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Yoga has become a key part of our lives, and for a great reason. Its daily practice helps us feel more in tune with our minds and bodies. It provides a space for us to connect with our inner selves and achieve clarity, focus and peace.
But there are many different kinds of yoga practices to choose from, and we know it can be confusing to figure out which particular style is right for us. Most types of yoga are based on the same basic yoga poses or asanas, but the experience of one practice can be radically different to another.
Two of the most common yoga variations out there nowadays are Hatha Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga. Each one has a different method that makes it a unique kind of practice, each with a different result.
We wanted to bring you the basic differences between the two most popular forms of yoga, along with their essential characteristics. We hope that this will make it easier for you to know where to begin (if you haven’t already), and help you decide which one would be a better fit for you and your personal goals with each session.
Hatha is a word that comes from Sanskrit. It can be broken down into two different words: ‘ha’ which means ‘sun’ and ‘tha’ which means ‘moon.’ The word can also mean “willful” or "forceful.”
In yoga, when we talk about the Hatha yoga practice, we make reference to one of many types of yoga variations. This practice focuses on the mastery of the physical body, including all bodily functions. It also emphasizes the activation of the chakras in order to stimulate Kundalini – the primal energy force within us – and promote spiritual and physical wellness.
The philosophy of yoga tells us that Hatha yoga was originally considered as a preparation for a spiritual yoga practice since control over the physical body is believed to help in developing control over the mind and spirit.
Through its performance, we attempt to balance the mind, the body and the chakras through particular asanas and controlled, meditative breathing - which last a little longer than in other yoga classes, and function as complements of the physical movements of the body.
The earliest references to this yoga variation are in Buddhist works that date back to the eighth century, and the earliest definition of Hatha yoga is found in the 11th century Buddhist text Vimalaprabha. It defines it in relation to the center channel, or bindu, which entails the convergence point of meditation, contemplation, prayer and mantra.
Hatha yoga synthesizes elements of the famous Patanjali's Yoga Sutras – a collection of Indian definitions on the theory and practice of yoga – with posture and breathing exercises. It also marks the development of asanas into the full body 'postures' that are popularly used now. Along with its many modern variations, it is the style that many people associate with the word "yoga" today.
Builds immunity When you contract and stretch your muscles, move organs around and come in and out of yoga postures, you increase the drainage of lymph. This helps the lymphatic system fight infection, destroy cancerous cells and get rid of the toxic waste products of our cellular functioning.
Relaxes the mind and releases tension in the body Hatha yoga really encourages you to focus on the breath, which relaxes the mind. It’s an instant plus.
Tones the spine All of our nerves branch out from the spine, connecting the various organ systems to the brain. It is said that if the spine is rigid, nerve impulses cannot flow freely through the body and internal organs become weakened and subject to disease. If you keep the spine supple, the nerves remain strong.
Strengthens and tones the body Yoga poses in Hatha are weight bearing, usually held for varying lengths of time, and repeated multiple times during a practice. It is a great option for functional fitness since it allows your body to be both strengthened and stretched in positions that your body is naturally in on a day-to-day basis.
The word “vinyasa” can be translated into “arranging something in a special way,” or “connection” - like the yoga poses combined during the practice. In a vinyasa yoga class, the practitioners coordinate the movement with the breath to flow from one asana or pose to the next in a rather fast paced session.
Ashtanga, Baptiste Yoga, Jivamukti, Power Yoga, and Prana Flow can all be considered Vinyasa Yoga. "Vinyasa" is also a term used to describe a particular sequence of poses (Chaturanga to Upward-Facing Dog to Downward-Facing Dog) commonly used during a vinyasa class.
Most people equate the Vinyasa practice with the ability to sweat, which draws a lot of people to it. Since yoga is usually thought of as a more calm, meditative experience in general, Vinyasa comes as a more active version of it. Vinyasa involves a more dynamic movement flow than Hatha, but still encompassing the basic premises of the yoga practice as well.
Vinyasa allows for a lot of variety, but will almost always include sun salutations. You can expect to move, sometimes rather vigorously, from one pose to another. Whether the class is fast or slow, includes advanced poses or is just alignment-oriented, depends on the individual teacher and the specific style in which they have trained themselves.
Calm The steady cycle of inhales and exhales provides a calming, mental focal point, and allows you to feel completely present during the session.
Purification of body The ongoing movements, from one pose to another, give you cardiovascular benefit by creating internal heat. This increased circulation and sweat lead to the purification of the body, and is also beneficial to the heart.
Increase in muscle strength and flexibility The routines are a great workout for the body, especially since you have to remain moving constantly without pausing in between asanas.
Ability to bring you to the present Yoga opens you up to the moment, which is all we have. It is the doorway that takes us to experience truth and real happiness.
As we can see, in contemporary yoga philosophy, Vinyasa stands in opposition to Hatha. Hatha classes tend to focus on one pose at a time with rest in between, while Vinyasa flow classes string poses together to make a sequence. Vinyasa is a more active yoga variation, whereas Hatha is a more focused, slow paced and meditative yoga class.
At Alana Athletica, we enjoy both types of yoga practices. We believe that each one has a unique way of connecting us to our feelings and thoughts. Our pants are designed to stay moisture-free and comfy in order to provide you with an even better yoga experience. While connecting with your inner-self, the last thing you should have to worry about is your pants.
What matters most in the end is the understanding that Yoga is about getting to know yourself better and learning how to love who you are. This constant practice also helps you get in touch with the love you have to share with the world around you. Remember, we rise by lifting others (not by constantly lifting our pants) and #MoveWithImpact.