Home Discussion Forum What's the difference between Hatha yoga and Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga please?

What's the difference between Hatha yoga and Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga please?


  1. Hatha yoga, pronounced, also known as Hatha vidya, is a particular system of Yoga introduced by Yogi Swatmarama, a sage of 15th century India, and compiler of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. In this treatise Swatmarama introduces Hatha Yoga as ‘a stairway to the heights of Raja Yoga’, hence a preparatory stage of physical purification that renders the body fit for the practise of higher meditation. This practise is called shatkarma. The word Hatha is a compound of the words Ha and Tha meaning sun and moon and refers to the principle nadis (energy channels) of the subtle body that must be fully operational to attain a state of dhyana or samadhi. In other respects Hatha yoga follows the same principles as the Raja Yoga of Patanjali including moral restraint yama and spiritual observances niyama. Hatha Yoga is what most people in the West associate with the word “Yoga” and is practiced for mental and physical health throughout the West.
    Traditional Hatha Yoga is a holistic yogic path, including moral disciplines, physical exercises (e.g., asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breath control), and meditation. The Hatha yoga predominantly practiced in the West consists of mostly asanas (postures) and exercise.
    Hatha Yoga is one of the two branches of Yoga that focus on the physical culture, the other one being Raja Yoga. Both of these are commonly referred to as Ashtanga Yoga, i.e., Yoga of eight parts (‘ashta’ meaning eight and ‘anga’ meaning limbs). The eight limbs are described below in detail. The main difference is that Raja Yoga uses asanas to mainly get the body ready for prolonged meditation, and hence focuses more on the meditative asana poses: Lotus Pose (Padmasana), Accomplished Pose (Siddhasana), Easy Pose (Sahajasana) and Pelvic Pose (Vajrasana); Hatha Yoga utilizes most of the asana poses. Similarly, Raja Yoga’s use of Pranayama is also devoid of extensive locks (Bandha).
    Hatha represents opposing energies: hot and cold (fire and water, following the same concept as the yin-yang), male and female, positive and negative, similar but not completely analogous to yin and yang. Hatha yoga attempts to balance mind and body via physical exercises, or “asanas”, controlled breathing, and the calming of the mind through relaxation and meditation. Asanas teach poise, balance & strength and are practiced to improve the body’s physical health and clear the mind in preparation for meditation in the pursuit of enlightenment.
    The Yoga of Patanjali is Ashtanga or comprised of 8 limbs, Yama and Niyama, which are ethical obligations, Asana, Pranayama, which is breath control, Pratyahara, which is sense withdrawal, Dharana, which is concentration, Dhyana, which is meditation, and Samadhi, which is the experience of unity with God. The eight limbs are more precisely viewed as eight levels of progress, each level providing benefits in and of itself and also laying the foundation for the higher levels.
    In some schools of thought, only Raja Yoga is considered to be Ashtanga Yoga, and Hatha Yoga is thought to consist of six limbs focused on attaining Kundalini. In this scheme, the six limbs of Hatha Yoga are defined as Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Mudra (specific postures to help lock in the breath), Nadanusandhana (hearing of the eternal sound within the body), the whole process cultiminating in the attainment of Kundalini. Due to this, this version of Hatha yoga is also sometimes referred to as Kundalini Yoga.
    Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is the style of yoga taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, India, and originally established by Sri Krishnamacharya at the Mysore Palace. The asana sequences in Ashtanga Yoga’ are largely based on Krishnamacharya’s book Yoga Makaranda. It is an energetic, aerobic style and was originally intended for teenage boys, but is now practiced by students of all ages.
    The term ashtanga, meaning eight limbs, refers to the eight limbs of yoga. In Raja Yoga, a classical Indian system of Hindu philosophy, these were expounded by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.
    Ashtanga seeks to embody the traditional eight limbs of yoga (referred to as ashtanga or Raja Yoga) as expounded by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. Ashtanga Yoga is said to have its origin in the ancient text Yoga Korunta by Vamana Rishi, which Krishnamacharya received from his Guru Rama Mohan Brahmachari at Mount Kailash, and later passed on to Pattabhi Jois. Having taught many of the major yoga teachers of the 20th century, such as B.K.S. Iyengar and Indra Devi, Krishnamacharya has a huge influence on many of the modern forms of yoga taught today and played a crucial part in their development. Today, Ashtanga remains the most faithful to his original teachings [citation needed] to teenage boys. Krishnamacharya was well-known for tailoring his teachings to address specific concerns of the person or group he was teaching, and Ashtanga Vinyasa is a result of this. When working under the convalescing Maharaja of Mysore, Krishnamacharya set up a shala, or yoga school, in the palace grounds and adapted Ashtanga practice for the young boys of about twelve years of age who lived there. Ashtanga, therefore, is a very physically demanding practice targeted at focusing the mind and body.

  2. Hatha yoga is slower, more focus on the individual poses, probably more suitable for folks that aren’t looking for a workout in their yoga practice. There’s no “script” in a class, the teacher has the class focus on whatever he/she cares to on a given day. Ashtanga (where do you a vinyasa in between each pose) builds serious internal heat so you sweat significantly. In Ashtanga, you go through a series of scripted poses. You start out with the Primary Series. You can do it in a led class format where the teacher leads the group through all the poses at the same time, or in “Mysore” format (named after the city in India where the guru teaches) where everyone shows up largely when they want to, and goes through the series at his/her own speed up to the point where their regular teacher thinks they need to stop. The real Ashtanga diehards go 6 days a week early in the morning, only taking off Saturdays and moon days, where the moon is full or new. The living master of Ashtanga yoga is Sri K. Patthabi Jois (www.ashtanga.com) who’s like 92 years old. I do Ashtanga daily myself. Have fun.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here