A typical Hatha yoga class consists of several series of Hatha yoga asanas in the following sequence: standing forward bends, standing balance asanas, seated forward bends, back bending asanas, twisting asanas and inverted asanas. You can use the word “asana” interchangeably with the words position, pose and posture. All four terms are correct. The word “asana” is a Hindi word. When you do Hatha yoga asanas, you join millions of other people around the world in practicing a centuries old tradition.
History of Hatha Yoga Asanas
Hatha yoga asanas come from a book written in the 15th century called the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It is the oldest known yoga book and yogis consider this sacred text as yogic scripture, according to Swami Satyananda Saraswati in the book Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika contains information on 8,400,000 Hatha yoga asanas. Wow, 8 million! It says a person must perform all 8 million asanas before he can free himself from being reborn into the endless cycle of reincarnation – a concept in the Hindu religion. Over the centuries, yogi’s have simplified these 8 million Hatha yoga asanas down to a few hundred. These are the poses you find in modern yoga classes.
Hatha Yoga Asana Basics
To do a Hatha yoga asana, move into the described position following the breathing protocol specific to the pose. Hatha yoga practitioners typically hold the final pose of the asana between 30 seconds and 2 minutes, but this is not “written in stone.” The length you hold a given pose, along with the order of the poses, are the principal differences between styles of yoga, including Vinyasa, Bikram, Ashtanga and Sivananda
Hatha Yoga Asanas vs. Exercise
Modern yoga students commonly come with the initial intention of taking Hatha yoga classes as exercise. Yoga is not traditionally considered exercise, but both help build strength, flexibility and endurance. Ancient yogi’s actually created Hatha yoga asanas as a path to increased awareness, deeper relaxation and better concentration, with the ultimate goal of enhancing one’s ability to meditate. “Why is meditation so important to yogis?” Because yogis reach their ultimate goal of enlightenment by meditating.