Difference Between Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga

There are so many yoga styles practiced worldwide that choosing the most appropriate yoga style for practice can be rather confusing. However, Hatha, Ashtanga yoga and Vinyasa flow yoga are the most popular styles that are followed worldwide today.

Hatha yoga is usually the most common yoga form that is perfect for beginners in yoga as it involves gentle stretching through a combination of standing and gentle seated postures. Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga share some similarities in terms of flowing movements. However, Ashtanga yoga is a more structured form of Vinyasa where the same set of sequences is followed every single time.

This post will cover the basic nuances of Hatha, Ashtanga yoga and Vinyasa and serve as a detailed guide to anyone who is keen to know the difference between Hatha yoga, Ashtanga yoga and Vinyasa yoga.

What is Hatha yoga?

Hatha yoga is the most practiced yoga across the world as it is a slow and gentler form of yoga. Hatha yoga postures help to build your core strength and enhance overall flexibility. Furthermore, considerable time will be spent by your teacher explaining each pose and therefore this yoga is perfect for beginners. So, in most Hatha yoga classes, you will find several folks who have just begun their journey in yoga. 

If you are keen to learn Hatha yoga more deeply, then a yoga TTC in Rishikesh would be just the thing you might need.

Hatha yoga is quite a versatile form of yoga that can be adapted to individual needs. Also, these yoga sessions also differ depending on the hour of the day and the teacher presiding over the class. For instance, a morning Hatha yoga class would involve poses that will energize you while an evening Hatha yoga class would involve gentler seated, static yoga poses and long stretches to help you calm down and get restful quality sleep at night.

A typical Hatha yoga class will begin with a customary chanting of a mantra to help focus your attention on breath that further guides you through the postures. Every Hatha yoga class ends with the final Savasana pose or the Corpse pose which is a guided relaxation pose. 

Although Hatha yoga is mostly adopted by novices in yoga, this ancient style of yoga has many layers to it and involves challenging and advanced asanas and other breathwork techniques that can be finessed if you choose to pursue Hatha yoga teacher training in India courses.

To gauge and understand the key differences between Hatha, Ashtanga yoga and Vinyasa, it's important to understand the key benefits that can be accrued by following each of these yoga styles. Furthermore, you will be able to decide what kind of yoga will be more suitable depending on your health needs and fitness levels. 

Benefits of Hatha yoga

Stress relief

Yoga in general is majorly practiced for its stress relief capability. Since Hatha yoga aids in the relaxation of the body and the mind, it's widely used as a tool in stress management. Also, stress is considered a precursor in many anxiety disorders and clinical depression. So, the long-term and regular practice of Hatha yoga reduces stress levels and prevents stress-related maladies of anxiety and depression.

Increases energy

Hatha yoga poses along with pranayama or breath work help in invigorating your mind and body. Hatha yoga, especially practiced in the morning hours, helps to energize you for a long productive day.

Improves physical fitness

Hatha yoga is believed to improve physical fitness. A typical Hatha yoga class involves breathing exercises, warm-up stretches adn core strengthening and flexibility-improving yoga poses. Furthermore, every yoga class ends with guided relaxation techniques that help to calm down frayed nerves. Overall, Hatha yoga when performed consistently aids in improved endurance, muscular strength, and cardiorespiratory and pulmonary function.

What is Ashtanga yoga?

Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic yet structured form of yoga that was conceived and popularized by Sri T. Krishnamacharya and later his disciple, K.Pattabhi Jois in Mysore. Today, Ashtanga yoga is practiced worldwide. But, if you want to take your Ashtanga yoga practice a notch higher, then it would be wise to head to Mysore, India to pursue an Ashtanga yoga teacher training course. In Ashtanga yoga, the same set of sequences is followed every single time making this traditional form of yoga truly universal. Ashtanga yoga is also referred to as the 8-limbed yoga and overall includes 6 series of sequences. There is one Primary series, one intermediate series and 4 advanced series. Ashtanga yoga is a physically demanding yoga style where it takes years simply to perfect the Primary series. Your breath will serve as a guide as you flow from one pose to another. Also, sun salutations form an important part of an Ashtanga yoga practice and each of the Ashtanga yoga postures needs to be held for 5 breaths before moving into another pose. A full Primary series class lasts for about 90 minutes where each movement corresponds to an inhale and exhale along with Drishti or visual focal point.

Since the sequence is universal, each yoga student practices the Ashtanga yoga sequence at their own pace, albeit in a group class. 

Benefits of Ashtanga yoga

Improves upper body strength and helps release stress

Like any other yoga form, Ashtanga yoga helps release stress from the body and mind and aids in relaxation. Also, studies have shown that practicing Ashtanga yoga twice a week for three months helps improve your upper body endurance, and enhances the flexibility of the trunk while improving overall psychological health. Ashtanga yoga practiced twice a week was able to increase upper body muscular endurance, increase trunk flexibility and also improve overall psychological health.

Eases pain

Since Ashtanga yoga predominantly includes sun salutations that help stretch your back and spine, over time, regular Ashtanga yoga practice can help ease chronic back pain.

Aids in weight loss 

Unlike the gentler Hatha yoga, Ashtanga yoga is a physically demanding yoga where one pose eases into another. This can be likened to a cardio workout where you will even break out in a sweat. Moreover, as an Ashtanga yoga session stretches to 90 minutes which is more than any standard workout in a gym or fitness class, you will end up burning calories and losing weight.

What is Vinyasa yoga?

Vinyasa yoga can be called a faster-paced version of Hatha yoga and a free-style adoption of Ashtanga yoga. The Vinyasa form of yoga helps to perform yoga exercises with a deeper awareness through rhythmic bodily movements in sync with the breath. Vinyasa yoga includes the nuances of both Hatha yoga and Ashtanga yoga using the guiding breath to explore a number of yoga postures. Vinyasa is a dynamic flow yoga that can be done by even beginners in yoga. However, to fully get value out of a Vinyasa class, some know-how about poses, sequencing and breath control is required.

