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Hatha vs. Vinyasa - What's the Difference?

By Elana Love

FRI APR 30, 2021

HATHA VS. VINYASA - What's the Difference?

I often get the question “What do the terms Hatha and Vinyasa mean, and what is the difference?” Much of the time, I teach a mashup of Hatha and Vinyasa, in other words, a mixture of holding postures and flowing. This is a pretty common style of class, but I recently decided to break them up into two separate classes, so my students could really sense the difference.

Vinyasa is a style of yoga where postures are strung together seamlessly to create a flow, with the intention of synchronizing breath to movement. In Sanskrit, the term “vinyasa” means “to place in a special way” indicating that each posture is intentional and meant to help bring us into the present moment. These types of classes tend to be a little more high energy, fast paced, dynamic, and feel like a bit of a cardiovascular workout.

Now, "Hatha yoga" is technically an umbrella term that describes where today’s most common forms of yoga stem from. The word "Hatha" in Sanskrit means "force," which alludes to the exertion of physical effort, from the more obvious such as postures and asana to the more subtle body practices, such as breathwork and working with our energetic flow. This significance is a good reminder that the spiritual path takes work and dedication. In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Swami Svatmarama discusses how this physical practice can help us balance or unite the constantly ebbing ida (lunar) and pingala (solar) energies within us, preparing us for meditation.

On a more practical level, if you see “Hatha yoga” on a class schedule, you can expect a more gentle style of yoga involving static poses that are held for longer (a few breaths), making it a great way for beginners to really understand the techniques and purposes of the postures, build strength, and stretch deeper.

T chart to make it easy on the eyes ;)
T chart to make it easy on the eyes ;)

So while you will typically see a lot of the same poses in each type of class, the whole mood and pace of the classes may feel unique. Which one of these sounds most appealing to you? Share this article and tag me (@elanaloveyoga on facebook) to let me know!

If you’re curious to explore either of these styles with me, here’s the link to sign up for classes.