When starting out or deepening a yoga practice, it is always a good idea to alter your routine. Same with any exercise program, we can over use certain muscle groups while neglecting others.
Yoga works the whole body; however, some areas can be targeted more than others. If for example we lean more to asana that involve a lot of legwork and refrain from doing postures that tone the arms we therefore neglect those muscles and they become weak in comparison. Finding a balance between both is most beneficial.
Asana in a yoga class are forward bends, back bends, inverted, seated, standing, balancing, laying, twisting, restorative and core strength building. Sessions should contain postures from each of the above sections.
Back bends should always be countered by forward bends and Shavasana – Corpse Pose - should follow deep inverted postures, for example, Headstand, for a few minutes to allow the body to integrate the posture and to prevent dizziness.
A Hatha routine normally consists of warm up exercises including light jogging on the spot, Butterfly; single and double legged, touching the toes, rotating the ankles, rotating the wrists and neck rolls. Many students sit on their mat and do the warm up exercises alone before the class starts.
Depending on what form of yoga you are practicing, the next stage could be Spinal Warm Up exercises (Kundalini Yoga). If you are doing Hatha, the class may start with Tadasana – The Palm Tree – performed laying on the floor and stretching arms up and feet down. Moving on to Half Lord of the Fishes poses – Seated Twist with leg bent.
You may be invited to stay in Shavasana for a short while then proceed to Salute To The Sun. Salute To The Sun is a fabulous routine that involves many sequences and wakes up the whole body. It should be carried out slowly along with the breath, followed by Shavasana for a couple of minutes.
If following a Kundalini class you will then go on to one of the kriyas of the teacher’s choice to address a specific purpose. The rest of the session will include mantra, chanting, meditation, relaxation, Breath Of Fire and holding sometimes challenging positions for several minutes.
The next stage in a Hatha class may consist of forward and backward bending, twists either seated or laying on the floor. The class naturally proceeds on to inverted, standing and balancing postures. Also included will be some core stability asana that act to tone the stomach, legs and arms.
It is advisable to practice Shavasana often throughout a Hatha Yoga routine as it helps to keep you in balance, integrate postures thereby increasing their benefits and most importantly keeping your mind calm and focused.
Hatha Yoga is mostly for stretching, toning and lengthening the body while improving stamina. There is no cardiovascular aspect to the routines of Hatha Yoga. Other yoga systems for example, Kundalini Yoga, Ashtanga Flow and Bikram Yoga, which energise the body and get the heart pumping, are more beneficial for cardio.
It is always a good idea to mix up your yoga practice and introduce other yoga routines or even practice other exercise programs that bring a different aspect, i.e.; cardiovascular and use a different set of muscle groups.