Week 1 – Hatha
Welcome to week 1 of your 6 Week Beginner Yogi Course Online!
This weeks class is a traditional style Hatha class where you will learn traditional asanas (postures) such as Childs Pose, Downward Facing Dog, Warrior II and Tree Pose.
Below you will find a list of the major asanas you will learn this week, any notes on postures that may be helpful and some benefits of each pose practiced.
Asanas for week 1
- Comfortable seat
- Neck movements
- Eagle Arms
- Spinal Twist
- Downward Facing Dog
- Childs Pose
- Standing Forward Fold
- Mountain Pose
- Warrior II
- Tree Pose
Comfortable seat: it is recommended to have a block, cushion or folded blanket handy while you discover your comfortable seat. Options include sitting crossed legged, sitting on your heels or sitting with your legs extended (and maybe bents knees). It’s important to have a play around and find what feels best for you, and remember that you are allowed to move around if you become uncomfortable!
Neck Movements: if you have any sensitivities in the neck region, then feel free to sit this out. These neck movements are very gentle, on a scale of 1-10 (1 begin gentle and 10 being an extreme stretch) you want to stay around a 1-4 so take it easy and be kind to your neck.
Eagle Arm: this is an amazing stretch for the upper back and shoulder blades, perfect for desk dwellers and just about everyone else who uses a computer or phone. Use the breathe to release tension and stress from the upper body and feel mental and emotional tension melt away too. This pose can be done regularly through out the day to help remove tension and stress.
Spinal Twist: twists are obviously great for the health of your spine, as they say you are only as old as your spine is young! But they are also great to kick start your metabolism, helping to body to digest food. Spinal Twists also massage the inner organs and muscles of the stomach, wringing out toxins – cleansing and detoxing which helps the organs to function properly and flush impurities. Lower back pain can often be relieved by gentle twisting too, helping to correct posture and align vertebrae.
Seated Butterfly (Baddha Konasana): as an introduction to hips openers, Butterfly Pose feel quite intense when learning. It is recommended that you use a block, cushion or folded blanket or towel for Butterfly so the pelvis can tilt forward, helping you to sit straight and tall. If you feel yourself rounding through the lower back, just put a little more distance between your sit bones and the heels, effectively creating more of a diamond shape with the legs. Hip openers are an intersting set of asanas because it seems our jaws are linked to the hips – you may notice that your jaw is clenched when opening the hips, this is normal just keep relaxing the jaw and softening the face when ever you find the jaw harden.
Cat/Cow: probably one of the most common warm ups in a yoga class! Cat/Cow is a warm up for the spine and back, great for general back stiffness. Take your time as you flow from cat to cow and back again, starting the movement from the tailbone and flowing like a wave up the spine to the crown of the head, allowing the breath to be your guide. Practice trying to make your Cow Pose last the entire inhale and Cat Pose the entire exhale which will invite prana into the back and spine area and create space.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana): a pose that you are likely to encounter in almost every Hatha or Vinyasa style class. Downward Facing Dog can feel pretty challenging when learning, but keep practicing the alignment cues and be sure to breathe! Some general aligment cues that will make this asana feel more comfortable are:
- Have space between the fingers, but not between the hands and the mat. This means, fingers are spread wide and firmly press your hands into the mat. Engage the thumb and first finger and ground down through your little finger.
- Push the mat away from you and aim your heart towards your toes, your belly towards your thighs.
- Keep your knees bent so you can create length in the spine and left the hips high.
- Play with straightening the legs by pressing the backs of the thighs towards out.
- Putting it all together: Firmly press the hands into the mat and bend the knees deeply, as you push the mat away from you, lift the hips and press your chest towards your toes, reach the heels down towards the floor, but don’t worry about having the feet flat. Inhale and exhale through the nostrils.
Downward Facing Dog is what we like to call an anti-anxiety pose, because it helps to calm the brain and relieve stress and mild anxiety. While calming the mind down, it is also energising the body, which is why it is often done as a warm up AND it works to stretch and strengthen the arms and legs! In a
Childs Pose (Balasana): commonly known as the resting pose, this asana is also a gentle stretch for the hips, thighs and ankles and helps to calm the brain, relieve stress and fatigue. Childs Pose can also be beneficial for back pain when the torso and head is supported.
