Hatha vs Vinyasa Yoga: Complimentary Yoga Practices for Healing – Retreat Relax Release

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.

Complementary Practices

“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?

4 comments

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  • Thanks for the post.

    I have never tried Vinyasa yoga before, only Hatha yoga, and I like Hatha because you do spend time in each posture, I feel like this gives you more time to concentrate, focus and improve the posture. I think I would like to at least try Vinyasa, because, as you said, it helps you to think quickly and respond gracefully, and I would definitely benefit from improving my reflex, plus it sounds like a great workout, and I do like cardio as well.

    Even if I start Vinyasa, I won’t replace my Hatha yoga practice, as I feel mentally, I need it to help me reflect on the day, and clear my mind from any stress.

    • Jen

      Reply

      I suppose there’s no “best way”; ie. everyone has different needs and one might better suit you based on your current situation. Still, I like the balance that combining them offers.

  • Blossom

    Reply

    Thank you for explaining the difference between Hatha and Vinyasa so clearly. I am just starting out and it has helped me to better understand what might benefit me.

    I have actually started out doing Vinyasa, because I liked the idea of it being a little bit more fast paced but I have to admit that it may have been a better idea to start off with Hatha and then progress to Vinyasa. I have found learning and moving into new postures a bit of a challenge but I am enjoying the journey none-the-less. I will certainly give Hatha a try in the near future too, it may help me better relieve stresses.

  • jamiea

    Reply

    I probably would have thought the same as you initially too. It does seem fitting though that the slower, simpler practice is the more advanced practice.

    Such movements require so much more discipline and patience. Its easy to do choreographed moves quickly but taking the time to really feel your body in each movement takes so much more.

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