What to Expect From a Hatha Yoga Class (2022)

Yoga began in India around for 2,000 years ago as a series of spiritual breathing exercises. The term Hatha was first recorded in the 11th century, but it wasn't until the late 19th century that it came to America, gaining mainstream popularity in the 1960s.

Today, roughly one in seven Americans practice yoga due to its mind-body wellness and health benefits. Research shows hatha yoga helps to relieve stress, support healthy habits, improve emotional health, ease back and arthritis pain, and even help people quit smoking. Here is what you need to know about the practice.

What Is Hatha Yoga?

Hatha yoga focuses on posture and breathing techniques, traditionally to channel vital energy source. In Sanskrit, Hatha translates to force. The practice involves breath, body, and mind, and classes are usually 45 minutes to 90 minutes of breathing, yoga poses, and meditation.

Hatha yoga breathing techniques can be traced back to the 1st Century in both Buddhist and Hindu texts, but it was another 1,000 years before the use of yoga postures, or asanas, and breath control was recorded as a way to enhance vital energy.

History of Hatha Yoga

Classical Hatha yoga was developed in the 15th century and included guidance for the proper setting of yoga, asanas, pranayama or breathing exercises, mudras or hand gestures, and meditation for personal spiritual growth.

Hatha yoga was brought to America by Swami Vivekananda in 1893 as a spiritual practice. In the 1920s, yogis combined asanas with other popular exercises of the day to create a flowing style of yoga that was more physical than spiritual.

By the 1950s, hatha yoga was introduced to millions of households across America with Richard Hittleman's popular TV program "Yoga For Health."

A few years later, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the spiritual advisor to The Beatles, brought a new dimension of yoga to the mainstream with a combination of transcendental meditation and yoga and its popularity soared. Today, hatha yoga is well-known for both as a physical and spiritual practice for mind-body health.

12 Facts You Should Know About Yoga

Health Benefits of Hatha Yoga

Yogis have long touted the calming and wellness benefits of practicing yoga. Today, research supports many of these claims.

(Video) What is the content of a Hatha Yoga class?

The National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health analyzed dozens of peer-reviewed studies and while most of the research was performed on small numbers of subjects, they found evidence to suggest yoga may be beneficial for the following conditions:

  • Anxiety and depression: Yoga can help relieve everyday anxiety and depressive symptoms, however, it may not be effective for clinically diagnosed mental health conditions. The NCCIH reviewed 68 published studies on yoga did not find conclusive evidence to support its effectiveness for managing anxiety disorder, depression, orPTSD.
  • Arthritis and fibromyalgia: According to the NCCIH, there is weak evidence to support yoga has benefits for osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia.
  • Back pain: The American College of Physicians recommends yoga as a non-drug method to treat back pain. A 2018 review of eight studies by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found yoga improves low-back pain and function with both short-term and intermediate-term benefits, and its effects are similar to other types of exercise.
  • Balance: Yoga helps to improve balance in healthy people, according to 11 out of 15 studies reviewed by NIH.
  • Emotional health: Yoga has a positive impact on mental
    health and was shown to have benefits of improving resilience or general
    mental well-being in 10 out of 14 studies reviewed by NCCIH.
  • Menopause: Yoga can relieve physical and psychological symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, according to the NCCIH review of more than 1,300 study participants.
  • Mindfulness: In a 2018 survey of 1,820 young adults published in theInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, participants attributed greater mindfulness, motivation to participate in other forms of activity and eat healthier, and the influence of a health-minded yogacommunity to practicing yoga regularly.
  • Multiple sclerosis: Yoga has been shown to have
    short-term benefits on mood and fatigue in people with multiple
    sclerosis, however, it was not found to affect muscle function,
    cognitive function, or quality of life, the NCCIH reports.
  • Neck pain: A 2019 meta-analysis published in the journal Medicine including 10 studies and a total of 686 subjects found that yoga can reduce the neck pain intensity and disability from pain while also improving range of motion in theneck.
  • Sleep: Several studies reviewed by NCCIH have found yoga can improve sleep quality and duration. Populations found to experience sleep benefits from yoga include cancer patients, older adults, people with arthritis, pregnant women, and women with menopausesymptoms.
  • Stress management: Yoga was shown to improve physical or psychological measures related tostress in 12 out of 17 studies reviewed, according to NCCIH.

