Hatha vs Vinyasa Yoga: Complimentary Yoga Practices for Healing
When I began my yoga practice, I went looking for the meaning in all of these strange sanskrit words: Hatha Yoga? Vinyasa Yoga? Pranayama? Asana? I was excited to be learning something completely new, but the more I learned, the more confused I became.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized the power of alternating Vinyasa vs Hatha yoga as complementary practices to heal the body and ignite the spirit.
“I thought that Vinyasa was more difficult and would help me become one of those “hot yoga chicks” that I desperately wanted to be.”
Vinyasa Yoga vs. Hatha Yoga
As a beginner, I thought that Hatha Yoga was for beginners and Vinyasa Yoga was an advanced practice that was built on a Hatha practice, making it more challenging and transformational. I thought that Vinyasa was more difficult and would help me become one of those “hot yoga chicks” that I desperately wanted to be.
There are many translations of the sanskrit word Vinyasa floating around, but the most common is “to place in a special way”. What a beautiful sentiment. I wanted to learn how to live this way; being aware of my movements and my breath and working with my body and mind together in a special way.
I thought that you eventually moved beyond Hatha Yoga to practice Vinyasa Yoga for the rest of your life, unless you were injured, tired or pregnant. Vinyasa Yoga seemed like the ultimate goal. If you wanted to be an advanced yogi and a great yoga teacher, practicing Vinyasa Yoga was your way out of a beginner’s practice.
It seemed like Hatha Yoga was what you wanted to practice if you wanted to be prepared to sit around and chant all day or if you were just starting out. It made you feel serious, took forever to practice and was downright boring.
I started going to Vinyasa Yoga Retreats like Retreat, Relax, Release and left the Hatha Yoga to the beginners and sages.
The Flipside: Hatha vs. Vinyasa Yoga
It wasn’t until years later that I realized this wasn’t the case. I began learning and teaching an intense, challenging, sweaty, strengthening Hatha Yoga practice and the roles reversed in my mind.
Hatha Yoga was clearly the advanced practice and Vinyasa was an inauthentic, fitness-based, superficial workout plan.
The deeper I went into my Hatha Yoga practice, the more silly Vinyasa seemed. Spending such a short amount of time in each pose meant that you never had a chance to dig in, release tension, improve posture, stabilize injuries by strengthening postural muscles, etc.
But mostly, I saw Vinyasa as a way to blast loud music, get some good cardio in, and totally check out.
I left my Vinyasa Yoga practice by the wayside and started practicing Hatha Yoga exclusively. If I saw a class that had the words “flow” or “vinyasa” in them, I wouldn’t even consider it.
“One teaches your mind how to go deeper, to probe the inner wisdom and to connect with the higher self. The other teaches your mind to think quickly and respond gracefully in the body.”
Years after I became a teacher, I ran into a proverbial wall. My Hatha Yoga practice had become a maintenance routine, and I was completely uninspired. I went through the motions until, one day, I remembered how excited I used to get practicing a specific Vinyasa Yoga sequence. So I decided to try it again, bringing what I had learned from Hatha Yoga into the practice.
I felt a renewed sense of wonder and energy. I felt graceful and light. Had I just found a way to keep my yoga practice alive?
Integrating several Vinyasa classes each week brought creativity and evolution back into my practice. Learning how Hatha and Vinyasa fit together, instead of how they are different brought a sense of unity and joy into my life on and off the mat.
Hatha Yoga is like learning how to write well. Vinyasa Yoga is like learning how to do competition-worthy double dutch jump rope. One teaches your mind how to go deeper, to probe the inner wisdom and to connect with the higher self. The other teaches your mind to think quickly and respond gracefully in the body.
Practicing Vinyasa Yoga and Hatha Yoga alternatively throughout the week now allows me to interact with the world from a place of both strength and vitality.
Hatha allows me to access and heal the places that need deep medicine and Vinyasa allows me to celebrate newfound freedom in my body and practice moving “in a special way” with ease and grace.
Comments and Feedback
Do you practice Hatha, Vinyasa or both? What do you think is different about them?
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