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Difference between Hatha yoga and Ashtanga yoga

Just like we have many varieties of teas to choose from, the practice of yoga also comes i`n various forms and styles. A yoga student can choose from the many forms available according to one’s persona and fitness level. However, there is a great awe for hatha and ashtangavinyasa styles of yoga in the recent times.Many people either opt for a power pact ashtanga vinyasa class or a mild hatha vinyasa flow class.

The two forms of yoga we are going to understand today is Hatha yoga and Ashtanga vinyasa yoga and how these two practices differ from each other.

Let’s take a look at the 10 differences between the two styles of yoga:

1. Hatha yoga is a traditional practice of yoga which was mentioned first in ancients Vedas and Upanishads. Later on, there were organized texts for hatha yoga like Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Gheranda Samhita and the Shiva Samhita.

Ashtanga vinyasa yoga was first mentioned in a classic text called Yoga Koruntawritten by Vamana Rishi. T. Krishnamacharya’s disciple PattabiJois- Mysore organized his master’s teaching into 6 series of sequences.

2. ‘Ha’ means sun and ‘Tha’ means moon. In this style of asana practice the energy shifts fromactive to
passive. For example- A class can start by using various active poses and end the class with soft gentle poses.
Ashtanga vinyasa is also called ‘raja yoga; king of all yoga’. Hence, the energy is active throughout the asana practice. There is no rest in between.

3. Hatha vinyasa is a theme-based practice. Everyday the focus shifts to different body parts.For example, one day the teacher will focus on Hip opening poses and the other day working on thehamstring length or backward extension poses. There can also be various workshops organised like Padmasana workshop, handstand workshops etc for the students.The whole week can be designed by choosing different themes for each session.

Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is not a theme-based practice. One session of ashtanga vinyasa yoga works on the whole body.

4. A class of Hatha vinyasa can be designed according to the needs of the students. Hence, it does not have any advance series of practice.

Ashtanga vinyasa is a set sequence. It has 6 series, each getting advance. The beginners start with the ashtanga vinyasa primary series followed by intermediate and advance series.

5. Hatha vinyasa comes in the category of moderate and low intensity kind of body movements. Students can either practice it in the mornings or before going to sleep. There is no time frame for finishing the practise.
Ashtanga vinyasa is a combination of high to moderate intensity body movement. Hence, it is preferred to practice this style in the mornings as it awakens the body by shooting the blood circulation to the brain. A regular traditional ashtanga class should be finished in 90 minutes.

6. Hatha Vinyasa yoga flow works on improving the flexibility and mobility of the muscles. The hatha yogi body is not so lean.

Ashtanga vinyasa yoga tones the body and works on building more strength and endurance of the muscle. This type of practice improves stamina and aids in rapid weight loss. Therefore, an ashtanga practitioners body has minimalistic body fat.

7. There is no set duration for a pose in hatha yoga. Each pose can be timed according to the needs of the yoga practitioner. For example, a simple pose like Paschimottanasna (seated forward fold) can be done for 3-5 minutes which helps in enhancing hamstring flexibility.

The ideal time of each pose in ashtanga vinyasa yoga is 5 breaths. The same Paschimottanasna now should be practiced for 5 breaths. Some advance poses like Salambha Sarvangasana (supported shoulder stand) have longer holding time which last up to 25 breaths.

8. In Hatha yoga, breathing can be normal and relaxed.
Ujjayi breath (contracting of glottis muscle of the throat) is to be followed throughout the practice of Ashtanga vinyasa yogawhich helps inkeeping the body warm.

9. The yoga practitioner can either keep their eyes open or closed. One can totally relax in the pose. There is just a mild emphasis on the Bandhas(internal locks).

In, ashtanga vinyasa yoga there are 8 Dristhi or grazing points. The student has to keep the eyes open in order to improve awareness and concentration. The three Bandhas- Moola Bandha, UddiyanaBandha and JalandharaBandha needs to be applied according to the poses.

10. Hatha yoga practices keep one clam and helps in releasing stress and anxiety thereby making them enter a meditative state.

Ashtanga practice helps to keep one grounded and releases a lot of supressed emotions and aim at purifying the body, mind and spirit. The practices over health and well-being which boosts the confidence of the practitioner.
By reading the above differences, one has to choose a particular style of practice which suits their body the most, because no two bodies can be same. Once you have found your style keep practising it until you attain mastery over it.

Trying yoga in different weather conditions can also help you improve your practice. Practicing yoga in a hot weather can give you quick results because blood in hot weather is relatively thin which warms and opens up the body quickly. Planning for a 5-day yoga retreat or a yoga teacher trainingcan be a great idea for self-development and nurture.

We offer various 200-hour, 300-hour ashtanga yoga teacher training and multi-style yoga teacher training courses for the students. When intelligence is applied to your yoga practice in terms of alignment and use of props then once can never be a target of injuries. We nurture our students practice by holding their hands and take small steps with them towards gaining mastery over their health and wellness physically, mentally and emotionally.