What to Expect in Yoga Class

There are several different styles of yoga to choose from today. If a class is just labeled yoga, it is likely the Hatha variety. Hatha is considered a gentle yoga that focuses on static poses and is great for beginners. However, even though it is gentle, it can still be physically and mentally challenging.

While each class varies depending on the instructor, most classes last between 45 minutes and 90 minutes. Classes typically start with a gentle warm-up, advance to more physical poses, and end with a short period of meditation. Here's a breakdown of a typical class:

  • Breathing: Most hatha yoga classes start with a period of focus on your breath or pranayama. As you go through the poses, your teacher will continue to remind you to focus on your breath and may offer different breathing exercising to try.
  • Poses: Yoga poses, also called postures or asanas, are a series of movements that help improve balance, flexibility, and strength. Poses range in difficulty from laying flat on the floor to physically challenging positions. If at any time during your class, a pose is too difficult, your instructor can provide you with a modified posture.
  • Meditation: Most classes end with a short period of meditation. During this period of quiet reflection, your teacher may ask you to lie on your back and may cover you with a blanket. Some instructors may take you through a guided meditation or may use Tibetan singing bowls.

A traditional Hatha yoga class ends with participants holding their hands held together in a prayer pose over the heart, bowing, and saying Namaste to one another.

A Word From Verywell

Hatha classes provide an opportunity to stretch, unwind, and release tension, providing a good counterpoint to both busy lifestyles and cardio workouts.

If you go into a Hatha class and it feels too slow or not active enough, don't give up on yoga completely. There arefaster-paced, more athletic ways to do yoga. Try a flow, vinyasa, or power yoga class, and see if that's more your speed.

What Are the Most Popular Types of Yoga?

3 Sources

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Yoga: What you need to know.

  2. Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, Mclean RM, Forciea MA. Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2017;166(7):514-530. doi:10.7326/M16-2367

  3. Li Y, Li S, Jiang J, Yuan S. Effects of yoga on patients with chronic nonspecific neck pain: A PRISMA systematic review and meta-analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(8):e14649. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000014649.

Additional Reading

(Video) HATHA YOGA LEVEL 1

What to Expect From a Hatha Yoga Class (1)

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Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.

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FAQs

How would you describe a hatha yoga class? ›

A yoga class described as 'Hatha' will typically involve a set of physical postures (yoga poses) and breathing techniques, practised more slowly and with more static posture holds than perhaps a Vinyasa flow or Ashtanga class. Hatha yoga is about finding balance.

What does your body feel like after a hatha yoga session? ›

Improved mental health

Hatha practices release endorphins throughout the body, which are essential to stress relief and even pain reduction. In turn, this can boost your mood and leave you feeling happier.

Which is the basic purpose of hatha yoga? ›

A Hatha Yoga practice may be used by anyone as a way to increase fitness, improve health, attain or restore greater balance and connectedness of mind-body-spirit, and develop mental focus and discipline.

What are 5 benefits of Hatha yoga? ›

The benefits of Hatha yoga include better sleep, strengthening core muscles, improving depression symptoms, and helping with stress management.

Who is Hatha yoga best for? ›

Numerous studies, including a 2015 study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, suggest that participating in Hatha yoga improves flexibility in the spine and hamstrings. The researchers also recommend Hatha yoga for older adults who need help improving the range of motion in their joints. Core strength.

What is hatha yoga in simple words? ›

Hatha Yoga, (Sanskrit: “Discipline of Force”) school of Yoga that stresses mastery of the body as a way of attaining a state of spiritual perfection in which the mind is withdrawn from external objects.

What are the three components of hatha yoga? ›

Traditional Hatha Yoga Asana practice can be basically categorized into three components, which are standing, sitting, and finishing.

What is one of the most important objectives during yoga? ›

Thus the aim of Yoga is Self-realization, to overcome all kinds of sufferings leading to 'the state of liberation' (Moksha) or 'freedom' (Kaivalya). Living with freedom in all walks of life, health and harmony shall be the main objectives of Yoga practice.

