Hatha yoga and Vinyasa yoga are two highly popular styles practiced in the US and people often interchange them.
But how do you know which style is best for you? And more importantly, when is a good time to practice one over the other?
Like any style of yoga, listening to your body’s needs and considering what your goals are for your practice in any given day will help you decide when it’s best to choose Hatha vs Vinyasa yoga.
Hatha Yoga is Slower and Deliberate Concentrated on Breathwork
Hatha yoga is performed at a slower pace and includes basic yoga poses that create the foundation of a strong practice. By spending more time in each pose (typically one minute), you will learn how to properly perform each one, along with gaining an introduction to basic breathing techniques. In a Hatha yoga class, there is no transition sequence between poses, so after spending several breaths in a pose, you will come out of the posture fully before moving into the next one. According to the classic yoga text, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Hatha yoga “...is the foundation for those practicing every type of Yoga.”
Hatha yoga is best to practice when you:
Are new to yoga: the slow pace gives you time to get familiar with the nuances and names of each posture, as well as time to focus on learning basic breathing techniques.
Need to reduce stress or are injured: The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states that “Hatha is the sanctuary for those suffering every type of pain.” The ability to move deliberately at a gentle pace allows you to cultivate focus and ensure that you are performing each posture correctly and with care for the body.
Need calm and alignment: with only one pose to focus on at a time, you have the opportunity to create calm through focus and align your body and mind. As yoga teacher, choreographer, and author Cyndi Lee says, “Hatha yoga is a powerful tool for self-transformation. It asks us to bring our attention to our breath, which helps us to still the fluctuations of the mind and be more present in the unfolding of each moment.” Hatha yoga even shows benefits to executive functions such as inhibitory control (self-control), working memory, and cognitive flexibility.
Want to improve your form: spending more time in each pose allows you the opportunity to adjust your body and learn what proper alignment feels like. More advanced practitioners can even benefit from going back to basics from time to time in their practice.
Vinyasa Yoga is Continuous Sequence With Breathwork
The most important feature of Vinyasa yoga is the linking of breath to movement in a flowing sequence of poses. In a Vinyasa flow, you will experience a smooth transition sequence from pose to pose and generally move at a faster pace, which results in less emphasis on alignment as there is in Hatha yoga. As Vinyasa yoga teacher Shiva Rea says, “Vinyasa yoga teaches us to cultivate an awareness that links each action to the next-on the mat and in our lives.”
Vinyasa yoga is best to practice when you:
Are ready to advance your yoga practice: due to the faster pace, already having a familiarity with basic poses and breathing in a yoga class is helpful in order to keep up.
Need a more physical workout: the constant movement and faster pace of vinyasa flow yoga will help you sweat and deliver an effective cardio workout as opposed to slower and alignment-based classes.
Need an energy boost: if your energy is low, a fast-paced Vinyasa yoga class can get your heart rate up and deliver an endorphin boost to wake you up.
Want to improve your strength and cardiovascular fitness: a Vinyasa flow can be very athletic and feature strength-building transitions and endurance-building cardio movements.