What’s the Difference Between Hatha Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga?

Wondering what the difference is between Hatha yoga and Vinyasa yoga? Here’s a quick comparison…

Hatha yoga and Vinyasa yoga have a lot of similarities – but there are also some subtle differences. These are both great yoga styles that are accessible for anyone, but if you’re deciding which one to start with, you may want to consider some of the differences between these two popular yoga types.

The history, benefits, and typical class structure are slightly different for each of these two styles of yoga. For example, Hatha yoga classes may focus more on slow stretches and longer holds, while Vinyasa classes tend to be more fast-paced and energetic (although not always). Keep in mind that different classes and instructors can vary widely even within a specific yoga type, so if you try a particular class and feel that it’s not for you, you may want to simply try a different instructor.

Hatha yoga is actually an umbrella term for the types of yoga that focus on two specific limbs of the 8 limbs of yoga: the third limb (Asanas or physical poses), and the fourth limb (Pranayama, or breath control). Any of the various yoga styles that focus on these two aspects may be considered Hatha yoga (including Vinyasa yoga, as we’ll discuss below). Hatha yoga may also focus on diet and purification processes more than some of the other types of yoga.

The word Hatha also implies something about this yoga form. According to this article:

The word Hatha in Sanskrit means “willful” or “forceful”. This refers to a set of postures that align your entire body, from your skin to your muscles, to your bones. The postures are designed to open the channels of the body, specifically, your spine.

If you want to break the word down further, you have “ha” which means sun and “tha” which means moon. Hatha refers to the balance of your masculine, the sun with your feminine, the moon. This type of yoga creates balance and unites opposites. The goal of this type of yoga is to discover and experience the Universal spirit within.

On the other hand, Vinyasa yoga has more of a focus on sequencing poses together into a flowing series that matches a seamless series of movements with breath. A sub-type of Hatha yoga, Vinyasa also focuses on the 3rd and 4th limbs of yoga, with a focus on balance.

Interestingly, the word “Vinyasa” means:

“to place in a special way”, referring to the sequences of poses. This means we are conscious of our movement and not just “throwing our bodies around”…

According to this article:

What sets this particular style apart is that it connects your breath with every movement and every action, moving towards what is sacred and most important to us. This means for every breath you take, you change your posture. This be either a change on every inhale and exhale or hold each pose for a full round of breath.

Here’s a good comparison of Hatha yoga and Vinyasa yoga, from YogaPractice.com:

The most notable difference between these 2 types of yoga is pacing. It’s very Yin and Yang, if you will.

Vinyasa is the Yang. The practice is faster paced, more of a cardiovascular workout. It’s dynamic and fluid, flowing easily from pose to pose, often quickly. Typically you move one breath, one movement. This means for every breath you take, you move into a new pose.

Vinyasa has 3 Hatha poses that are used to connect most other poses. These are Plank, Cobra and Down Dog. In a Vinyasa class, you will repeat poses and build a foundation from the regular moves such as Sun Salutations and Chaturangas.

Hatha is the Yin in this analogy. It’s done more slowly, holding the poses for longer allowing for deeper stretches. Each pose can be held for multiple deep breathes as the teacher gives you detailed alignment cues. Holding each pose longer gives your body more time to become acquainted with the posture.

But don’t let the slower pace fool you, it’s still a great workout!

Bottom Line: If you’re looking for a faster-paced workout with cardio elements, Vinyasa might be the style for you! If you prefer a slower, more stretch-focused class, try Hatha. Even better – add both to your routine for a well-rounded yoga practice!


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