How many poses are there in hatha yoga? ›

The traditional number of asanas is the symbolic 84, but different texts identify different selections, sometimes listing their names without describing them.

How do you practice hatha yoga? ›

How to Start Your Hatha Yoga Practice
  1. Breathe: Notice your breath. ...
  2. Meditate: Once you feel completely present through the breath, you can begin to breathe naturally and allow the mind to be at ease. ...
  3. Beginner Asanas: If you are familiar with any poses, work your way through a few and hold for at least five breaths.

How difficult is hatha yoga? ›

Hatha is considered a gentle yoga that focuses on static poses and is great for beginners. However, even though it is gentle, it can still be physically and mentally challenging. While each class varies depending on the instructor, most classes last between 45 minutes and 90 minutes.

Can you lose weight with hatha yoga? ›

Hatha Yoga has many benefits for health and well-being. It is also an effective way to lose weight. The combination of stress reduction, physical activity, and disciplined habits is a major factor that contributes to proper weight loss.

Does hatha yoga tone your body? ›

Does Hatha yoga tone your body? A. Yes, Hatha yoga enables you to burn calories, improve flexibility, and tone your muscles.

How Hatha yoga changed my life? ›

Reduced stress and anxiety: Hatha yoga has been shown to help lessen the effects of anxiety. Increased flexibility: Hatha yoga can improve flexibility with regular participation and boost functional fitness. Mobility: "Greater flexibility throughout the entire body and mind," says Schaefer.

Which yoga is the most difficult? ›

Many yoga students consider Bikram yoga the hardest type. The 26 poses, trademarked by founder Bikram Choudhury, are done in a set sequence in a room heated to 105 degrees, then the sequence is repeated.

How long are poses held in Hatha yoga? ›

Hatha Yoga: 30 seconds - 1-minute per pose

With this style, you'll hold poses between 30 seconds up to about one minute before moving onto the next one with little or no rest periods in-between each posture unless instructed by an instructor during a yoga session.

How often should you do Hatha yoga? ›

A general rule of thumb is that yoga is best when practiced between two and five times per week. As you ease your way into a consistent practice schedule, that's a good goal to aim for! Over time, you might find that your body can handle five or six sessions each week, if that's what you want.

What type of yoga is best for beginners? ›

Hatha yoga classes are best for beginners since they are usually paced slower than other yoga styles. Hatha classes today are a classic approach to breathing and exercises. If you are brand-new to yoga, hatha yoga is a great entry point to the practice.

What is the difference between yoga and Hatha yoga? ›

Hatha yoga is practiced at a slower pace, with focus on the breath, controlled movements, and stretching. Vinyasa yoga focuses on connecting the breath to your movements, which tend to be set at a faster pace. In a vinyasa practice, you can expect to stay in a constant flow of movements.

What type of yoga is Hatha yoga? ›

Hatha yoga is a generic term that refers to any type of yoga that teaches physical postures. Nearly every type of yoga class taught in the West is Hatha yoga. When a class is marketed as Hatha, it generally means that you will get a gentle introduction to the most basic yoga postures.

What are 4 components of hatha yoga? ›

Haṭha yoga's components include Shatkarmas (purifications, here Nauli), Asanas (postures, here Mayurasana, Peacock Pose), Mudras (manipulations of vital energy, here Viparita Karani), Pranayama (breath control, here Anuloma Viloma).

What is breath based hatha yoga? ›

The kind of breathing generally practiced in most hatha yoga classes is called Ujjayi breathing, which loosely translates as “victory” breathing. This is not to say that the quality of the breath should be aggressive, but rather that there is a steadiness, resonance, and depth to it.

How many limbs does hatha yoga have? ›

The eight limbs of yoga form a moral or ethical code to help us live happier, more meaningful lives. They are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi.

What is the 3 goals of the yoga? ›

While the entire aim of yoga is to self-reflect, control the breath, achieve deep relaxation, and grow through meditation, all of this combined will result in better mental, emotional and physical health as we challenge the mind and body through a sequence of yoga asanas.

