left foot, and step the left foot back to meet the right. Lift your hips and make an upside-down V. Your heels move toward the ground. Your head comes down between your arms. Your sitbones lift toward the sky, drawing your belly closer to your thighs. Bend your knees if necessary.


Plank: Shift your weight forward, straightening your body for Plank. Your hands are directly under your shoulders. Your arms are straight. Shoulders are away from the ears. If necessary, bring your knees to the ground for this and Chaturanga.


Chaturanga: Keeping the elbows close to the body, bend the arms and lower the body close to the ground.


Upward Facing Dog (Up Dog): From Chaturanga, straighten your arms and arch your back into Up Dog, your gaze toward the sky, your pelvis dropping toward the ground.


Lift the hips back up to Down Dog.


Bring the right foot forward between the hands for Low Lunge (left knee down). Lift your arms to the sky, elongate the spine, and sink the hips. Check your right foot!


Bring the left foot up to meet the right for Standing Forward Fold again.


As you inhale, come halfway up until you have a straight back (your pelvis is still tilted forward to stretch your hamstrings).


Raise your arms to the sky again.


Bring your hands down through prayer and down to your side for Mountain again.



Standing Poses:

Reverse directions for opposite side


Triangle: Step the right foot back. Square the hips. Bring left hand toward left foot. Lengthen left rib cage. Feel hamstring stretch. Reach right arm up into the sky. Look at your right arm. Keep your neck in line with your back.

Revolved Triangle: Same as triangle, but the right hand comes to the left foot. Make sure you can breathe fully.

Extended Side Angle: Step the right foot back further. Bend your left knee. Bring your left elbow to your left knee or your left hand to the outside of your left foot. Twist your chest toward the sky. Reach forward with your right arm. Look toward the sky.


Warrior 1: Step the right foot back. Bend the left knee to a 90-degree angle. Square your hips. Bring the back heel toward (not ‘to’) the ground. Bring both hands together above the head. Look up at your hands.

Warrior 2: From Warrior 1, open the hips up. Back heel comes down. Hands come down to shoulder height, palms down. Shoulders are directly over hips. Keep lunging.

Crescent: From Warrior 2, bring the right hand down to the right leg. Left hand comes overhead. Arch your back, turn your chest toward the sky. Look up at your left hand.


Tree: From mountain, stand on left leg. The right foot comes up to the calf or thigh (not the knee). Arms lift to the sky.

 You can see three safe foot positions depicted in the drawing.

Seated Folds and Twists:

Seated forward fold: Legs extended, lengthen the spine by lifting the arms. Bend at the hips to fold forward. Relax hamstrings while pulling the belly closer to the thighs.


Head to Knee (one leg forward fold): Left leg straight. Right foot to the inside of the left thigh. Lengthen the spine by lifting the arms. Bend at the hips to fold forward. Relax hamstring while pulling the belly closer to the thigh.


Seated Twist: From Head to Knee, lift your right knee to your chest. Hug your right leg with your left arm. Your right arm comes up and over behind you to rest on the ground, supporting your back, while you twist to the right.


Cobbler's Pose/Bound Angle: Bring the soles of the feet together. Lengthen the spine. Fold at the hips, bringing the top of the pelvis forward.


Straddle: Spread the legs and feet apart as far as possible. Sit up straight, lengthen the spine, and fold at the hips. Toes point toward the sky.


Back Bends:

Sphinx: Laying your stomach, elbows are under the shoulders, hands out in front, palms down. Arch the back by dropping the belly and lifting the gaze.


Cobra: Hands palms-down under the shoulders, elbows tucked in toward the body. Pull with the hands to lengthen the spine while using the arms to lift the chest off the ground. Hips keep in contact with the ground while arching the back.


Locust: Hands palms-down by the hips or under the body. Lift one leg or both off the ground while pushing against the ground with your hands. Either your chin or forehead is touching the ground.


Bow: Lying face-down, bend the knees. Grab the tops of the feet with the hands. Lift the chest and legs off the ground by pushing the feet against the hands while tucking your tailbone.



Bridge: Lying on your back, bring your feet toward your pelvis. Hands are palms-up by the hips. Lift your hips off the ground to arch your back. Bring the shoulders underneath you. Do not look from side to side.


Shoulder Stand: Lie on your back. Come into plow by bringing your legs overhead. Lengthen your spine. Support your lower back with your hands. Bring your shoulders back underneath you as in Bridge. Lift your legs into the sky for shoulder stand.


Fish: Lie on your back. Prop yourself up halfway on your elbows. Arch your back, drop your head back, bringing the crown of the head toward the ground.


Finishing Up:

Corpse (savasana): Lie on your back. Close your eyes. Palms are up. Shoulders are underneath you. If you have lower-back pain, bend your knees. Focus on the breath and let your mind be clear.



Other Poses:


Child’s Pose: Kneeling with legs and feet together. Sit back toward your feet and fold your upper body forward, bringing your forehead toward the ground. For Extended Child’s Pose, stretch your arms out in front of you. These poses are good for decompressing your lower back.


Happy Baby Pose: Lying on your back, grab the insides of your feet with your hands. Pull your knees back toward your armpits or the ground. Rock gently from left to right.


Boat: Shift your weight to your sit-bones. Engaging your core and keeping a long spine, lift your legs off the ground, making a V with the body. If necessary, bend at the knees. Hold for 15 seconds, then come down slowly and under control. Repeat until tired.