10 Basic Hatha Yoga Poses

Yoga is an ancient art form.
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Yoga is an ancient art form that is designed to balance the mind, body and spirit. The traditional practice of asanas, or postures, is known as Hatha yoga, and is the most familiar practice. It includes dozens of poses, each with a different focus and purpose. Ten basic poses are found in most Hatha yoga classes, and can be practiced by people of just about any fitness level.

Mountain Pose

    The starting point for most yoga postures is Mountain pose. Begin standing with your feet together. Inhale and bring your arms overhead, looking upward. Exhale and bring your palms together over the heart. Mountain pose helps develop focus and concentration, bringing awareness to your body.

    Mountain pose balances.

Child's Pose

    Child's pose is often practiced between sets to allow the body to rest. Come to a kneeling position on the mat. Drop your head to the floor and rest the arms at your sides. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Child's pose relieves tension and clears the mind.

    Child's pose is used as a resting position.

Downward-Facing Dog Pose

    Downward-Facing Dog is a whole-body stretch. It lengthens the hamstrings, stretches the spine and opens the shoulders. Begin in a kneeling position. Walk your hands forward in front of the body. Begin to lift your hips to the ceiling as you straighten your legs. Try to press your heels toward the floor. Remember to breathe.

    Downward-Facing Dog stretches the whole body.

Cobra Pose

    Cobra pose is a gentle back bend. It is an essential pose in the Sun Salutation series. Begin lying flat on your stomach, face down. Place your hands directly under your shoulders, elbows tucked into your sides. Slowly press the upper body up off the mat. Look slightly upward and breathe deeply.

    Cobra is a gentle back bend.

Warrior Pose

    As the name implies, Warrior pose is designed to build strength. Begin standing in a wide-legged position. Turn the right toe out. Inhale and raise the arms up parallel with the floor. Exhale and bend the right knee, but not past the toes. Turn and look over your right hand. Hold for several breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.

    Warrior pose builds strength.

Triangle Pose

    Like Warrior pose, Triangle pose builds strength, but with the added benefit of stretching the hips and shoulders. Begin in a wide-legged position. Inhale and raise both arms parallel with the floor. Exhale and drop the right hand down to the right foot, extending the left arm up toward the ceiling. Hold for several breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.

    Triangle pose opens the hips and shoulders.

Forward Bends

    Forward bends provide a deep stretch in the hamstrings. They are also used to relieve stress and tension in the body. Begin seated on the floor with your legs together stretched out in front of you. Inhale and reach overhead. Exhale and fold forward, reaching for the ankles or feet. Allow your head to drop down and relax.

    Forward bends help relieve tension.

Tree Pose

    Tree is one of the many poses used in yoga to improve balance and posture. Begin standing in Mountain pose. Shift your weight to your right foot and slowly raise the left foot up to the inner thigh. The knee should be out to the side and the pelvis open. Focus and breathe. Repeat on the opposite leg.

    Tree pose improves balance and posture.

Seated Twists

    Seated twists are included in most yoga practices. They help elongate the spine and relieve tension in the back. Begin sitting in a simple cross-legged position. Inhale and reach behind you with your right hand, resting it on the floor. Exhale and twist to the right, looking over the right shoulder. Press the left hand on the outside of the right knee for leverage.

    Twists relieve tension in the spine.

Corpse Pose

    Every yoga session should end with a period of relaxation. Corpse pose allows all the muscles in the body to rest following practice. Come to the floor, lying flat on your back. Rest your arms at your sides and open your legs about hip-width apart. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Remain in Corpse pose for several minutes.

    Corpse pose promotes relaxation.

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