Yoga sequencing is one of the most fundamental parts of this practice that many people tend to ignore or have absolutely no idea exists. In hatha yoga, sequencing is very important and doing so will reap incredible benefits, not only to your physical state, but also your mental and spiritual well being as well. If you are interested in learning more about this simple yet important practice, read on to find out more about hatha yoga sequencing, its importance, how to design a hatha yoga sequence, and much more.
What Is Hatha Yoga?
Before getting into how to create a hatha yoga sequence, what exactly do people mean when they talk about hatha yoga?
To many, hatha yoga simply refers to the yoga poses that many of us are familiar with. It is made up of simple as well as advanced fancy poses that we see all over Instagram and other social media platforms. These poses are seen as a tool to help balance the mind and body.
While this isn’t necessarily incorrect, it does not truly encompass what hatha yoga actually is. Because this practice was basically imported from India in South East Asia, a lot of its fundamentals have been lost in translation as well as in the westernization of this practice (3).
According to Ekhart Yoga, the true definition of this practice is found in its name. Traditionally, the word hatha means force and thus this specific practice translates into the ‘yoga of force’ aka ‘attaining a state of yoga through force’ (4).
With this in mind, hatha yoga encompasses anything you might do with your body. This includes:
- Pranayama aka breathing techniques.
- Asanas aka all poses of yoga – From something as simple as the mountain pose (tadasana) or the corpse pose (Shavasana) to something as complex and complicated as the handstand scorpion (Taraksvasana) or the formidable face position (Gandha Bherundasana).
- Mantras – Chanting or reciting a word, or a series of words chanted aloud or silently to invoke spiritual qualities.
- Murdas – These are hand gestures that are said to help link the brain to the body. They can help soothe pain, increase alertness, change mood and perspective, etc.
- Shatkarma aka Shatkriya – A set of cleansing techniques said to clear the body of impurities.
A review published in 2021 in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine found evidence that these techniques have benefits ranging from enhancing respiratory functions, improving digestive disorders, managing rhinosinusitis, enhancing cognition and promoting relaxation, activating the sympathetic nervous system, and improving overall metabolism (2).
- Visualization – A type of meditation where the practitioner focuses their attention on a positive image, thought, feeling, or sensation
In short, hatha yoga can simply be described as physical yoga. In modern times it has been watered down/transformed into a series of poses and breathing work which helps get the body ready for meditation.
Is Hatha Yoga For Beginners?
Yes, it is. This practice can be modified for any level from beginner all the way to advanced yogis who have been practicing consistently for years and can pull off the most complicated poses.
Most beginner hatha yoga classes are often gentle and focus on static poses that are still physically and mentally challenging. Other than static poses, your class will also include meditation and breathwork/breathing exercises.
How Many Hatha Yoga Poses Are There?
According to a well known classic fifteenth-century Sanskrit manual on haṭha yoga – The Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Svātmārāma – there are 84 poses/asanas. Out of these 84, only 15 are actually described in the text; seven are done while seated and eight are not seated.
It should, however, be noted that later texts that were written after the Hatha Yoga Pradipika note down more poses:
- Yoga Chintamani an early 17th century text some sources say that it lists 110 poses while others say it lists 118 poses
- Joga Pradipika written in the 18th century is said to list 84 asanas as well as 6 cleansing methods, 24 mudras and 8 kumbhakas (breathing practices).
- Hathabhyasapaddahti also written in the 18th century claims there are 112 asanas
- Other books written from the 20th century onwards claim that there are anywhere between 180 to 200 hatha yoga asanas.
Regardless of how many asanas we have in contemporary yoga today, most poses originate from the 15 asanas that were described in The Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Svātmārāma back in the 15th century.
What Is A Hatha Yoga Asana Sequence?
Hatha yoga sequencing is the art of putting different yoga poses together in a continuous and connected pattern towards an intended result. Most yoga classes you’ve attended are very likely sequenced. The goal of this sequence can be anything from relaxation, improved focus, mind-body connection, increasing energy levels, etc.
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How Many Yoga Poses In A Hatha Sequence?
This largely depends on a teacher or rather an individual. Some people say 20 to 30 poses in a sequence are okay while others advocate for just 10 asanas.
