Hatha Yoga Tips

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How does the breath guide hatha yoga postures?

Let The Breath Guide The Posture

How you breathe as you enter, hold, and exit a hatha yoga position contributes to how deeply you can work in the posture. In general, the body opens when you inhale and contracts when you exhale. Try to feel the breath flowing into the area of the body on which you are focusing in hatha yoga postures. The body moves in four directions: Forward bends (flexion), backward bends (extension), sideways bends (lateral extension) and twists (rotation).

Keep this breathing pattern in mind for these four natural motions when you move through hatha yoga positions:

-Inhale when moving into back bends.

-Exhale when moving into forward bends.

-Exhale when moving into side bends.

-Exhale when moving into twists.

What is a hatha yoga class?

Hatha Yoga Class Combines Styles

If you are reviewing a list of yoga classes and a class is described as simply “hatha yoga” it usually means that the instructor is combining several hatha yoga disciplines. Ask the teacher or yoga studio director some questions:

-Does the class include meditation or chanting?

-Does the class involve quickly moving through a series of poses?

-Does the class include the use of props to help with alignment?

Based on the answers, you can decide whether that particular hatha class meets your needs. Some “hatha yoga” classes are meditative, kundalini-style classes but another “hatha yoga” class could be power yoga in disguise. Don't be afraid to ask and try a class. If one hatha yoga class is not active enough, or too active, try another one.

Teacher styles vary within the same discipline, so if you know people who attend yoga classes regularly, ask them which instructors they like and why. Most “yoga for beginner” classes are forms of hatha yoga that move through poses at a slower pace so the instructor can explain and demonstrate poses and adjust students' alignments as needed.

What if I am uncomfortable sitting in a cross-legged position?

Sitting Pretty: How Sit Comfortably For Hatha Yoga Poses

Hatha yoga disciplines involve seated poses as well as standing poses, and many classes will involve some time spent in one of several seated positions, usually a seated cross-legged pose (sukhasana) or thunderbolt pose (vajrasana) in which you kneel on the floor and sit back on your heels. In some Hatha yoga classes you will simply sit in these positions, or they may be used as preparation for other poses.

If your knees are higher than your hips when you sit cross-legged, it means that you have tight hips, which is especially common in runners. Try sitting on a block or blanket to help your hips open. Believe it or not, simply sitting in a cross-legged position will increase the flexibility in your hips.

Similarly, if you have tight hips and thighs it may be too uncomfortable for you to sit back on your heels in thunderbolt pose. If so, place a rolled blanket between your thighs and calves. Some people with tight ankles experience ankle discomfort in thunderbolt pose. If you are one of these people, place a rolled blanket or towel between your ankles and the floor to relieve the pressure on the tops of your ankles.

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Sherril Steele-Carlin