Yoga is a path of self-knowledge that originated in India over 5,000 years ago. It has continued to develop throughout this period, and will continue to do so. The different styles of yoga have several things in common, the most notorious being the vision of the human spirit and its progression through life. However, they also differ in the practices and techniques they choose to employ. Today we are here to talk about two types of Yoga:
- A more classic style, Hatha Yoga
- One of the most highly trending dynamic styles, Vinyasa Yoga
The West has often interpreted Yoga in general, and Hatha Yoga in particular, as a physical practice centered on the body. However, in reality we know that it is not just a gymnastic activity.
The word Yoga derives itself from a Sanskrit word that means "to unite." The practice of Hatha Yoga distinguishes our everyday self, which includes our physical body and personality, from the universal Self, which includes all the creation of which we are an integral part. The goal of this practice is to let go of excessive identification with the self, daily life, and suffering. The asanas (body posture/ position) that are practiced during the classes of Hatha Yoga are born from the positions of meditation and, considering this fact, it should be practiced in a meditative way. This is why in this style we spend time in positions for extended periods; to listen to our body, giving it the chance to settle down and enjoy its benefits.
In addition, we use the breath to enter and exit each position, using this as a general rule to accompany movements in which the thorax expands with inhalation and those in which the chest closes with exhalation. The goal in the practice of asanas is that these positions are stable and comfortable (shtira and sukha), as described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The asanas are also to be dealt with gradually, without forcing the body before it is ready, also applying to ourselves the precept of non-violence (ahimsa).
Finally, remembering that the purpose of the practice is to increase awareness to prepare ourselves for meditation, even when we have become more experienced, we should not neglect the practice of simple positions, which allow us to experience a greater ease of concentration within, compared to the positions that require greater effort to be performed.
Summary: Hatha Yoga is has a greater focus on maintaining positions.
The word vinyasa, as often happens in Sanskrit, can have various meanings. It can be translated as "positioning in a special way" or as "presence in change." In our opinion, the second way of translating it is much more effective than the first because with this word we refer to the connection that takes place in the practice of movement and breath.
When the principle of Vinyasa is applied, in fact, every movement of the body is associated with a breathing act according to the instructions of the teacher. Thanks to this union between movement and breathing, one is totally present, not only when one takes up a position, but also when one passes from one position to another.
In this way, the mind is not distracted, but is forced to stay in the present moment even in the transitory phases, and it is precisely when one is present in the "here and now" that the practice of Yoga is at its peak.
Summary: Vinyasa Yoga has a greater focus on transitioning from one position to another.
In recent years, Vinyasa Yoga has become a real style that differs from classic Hatha Yoga just for its movement and its dynamism. Vinyasa puts the focus very much on the flow from one posture to another following the flow of breath and a dynamic transition that leads us from standing posture such as from Mountain Pose to Downward-Facing Dog.
Vinyasa is usually a more dynamic style of yoga in which there is a lot of attention to the transition from one position to another. In this type of practice the main element, just from the name of the style, is the vinyasa where every movement of the body is connected to a breathing act. This principle has not only been adopted by Vinyasa Yoga, but also by many other styles which are called by a different name.
In Hatha yoga, the more classical style, the attention to the movement is certainly less, as more attention is paid to the final position. In this type of yoga, the asanas are maintained for longer than the styles in which there is the vinyasa and during the classes of Hatha Yoga, there are fewer positions.
Besides the differences of the goals and format of these two styles, we should totally consider Vinyasa and Hatha Yoga as two sides of the same coin. Surely Vinyasa is a great way to increase concentration and to improve the body training that takes place during practice, but we think it is a fairly advanced system in which it is easy to overestimate your limits, so it should be approached calmly, respecting your body and above all, leaving your ego out of the way.
Hatha Yoga could be the right way to approach Vinyasa Yoga in a more mindful, gentle and slow-paced way, learning how to deal with the postures and the pranayama before heading into powerful dynamic flows one step at a time.
Ultimately, we recommend you try both styles yourself and see which one you prefer. Everyone is different and will have varying preferences for the Yoga they practice.
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