Hatha is the path of yoga with which you might be most familiar, but did you know it is also a style of yoga? Did you know that Vinyasa is a type of Hatha yoga? Now you might be wondering about the difference between Hatha and Vinyasa, the two most common styles of yoga.
Hatha Yoga: The Foundation
Hatha is a system of yoga written about in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Swatamarama in 15th-century India.
In Sanskrit, Hatha means force. Another common interpretation: Ha means sun, Tha means moon. Hatha yoga addresses opposites and their union to achieve balance in the bodily systems.
It consists of asanas (physical postures or exercises) and pranayama (breathing exercises), whose purpose is supposed to be for spiritual enlightenment as they discipline and prepare the body and mind for meditative practices.
What is a Hatha class?
A Hatha yoga class is usually slow-paced with postures being held for periods of time. It can be practiced with no particular sequencing, though schools such as Sivananda and methods such as Bikram (hot yoga) follow a sequence of 12 and 26 postures, respectively.
Hatha yoga stresses relaxation, proper rest, and steadiness. While practicing, you use a full yogic breath, sometimes referred to as a 3-part breath, which is as natural and quiet as possible. You expend as little energy as necessary, keeping the body relaxed, the mind calm, and the breath even.
This is the best type of environment for a beginner since the approach is deep, yet slow. You can cultivate a solid foundation as you learn to connect with your breath and your body.
What is Vinyasa?
In Sanskrit, Nyasa means "to place," while Vi means "in a special way." A sun salutation, Surya Namaskar, is an example of a Vinyasa. Separate postures are linked together in a flowing motion.
A Vinyasa practice is considered more of an intermediate or advanced practice because of the correlation between fluid movement and breath. This does not mean that you cannot practice and explore Vinyasa as a new student. But consider this: if you find it challenging to control your breath, you might find it challenging to link it smoothly with movement that you might also find challenging. However, if your teacher's style is slower, practicing Vinyasa could be appropriate and accessible for a beginner.
This is an example of how Vinyasa yoga is quite diverse. Though known as a more rigorous practice, no particular pace is required. Vinyasa comes from Ashtanga yoga, a style made popular by Pattabhi Jois. Unlike Ashtanga, it follows no particular sequence or series.
In Vinyasa, you use an audible and controlled Ujayi breath, to focus the mind and assist you through movements. This breath creates internal heat for internal cleansing.
In a nutshell: Vinyasa is a style of Hatha Yoga. On a yoga schedule, think of Hatha as slow and deep, and Vinyasa as fast and flowing. As styles of yoga differ, so do those of your teachers, which will affect your experience. You won't know what works for you until you try!
Lisa Nicole Tai is a Yoga Teacher, Thai Massage Practitioner, Holistic Nutritionist, Writer, and Spoken Word Poet. She believes that by combining and applying the healing and creative arts to her life, she will find fulfillment and contribute to that of others.