Who are the great personality of yoga? ›

Acknowledged gurus
GuruDatesMeditation (Dhyana)
Kuvalayananda1883–1966
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi1918–2008Yes
Meher Baba1894–1969
Dharma Mittra1939–
28 more rows

What are the three main objectives of yoga? ›

Yoga improves strength, balance and flexibility.

Slow movements and deep breathing increase blood flow and warm up muscles, while holding a pose can build strength.

What do you wear to Hatha yoga? ›

Hatha yoga classes it's best to wear something comfortable. You can either go with tight yoga pants or looser drawstring sweat pants. You won't be required to get into any extreme positions but just make sure that you can move.

Is Hatha Yoga good for beginners? ›

Hatha is considered a gentle yoga that focuses on static poses and is great for beginners. However, even though it is gentle, it can still be physically and mentally challenging. While each class varies depending on the instructor, most classes last between 45 minutes and 90 minutes.

Can you lose weight with hatha yoga? ›

Hatha Yoga has many benefits for health and well-being. It is also an effective way to lose weight. The combination of stress reduction, physical activity, and disciplined habits is a major factor that contributes to proper weight loss.

How long are poses held in hatha yoga? ›

Hatha Yoga: 30 seconds - 1-minute per pose

With this style, you'll hold poses between 30 seconds up to about one minute before moving onto the next one with little or no rest periods in-between each posture unless instructed by an instructor during a yoga session.

How many poses are there in hatha yoga? ›

The well-known text on Hatha yoga – The Hatha Yoga Pradipika – can be thought of almost as an anthology of many Hatha texts combined. It includes fifteen primary postures, seven of which are seated and eight non-seated, as well as an amalgamation of additional postures, totalling 84 asanas.

Do you have to be barefoot for yoga? ›

When to Keep Your Shoes on in Yoga. However, taking off your shoes and socks is less of a "must-do" and more of a "strongly recommended." If you have an injury or ailment that prevents you from going barefoot, you can certainly work around that by wearing flexible-soled shoes or grippy socks.

How do you prepare for a yoga class? ›

5 Steps to Prepare for a Yoga Session
  1. Nourish Your Body. Attend to the basics first. ...
  2. Plan Your Route. Secondly, plan your journey. ...
  3. Change Clothes. Change your clothes before class. ...
  4. Set Up Your Space. Once you arrive at your class, get your mat set up, and as you move to sit on it, slow yourself right down. ...
  5. Savor the Silence.
28 Mar 2018

How often should you do Hatha yoga? ›

A general rule of thumb is that yoga is best when practiced between two and five times per week. As you ease your way into a consistent practice schedule, that's a good goal to aim for! Over time, you might find that your body can handle five or six sessions each week, if that's what you want.

Does yoga reduce belly fat? ›

Practicing yoga may also help you develop muscle tone and improve your metabolism. While restorative yoga isn't an especially physical type of yoga, it still may help in weight loss. One study found that restorative yoga was effective in helping overweight women to lose weight, including abdominal fat.

How long does it take to change your body with yoga? ›

When done consistently and under the guidance of a proper yoga instructor, yoga usually takes about 6-12 weeks to see results, although this varies from person to person. Yoga must be practiced in its entirety for the best benefits.

Does yoga help you tone your stomach? ›

Well-known yoga expert Sunaina Rekhi says yoga poses can not only tone and strengthen your abdominal muscles but also simultaneously work the muscles of your shoulders and upper back. Besides strengthening your core, the asanas can give you a toned mid-section as well as improve flexibility.

How long should a beginner hold a yoga pose? ›

The time in each pose can vary from 6 to 60 seconds. Research suggests that a one-minute hold is sufficient to build strength and flexibility provided the hold is repeated five times a week. There is an emphasis on precision in Iyengar yoga, which often relies on props to achieve the “perfect” alignment in a posture.

What is the best time to do yoga in evening? ›

From an Ayurvedic standpoint, it is recommended you wake up in between 4 and 6AM when the world is still asleep, and practice meditation and asana. From a modern world perspective, it's recommended that you practice yoga either first thing in the morning or in the early evening.

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