An overview of the Hatha Yoga postures from the Arhanta Yoga foundational class
The following yoga sequence for beginners was compiled by Arhanta Yoga based on the yoga sequence of Swami Sivananda, one of the most famous Indian spiritual leaders. Swami Sivananda (1887-1963) lived for most of his life in Rishikesh, India. He was a doctor who gave up his career in medicine to devote his life to Yoga and the spreading of Yoga. The original sequence of Swami Sivananda consists of 12 yoga exercises or asanas. Each one of these asanas stimulates a certain chakra, starting from the Crown Chakra (Sahastrara Chakra) to the Navel chakra (Svaddishthana Chakra).
Classical Hatha Yoga asanas versus modern yoga asanas
Arhanta Yoga follows the tradition of Swami Sivananda, but has added five yoga poses in this series for a more complete yoga practice. The exercises in this sequence are classical Hatha Yoga asanas. The main difference between classical yoga asanas and modern yoga asanas is that the classical postures work on the internal organs. They aim to keep the body healthy by stimulating and balancing function of the organs and glands. Modern yoga exercises on the other hand have as main objective to develop muscles and flexibility. The purpose of a practicing yoga has shifted gradually over the years from the health of the body to the appearance of the body. Below you can also read an article by Yogi Ram on the question: How to practice asanas according to classical principles?
The structure of a classical Hatha yoga class
The Yoga exercises explained below don’t form a complete classical Hatha Yoga practice. Besides yoga postures, a Hatha Yoga class also includes moments of relaxation at the beginning and end of the class and in between the different poses. After a short initial relaxation, the class always starts with breathing exercises like Kapalbhati (Breath of Fire) and Anumom Vilom (Alternate Nostral Breathing). These breathing exercises help to clear the mind, improve concentration and allow the practitioner to experience the following asanas or yoga exercises with more awareness. Subsequently, it is important to warm up the body in preparation for the upcoming asanas. Therefore we always do the sun salutation. Optionally, you can add some extra warm up exercises such as double leg raises or Dolphin.
The following sequence of yoga exercises, is structured in such a manner to stimulate all the chakras, starting from the crown chakra in Headstand (Shirshasana) to the root chakra in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). In order to benefit to the maximum of a yoga practice and to give rest to the body after the practice it is important to finish each class with a well-deserved and healing relaxation.
Yoga exercises and poses – Explanation and pictures
Below you can find a detailed explanation of the yoga exercises for beginners. Step by step, all the asanas are explained and accompanied with some pictures for more clarity. Moreover, the benefits of each yoga pose are also explained to allow you to consciously experience each asana. To avoid wrong practice and injuries, you can find in the explanation of the yoga exercises common mistakes and contra indications when practicing a pose.
These explanations can help you during your yoga practice at home and they can help yoga teachers in preparing their yoga classes for beginners. A gentle warning for those who practice yoga at home: to prevent injuries it is advisable to practice some of the yoga poses with the guidance and assistance of a teacher. It is also important to note that if you suffer from a particular problem, such as insomnia, you need more than only the yoga exercises to solve this problem. Even though each asana works on a particular body part, it is the totality of these yoga poses which has an overall positive effect on your body.
Kapalabhati – Skull Shining Breath
In Sanskrit kapal means “skull” and bhati means “shining.” Together they mean “shining skull.” Kapalabhati is considered to be so cleansing to the entire system that, when practiced on a regular basis, the face shines with good health and radiance. In fact, traditionally Kapalabhati is one of the six internal cleansing exercises (shat kriyas) rather than a form of pranayama. Even though it is traditionally classified as a cleansing exercise, Kapalbhati is an excellent breathing exercise to warm up the respiratory system and internally warm up your body in preparation for the following physical practice. It is an easier version of the pranayama Bhastrika and suitable for most levels of experience and fitness.
Anulom Vilom, also known as the alternate breathing technique, is excellent for respiratory problems and asthma. It facilitates proper functioning of the lungs, mitigates stress, lifts up your mood and keeps stress at bay.