Over 36 million people practiced yoga in 2016 making it the fasting growing activity in history.
However, most people jump right into yoga without knowing that they have options. The type of yoga you choose to do should reflect your goals and fit your level of experience.
Two of the most popular styles of yoga are Hatha and Vinyasa. Read on to understand the difference between Hatha yoga and Vinyasa yoga and the different levels of fitness and training required for each.
Hatha Yoga Origins
If you want to know what Hatha yoga is, you can find it in the ancient Hindi text of the Yoga Sutra. That is because it is the oldest form of yoga, and the original style that has influenced others.
Patanjali wrote about how to perform yoga poses (asanas) in sync with breathing techniques (pranayama) in order to cleanse and purify the body.
The series of poses are meant to release a divine energy (shakti) locked within humans. This is done by slowing moving energy through the 7 main chakras (energy points).
In Sanskrit, Hatha means “the force.” Broken down the syllable “ha” is the sun and “tha” is the moon. This resembles two opposing forces coming together in union. The female shakti rises to meet the masculine to join in universal enlightenment.
Benefits of Hatha Yoga
All yoga styles offer a range of health benefits. Hatha yoga is no different, but it does have some unique qualities.
Since it focuses on holding asanas, Hatha a great for building balance. This takes focus and patience.
Balance strengthens your core muscles like your abdomen and back. This makes it easier to build muscle in other parts of your body, since you can slowly challenge yourself to new poses.
Deep stretching improves flexibility, but it also cleanses the body. It improves circulation in the blood, which fights infection and reduces inflammation.
The lymphatic system is responsible for clearing fluid from joints and muscles throughout the body. The fluid carries white blood cells that absorb fatty acids and boosts the immune system.
Hatha is a meditative practice that places focus on breathing. This brings more oxygen into your lungs and releases serotonin in the brain. Both improve your mood, reduces stress, and improve memory.
It can also serve as an antidepressant, help relieve anxiety, and reduce the chances of chronic diseases like cancer. A reduction in inflammation also lowers the risk of thyroid issues that cause diseases like diabetes.
Hatha yoga uses simple asanas that can be performed at any level and slowly made more difficult as you continue your practice. Here are a few beginner poses to start.
The lotus pose practices good posture while opening the hips and stretching the pelvis. Begin by sitting with your back in line with your tailbone.
Bend both knees and bring your feet together in front of you. Slowly raise one foot and leg at a time to rest your ankles on the opposite thigh.
You can use half lotus by only placing your dominate foot on your opposite leg. Keep your other leg on the ground underneath your leg.
Another option is to sit in an easy pose with both legs on the ground with both feet under the opposite leg. Or leave both legs loose and slightly away from your body not under either leg.
Child’s Pose is great for resting and relieving stress. It also elongates the back and spine, providing a beneficial stretch.
Sit on your calves with both legs under your bottom and your feet face up behind you. Your knees should be together but can be spaced apart if it is more comfortable.
Slowly bend forward with your arms going over your head. Stretch your arms out away from your body. Place your forehead facedown on the floor.
Hold the position for at least a few minutes. Come back to a sitting position slowly.
This pose helps in learning how to align your body while gaining basic balance. It also stretches your pelvis and thighs.
Bring one leg forward and bend the knee until it is just over your toes. Keep your toes facing forward.
The back leg should remain straight with the foot turned perpendicular to your front foot. Both heels of each foot should make a straight line from front to back.
Bring your arms up with your elbows next to your ears. Stretch them up to the sky. Hold for as long as it is comfortable.
Vinyasa Yoga Origins
Vinyasa yoga also originated from Patajanli’s Yoga-Sutra but was modified into a flowing series, moving from one pose to the next without holding them.
The Sanskrit meaning of vinyasa is “to place in a special way.” The inhale and exhale of breath, called Ujjayi Pranayama, is performed in between poses to create a flow of both movement and breath.
Vinyasa took on many forms and developed into other schools of yoga, like Ashtanga yoga. All forms of vinyasa focus on creating heat within the body by increasing the heart rate.
That is why Vinyasa is considered to be more difficult than Hatha yoga. It tends to take more endurance and strength to complete full sessions. Poses are repeated in repetitions rather than one at a time, so some believe it to be a form of power yoga.
Benefits of Vinyasa Yoga
The benefits of yoga classes are similar to Hatha yoga with some minor differences.
Since Vinyasa moves quickly, it builds stamina and is seemingly more of a cardiovascular workout. So it tends to be for intermediate or advanced yogis rather than beginners.
Muscles are challenged differently in Vinyasa yoga. Poses are held but transitions move at a rapid pace. Imagine the difference between lifting light weights quickly with a lot of reps and lifting heavy weights slowly only a few times.
The result is a varying muscle build. Vinyasa creates lean muscle while burning fat.
It does, however, improve your balance like Hatha yoga. You still have to balance your self while moving from one asana to the next.
Breathing techniques will be more difficult as you sync them with movements. This also has benefits for lengthening the spine and increases your flexibility as you sink into each pose.
Vinyasa Yoga Sequence
Vinyasa yoga is performed with a sequence of yoga poses. There are some easy ones to start with like the sun salutation.
Start in the mountain pose in a standing position with your hands together at your chest. Raise your arms over your head as you breathe in.
Exhale and use your arms to guide you as you bend to touch the ground.
Take one leg and step back while keeping both hands on the ground. Take the other leg back as well and come into a plank pose. Continue to inhale and exhale with each movement.
Lower yourself to your stomach with your hands in front of your chest. Push your chest up and arch the back into cobra pose.
Continue pushing up as you fold the torso and come into downward facing dog. Your legs and back should make a right angle.
Step one foot forward back into a lunge then bring your second foot up to meet the other. Rise slowly one vertebra at a time until your head faces forward again.
Return to the original mountain pose.
Hatha Yoga vs Vinyasa Yoga (How To Choose)
Before you start any yoga practice, you should know what are the different types of yoga. You may get confused when you go to sign up for a class if is doesn’t give you a proper description.
This guide should offer you some insight into which style of yoga will work best for you (e.g. improving strength and flexibility or your balance).
Hatha yoga is great for beginners since it doesn’t require you to be in great shape. You can take your time and learn asanas before intensifying your yoga practice. Hatha is slow, and you can take breaks without getting lost in the routine.
Vinyasa is perfect for you if you prefer a workout and you are familiar with the asanas. These flowing classes move fast, so it is hard to keep up if you do not have some experience. It is best to learn the basics of yoga first.
Get Started With Your Yoga Practice
Once you decide between hatha yoga and vinyasa, it is time to choose a class to begin your practice. You can look online and sort available yoga classes by type.
We offer both vinyasa classes and Hatha classes in London, so if you’re located in the Swinging City, drop by! You can also start yoga at home by visiting our blog for more yoga tips, poses, and yoga sequences.