We say pick a number that goes with your level of experience, as well as the amount of time you have to dedicate to the practice/class. As a beginner, we would also advise you to stick to the original 15 asanas – they are not complicated and you’ll have less chance of injury.
How To Create A Hatha Yoga Sequence
To create a sequence that works for you, here are the things you need to consider
- What are your goals? – Yoga is a practice has has numerous benefits such as increased flexibility, increased muscle strength and tone, improved respiration, energy and vitality, maintaining a balanced metabolism, weight reduction, cardio and circulatory health, improved athletic performance, and even protection from injury by improving balance, reducing depression and anxiety among many more benefits (5, 1).
The perfect sequence is one that incorporates asanas, breathing and meditation techniques that help tackle the goal/problem at hand.
- Flow – The goal of a sequence is from poses to easily flow from one to another without disrupting a class or the mental state of the practitioner.
For example you could choose to start with standing poses, then flow into seated ones and eventually to asanas that require you to lie down on the floor/mat. Or you could choose the opposite and start from lying down and end with standing poses.
- Safely – This is very closely tied to your experience with yoga. As a beginner, there are clearly poses you cannot do and should not attempt as they would lead to injury.
As cool as those poses online look, do not be tempted to try them out. People who have been doing this longer have more strength, balance, and above all flexibility that allows them to move their bodies and limbs into these positions.
- Challenge – While yoga is generally a gentle exercise/practice, it is still meant to be challenging both physically and mentally. To gain the most from it, choose asanas within your level -beginner, intermediate or advanced – that challenge you. A little sweat never hurt anyone.
Simple Beginner Hatha Yoga Sequence
If you are unsure how to go about constructing your own sequence here are two simple examples that you could use either at home or in a yoga class:
Option 1 – With sequence, you will do all the asanas while standing
- Mountain pose (Tadasana)
- Standing forward fold (Uttanasana) – In hatha yoga forward bend sequencing works great when done right after a standing pose.
- Low lunge (Anjaneyasana) right leg
- Low lunge (Anjaneyasana) left leg
- Downward dog (Adho Mukha Shvanasana)
- Standing forward fold
- Mountain pose
- Warrior pose II (Virabhadrasana II) right side
- Reverse warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana) right side
- Warrior pose II (Virabhadrasana II) left side
- Reverse warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana) left side
- Tree pose (Vrikshasana)
- Mountain Pose
Hold each position for two to three breaths and make sure your core is engaged throughout.
Option 2 – This sequence starts from standing poses, the flows into seating then kneeling and eventually lying down poses
- Tadasana aka mountain pose
- Vrikshasana aka tree pose
- Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)
- Half Lotus Pose (Ardha Padmasana)
- ThunderBolt Pose (Vajrasana)
- Cat-Cow Pose (Marjariasana)
- Snake Pose (Sarpasana)
- Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
- Leg raise (Uttanpadasana)
- Rabbit pose (Shashankasana)
- Child pose (Balasana)
- Corpse Pose (Shavasana)
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What Is The Difference Between Modern And Traditional Yoga Sequencing?
The main difference in modern vs traditional yoga sequencing is the fact that modern hatha yoga sequencing will very likely pay more attention to the physical i.e., poses and posture while traditional sequencing would be more focused on the spiritual aspect of the practice.
What Is A Good Morning Hatha Yoga Sequence?
Morning yoga is a good way to get your blood pumping and get yourself even more awake. A simple morning hatha yoga sequence that you can do as soon as you step out of your bed is
- Easy pose aka seated cross legged pose
- Child’s pose
- Downward facing dog
- Forward bend
- Mountain pose/tadasana
- Forward bend (2)
- Mountain pose (2)
- Standing side bend right
- Standing side bend left
- Equal standing/Samasthiti
- Tree pose
- Mountain pose
The Bottom Line
While there isn’t a specific way to practice yoga, hatha yoga sequencing is a great way to create balance, peace of mind and simple flow with your asanas. Doing this allows you to better connect with your mind, breathing and inner self.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Health and therapeutic benefits of Shatkarma: A narrative review of scientific studies (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Westernization of Yoga (2021, thewholeu.uw.edu)
- What is Hatha Yoga? (n.d., ekhartyoga.com)
- Yoga: What You Need To Know (2021, nccih.nih.gov)