There are several ways to modify Childs Pose depending on flexibility so make sure to find the right version of the pose for your body:
- If you can’t bring your hips down to your heels, keep the hips high – stacked above the knees, come down onto your forearms and make fists with your hands, stacking one on top of the other and resting your forehead on your stacked fists.
- If your forehead doesn’t easily rest on the mat, use stacked fists (as above) or a block to rest your forehead. It is important that the forehead is connected to the mat, your stacked fists or a block to keep tension and strain out of the neck.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana): an introduction into back bends. It is important to take Cobra Pose easy as a beginner and pay attention to the cues, there is a lot going on! Lying on your front, bring your hands under your shoulders – the tops of your fingers inline with your shoulders, roll the shoulders down the back and hug the elbows into the torso. Use the muscles in the back to raise up to your half way point, take your time while you get a feel for this. When you feel ready, inhale and lift half way, continue to inhale as you press the hands into the mat and lift a little higher – remember to keep the elbows in and shoulders away from the ears! Cobra helps to strengthen the spine and stretch the abdomen, lungs, shoulders and chest.
Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana): another great asana to relieve stress and anxiety. We are trying to create length in the torso so to make this pose more comfortable (especially for tight hamstrings!) keep the knees soft, in fact – bend the knees as much as you need to and try to feel your stomach against your thighs. If you do want to play around with straightening the legs, press the backs of the thighs back but keep the stomach close to the front thighs. Gentle head and neck movements help to release tension, when still the nose should be close to the knees. Like Downward Facing Dog and Childs Pose, Standing Forward Fold is great for calming the brain and relieving stress and anxiety. Hang upside down and take 8 deep full breaths in and 8 long, slow exhales out and see if you notice the difference!
Mountain pose (Tadasana): is an underrated asana! It is great for improving posture, helps to firm the abdominals and buttocks and strengthens the ankles, knees and thighs. We like to work from the feet up in Tadasana, taking our time to set up the pose and then spend sometime just standing tall like a mountain. It is a great pose to practice to feel grounded before moving into standing balances.
Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II): is one of the most common classical asanas and is moving into the more physically challenging poses that help to increase stamina, as well as strengthening and stretching the lower half of the body. Take your time to align the feet and make sure to press into the outside of the back foot to activate the back leg, your front leg should be bent, with a straight line from knee to ankle. Your shoulders should be directly over top of your hips, tailbone lengthening down, soften the shoulders and the gaze if you begin to feel tense. Warrior II is a great pose to start noticing how focus and the breathe can help your stamina when you begin to feel challenged. Find a drishti (focus point) either straight ahead or just past your middle front finger. Focus on your drishti and keep your breath as even and calm as possible, when you feel the mind kicking in telling you it’s tired, re-focus and continue breathing in and out of the nostrils.
Tree Pose (Vrksasana): as well as being a gentle hip opener, is an opportunity to practice your balance! Don’t be surprised if you feel a little wobbly and frustrated when learning balances, it’s completely normal and a great test of patience. Make sure to ground yourself first (Tadasana is great for this) and find your drishti (focus point) before you begin. Tree Pose is great for strengthening the spine, thighs, calves and ankles and connecting to your centre, the solar plexus. If you feel very unstable, practice Tree Pose with your back against a wall and slowly move away as you become more comfortable.
Corpse Pose (Shavasana): the most important pose in your practice! Shavasana is where you allow the body to rest and restore. Take your time to get comfortable, if it doesn’t feel good to have the legs extended you can bend the knees, walk to feet out to the edge of the mat and then let the knees knock in creating a triangle from knees to feet. We aren’t really used to relaxing fully so you may find Shavasana challenging to begin with, but just keep reminding yourself to relax and if it helps scan the body from head to toes and soften muscles and tension as you make your way down. You might like to begin by deepening your inhale and lengthening your exhale, gradually letting the breath taper out into your natural rhythm and flow.