Hatha yoga is one of the most popular styles of yoga practiced in the world. But what is hatha yoga, and how does it compare to other forms of yoga like vinyasa style? In this article, we will explore the history and benefits of hatha yoga and discuss how it differs from other popular styles. Hatha yoga is a great option for beginners because it focuses on basic poses and breathing exercises. So if you're looking to try out yoga for the first time, hatha might be a good place to start!

What is Hatha Yoga?

Modern vs. Traditional Hatha Yoga

Traditionally, yoga was initially done as a spiritual practice. In today's modern world yoga is done for a variety of reasons, stress relief, exercise, flexibility training, etc. in addition to those who still practice in the traditional sense.

Specific to Hatha Yoga, we need to look at the original Sanskrit Manual on Hatha Yoga to understand the traditional practice and journey. In the original Hatha Yoga Pradipika text written by Nath Yogi Swatmarama in 1350, there are four chapters, which break down into the below:

  • Chapter 1: The Asanas
  • Chapter 2: Pranayama and the Shatkarmas
  • Chapter 3: The Mudras
  • Chapter 4: Meditation and Samadhi

A copy of "Hatha Yoga Pradipika" with commentary and an English translation can be found here.

In practice, traditional Hatha yoga goes beyond the asanas in the studio. For example, Shatkarmas are a series of cleansing techniques meant to purify the body. It'll be rare to find a local studio that aids in the practice of these cleansing techniques.

In contrast, modern Hatha Yoga focuses primarily on the Asanas. The poses, stretches, movements, and practice you associate with stereotypical yoga in the Western world.

Hatha vs. Vinyasa Yoga

In regards to modern practice, Hatha and Vinyasa style classes are very similar in the asanas or poses, practiced. The primary difference is the pace of the class. Hatha classes are slower, while Vinyasa classes focus on moving at a faster, rhythmic pace.

Because Hatha is slower, you may find it easier to get a deeper stretch and find greater depth in the pose. Vinyasas feel more like a workout as you are moving quickly, like when going through a chaturanga or sun salutation. 

Poses in Hatha are not linked like they are in Vinyasa. Your breath varies in Hatha, while in a Vinyasa you are trying to sync your breath with your movements. Each is beginner-friendly; however, a Hatha-style class will likely be less cardio intensive.

Hatha Yoga FAQ

Is Hatha Yoga harder than Vinyasa?

Typically no. Both classes are beginner friendly, but a Hatha Yoga class will typically be less cardio-intensive. If you are planning to attend an in-person class at a studio, find out which classes are best suited for newcomers.

Is Hatha yoga best for beginners?

Yes! Hatha Yoga is an excellent starting point for beginners in their yoga journey. The asanas, or poses, used in most classes are easy to learn and can be increased in intensity once you become more experienced.

Hatha Yoga Summary

In the ancient and traditional sense, yoga, as a whole, is a complete system that aims to develop the physical, mental, social, and spiritual sides of being. It's a lifelong practice and adherence to sacrifice and self-discipline. Hatha Yoga is no different.

You'll see that most, if not all, yoga schools all have the same goal: To gain mastery over the mind. How that goal is accomplished varies from school to school. In the traditional practice, Hatha Yoga follows the four original chapters in the Hatha Yoga Pradapika text to accomplish that goal.

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