It's worthwhile to note that Ashtanga yoga was the original form of Vinyasa yoga. However, one should keep in mind that Vinyasa is a form of yoga practice that serves as a basis for other styles of yoga such as Power yoga, Viniyoga, Jivamukti and others.

A Vinyasa class is usually manoeuvred by a teacher who decides on the poses and sequences that can be followed on a particular day. So, unlike an Ashtanga class, a Vinyasa class is quite versatile where poses and sequences can vary depending on the fitness levels of students, the mood of the day and also the ultimate challenges that a yoga teacher wants to scale.

For instance, a Vinyasa class teacher may design a class to help ace the Hanumanasana or the splits. So, the teacher may include a string of sun salutations in order to warm up the body and elongate the hamstrings. Thereafter, warrior postures may be introduced to enhance the strength of opposing muscles.

Benefits of Vinyasa yoga

Enhances core stability while improving range of motion

You can develop core strength by not only engaging your lower torso muscles but also to look at the stability of the spine to prevent lower back pain. Vinyasa yoga includes a multitude of postures that involve and help strengthen your core muscles. In Vinyasa, you tend to move through an intricate sequence involving backends, side bends and other bodily twists by employing your body weight. This helps build core strength by enhancing power, stability and balance. Besides, preventing and reducing injuries, enhancing posture and leading daily lives sans any chronic pain is dependent on having a good range of motion. Vinyasa predominantly includes sun salutations that work to increase your mobility. The amalgamation of quick-paced movements and core muscle-strengthening postures helps enhance your range of motion while developing strength for good mobility.

Helps maintain a healthy heart

A Vinyasa yoga class is often looked upon as a light-intensity cardio workout that improves and maintains good heart health. Moreover, upper back bending poses can help enhance circulation in the cardiovascular region of the heart and adjoining tissues and muscles.

Besides, attending a Vinyasa yoga class helped reduce respiration rate as well as heart rate variability, both parameters in maintaining a healthy heart.

Enhanced lung capacity

Yoga in general begets a strong respiratory system. However, Vinyasa in particular helps in improving your lung capacity. The breath-synchronized movements of Vinyasa are an important factor in any Vinyasa yoga practice. The deep breathing involved helps to expand the lungs to their full capacity which further strengthens the diaphragm.  Routinely expanding the lungs can help build greater lung capacity and prevent lung problems of bronchitis and asthma.

What are the differences between Hatha, Ashtanga Yoga and Vinyasa

Hatha yoga is slow

Unlike Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga, poses in Hatha yoga are held for a longer duration where correct breathing is encouraged to be able to hold the posture with correct alignment. Also, breathing is emphasized in challenging poses so as not to tense up your muscles or mind. Also, in Hatha yoga, pose transitions take place in a slow and calm manner, unlike Ashtanga and Vinyasa forms where one pose flows into another. Hence Hatha yoga is suitable for beginners in yoga who are yet to develop the endurance and energy required for more dynamic yoga practices.

Ashtanga yoga is a structured form of Vinyasa

Ashtanga yoga is all about following a preconceived set of pose sequences and all Ashtanga yoga classes are the same everywhere. A typical Ashtanga yoga class involves sun salutations, standing postures, certain seated postures and winding up with finishing poses.

However, if you get bored of doing the same thing in Ashtanga yoga day in and day out, you can choose the more sequence-altering Vinyasa form of yoga.

Vinyasa yoga is actually a more agile form of Hatha yoga

Vinyasa can be deemed as a faster version of Hatha yoga. Although the postures can be the same, however, the way they are practiced makes all the difference. The Vinyasa form lays emphasis on flowing in and out of postures rendering it a more physically challenging, dynamic form of yoga.

Vinyasa is a free form of Ashtanga yoga

As described earlier, Ashtanga yoga is all about following the same set of pose sequences. On the contrary, Vinyasa classes are more versatile and use a wide spectrum of poses from the Ashtanga yoga series. The poses are sequenced in a way that aligns with the aim of the class or the needs of the students.

However, no two Vinyasa classes are the same since the teacher takes the liberty to structure the classes differently most of the time.

Ashtanga yoga is difficult to ace

Unlike Hatha yoga, Ashtanga and Vinyasa forms are difficult to perfect and more physically draining exercise forms. Besides, in Ashtanga yoga, the emphasis is given to the Tristana technique. This involves the energy locks or Bandhas, breath or Ujjayi sounds and Drishti serving as a focal point during yoga practice. Acing the yoga asanas by imbibing all these points simultaneously is a difficult proposition.

No prop use in Ashtanga yoga

As a general rule, most Ashtanga yoga practitioners do not use props so as not to interrupt the flow of the yoga practice. On the contrary, Hatha yoga utilized props such as straps, bolsters and yoga blocks to help beginner-level students who lack the flexibility to ease into poses.

Ashtanga yoga can be taught in two ways

Ashtanga yoga is taught as a led class where a teacher orally guides the students and may even demonstrate a few postures in class. However, another way is the Mysore Ashtanga class where the students memorize a set sequence of poses and practice it at their own pace, albeit in a group.

The Bottom Line

Hatha, Ashtanga yoga and Vinyasa, although different in some ways, are also similar in quite a few ways. All these three yoga styles lay considerable emphasis on breath and end in Savasana. Besides, all these three yoga forms have their origins in Hatha yoga itself and can be practiced by people of all ages. So, when it comes to choosing which yoga style to practice, it actually boils down to your health needs, fitness levels and lastly personal preferences.