This is a homework project for my A/V Sources class at IUPUI.

Sometimes when I discuss having taken yoga classes with someone, they will become curious about the various practices.  It is for this reason that I have decided to comprise my project of a basic introduction to Hatha Yoga as I know it, including some extremely basic asanas (or poses) and the sun salutation.

As with any exercise program, you should always consult with your doctor before practicing.  Yoga is best experienced for the first time in the presence of a professional instructor.  Here is an excellent resource for finding a yoga class near you.

Hatha yoga is the specific variety of yoga in which I have been trained.  It is easily integrated into other styles of yoga, like Ashtanga, Raja, Tantra, and Kundalini.  An overview of Hatha yoga can be found here. I will be using the layman’s terms for various asanas, as opposed to the Sanskrit that is used interchangeably in some classrooms.

At all times during your practice, remember to BREATHE.  Breath is the force that should direct the flow from one asana to another.

Basic Poses

Child’s Pose


This is an excellent resting position, mimicking the peaceful positioning within the womb.  Perfect after a long workout.

Corpse Pose


Yet another important resting position.  Spend 20 minutes or more in this position (if you think you can keep yourself from falling asleep!) and pay attention to how your body is feeling.  Where is there tension?  Relaxation?  Do you feel more of a flow of energy in certain areas?  Can you feel your breath traveling throughout with each inhale?  What do your muscles and joints do as you inhale and exhale?  These are important observations in the mind-body connection.  Feel the light within radiate out through your limbs, shooting out your fingers and toes and through the top of your head.

Mountain Pose


Similar to the Corpse Pose, one should focus in this position on knowing one’s own body.  Pay particular attention to how your body rests in the three-dimensional space.  Feel your connection to the earth through the soles of your feet.  Ground yourself to improve your balance.  Notice the differences in your muscles and breath from the Corpse Pose to the Mountain Pose.

Downward Dog


Downward Dog is an important trasitional pose in the Sun Salutation.  When in Downward Dog, it is important to keep the spinal column in alignment, even if this means bending the knees slightly.  One should also keep the wrists relaxed and open.  This is an inverted pose; more can be found about these types of asanas here.

Tree Pose


This pose is actually not very basic;  many have trouble with the balance needed to accomplish it.  I just included it because it is really fun to do 🙂   Keep in mind that one needs to continually draw the knee outwards towards the hip when attempting this pose, as it is very easy to let the knee fall inward.

Cat’s Breath

I didn’t have a picture taken of this, though it is one of the asanas in the Sun Salutation.  Basically one gets on one’s hands and knees, with the shoulders directly above the wrists and the hips directly above the knees.  The head should start out in line with the tail bone.  When inhaling, raise your head and tailbone and let your back drop; when exhaling, let your head drop and bring your tailbone downward, arching your back up like a cat.  Move slowly through this while breathing normally.

This is a good example of the kind of breathing one should be doing in all yoga asanas.  In general, one should exhale with doing poses that require flexion in the center, and inhale when expanding and extending from the center.

Cobra Pose


This pose is also included in the Sun Salutation.  One should focus once again on keeping the alignment of the spine and keeping the wrists open and relaxed.  Shoulders should stay down, and elbows should stay close to the body.  The weight of the body should be rooted through the palms and through the tops of the feet.

The Sun Salutation

The following is a video of a basic sun salutation. 

There are many variations with different purposes, and for different skill and energy levels.  A history and basic outline of the Sun Salutation can be seen here.  Yoga in general is very customizable to each person’s personal practice.  If you need extra attention in certain areas or you have injuries, these can be accomodated.  The whole point is to listen to your own body and what it needs at that time. 

A resource that has been invaluable to my own personal practice (and that is useful to beginner and advanced yogi alike) is the magazine Yoga Journal, which also has an online version available here.  I encourage everyone to explore this fascination practice on their own time, and to try the different variations themselves.