Difference Between Hatha and Vinyasa Yoga

Medically Reviewed by Gabriela Pichardo, MD on July 02, 2023
6 min read

Hatha yoga is one of the oldest styles of yoga. It involves doing physical poses called asanas and breathing techniques called pranayama. It was created many centuries ago as a way to prepare the body for meditation and as a breath control practice.

Today, people do hatha yoga for many reasons. The breathing exercises and meditative postures can help you reduce stress. Hatha yoga is a slower practice, and you'll hold poses for longer than you would in a flow-style yoga class. This means it's a great practice for beginners and for people who want a more gentle activity that can help reduce stress and create mind-body awareness.

Hatha yoga poses

There are 84 poses in classical hatha yoga. Fifteen of these are "primary postures" and include:

  • Paschimottanasana (back stretching pose)
  • Mayurasana (peacock pose)
  • Swastikasana (auspicious pose)
  • Gomukhasana (cow face pose)
  • Veerasana (hero's pose)
  • Koormasana (tortoise pose)
  • Shavasana (corpse pose)
  • Siddhasana (adept's pose)
  • Padmasana (lotus pose)
  • Simhasana (lion pose)
  • Bhadrasana (gracious pose)
  • Kukkutasana (cockerel pose)
  • Uttanakoormasana (stretching tortoise pose)
  • Dhanurasana (bow pose)
  • Matsyendrasana (spinal twist pose)

Vinyasa yoga is a more modern style of yoga that involves moving through physical postures and linking them with your breath. It tends to be a very active style of yoga with quick transitions from pose to pose.

Vinyasa yoga poses

Many hatha yoga poses are also taught in vinyasa yoga, such as Matsyendrasana (spinal twist pose), Padmasana (lotus pose), and Paschimottanasana (back stretching pose). Some poses that are common in vinyasa yoga classes include:

  • Kumbhakasana (plank pose)
  • Bhujangasana (cobra pose)
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog pose)
  • Chaturanga Dandasana (four-limbed staff pose)
  • Shalabasana (locust pose)
  • Anjaneyasan (low lunge)
  • Virabhadrasana I (warrior 1)
  • Virabhadrasana II (warrior 2)
  • Digasana (warrior 3)

Vinyasa power yoga

As its name suggests, vinyasa power yoga is a more intense type of vinyasa yoga and involves faster transitions between poses. It includes challenging poses and sequences that build strength, stamina, and cardiovascular fitness. In a power yoga class, you should expect to work hard, get your heart rate up, and break a sweat.

Vinyasa hot yoga

This is another variation of vinyasa yoga that is taught in a heated classroom. It uses the same flowing sequences that regular vinyasa does, but at a temperature of 95-105 F. This makes the practice even more challenging.

Hatha yoga focuses on mindfulness, breath, posture, and meditation and has many benefits for your mental and physical health:

Strength. Hatha yoga's poses target all the body's major muscle groups in the upper and lower body. 

Balance. Holding poses works the small stabilizer muscles in your body that help you balance. 

Flexibility and mobility. Hatha yoga poses also focus on lengthening the muscles and improving the range of motion in the joints.

Mood. Hatha yoga has been found to noticeably reduce anxiety and depression after just 12 sessions.

Stress. Regular practice will help you feel more relaxed. One study found that even a single 90-minute session helped lower stress in a group of middle-aged women.

Menopause. Hatha yoga may make menopause easier. Early studies show that hatha can improve symptoms including hot flashes and sleep problems.


Vinyasa yoga offers similar mind-body benefits as hatha yoga:

Cardio fitness. Because vinyasa yoga keeps you moving steadily, this heart-pumping session may be a good addition to your cardio routine. Studies show that because of the fast-paced style of vinyasa, it acts as a light aerobic exercise. Power yoga can challenge your fitness even more.

Strength. Similar to a traditional workout, vinyasa yoga is a great way to improve your strength, muscle tone, and endurance.

Balance. Vinyasa yoga can help you find better balance and stability, both on and off the mat. Mindfulness is a main principle of vinyasa, which will help you move between yoga poses more smoothly.

Mental health. Like most yoga styles, a vinyasa practice can lower anxiety and manage stress. Research shows it can even help you quit smoking.‌

The best thing about yoga is that almost anyone can reap the benefits. All styles are easily modified to make them easier or more challenging. Whether you choose hatha or vinyasa, you can't go wrong with starting a yoga practice. Still, certain people may find one or the other works better for them.

Is hatha yoga right for you?

  • If you’re new to yoga, hatha yoga may be the right practice to start with. The slow-paced style can promote a relaxed environment to learn.
  • If you have any injuries or physical limitations, hatha yoga is a gentler practice that can be easier on the body.
  • If you are more interested in the breathing exercises and meditative aspects of yoga, hatha could be a better choice.
  • If you are looking for a good style of yoga to wind down in the evening, hatha may be better suited for that.

Is vinyasa yoga right for you?

  • If you’re looking for a practice that will challenge you physically, vinyasa yoga is a good choice.
  • If you're interested in building cardio fitness and muscle strength, vinyasa yoga poses will challenge you.
  • If you’re looking for a vigorous morning workout that will get you energized for the day, vinyasa's powerful sequences will get you going.

Overall, both hatha and vinyasa yoga styles will help you ease stress and anxiety while raising fitness, flexibility, and mindfulness.

The biggest difference is the pace. Hatha yoga offers a slower practice, with several breaths between poses. Vinyasa provides cardio and strength training as it links each breath to movement.‌

Hatha yoga can be practiced through a wide age range and as prenatal yoga. Vinyasa yoga is good for intermediate and advanced yogis.

The best way to decide which style you like is to speak with an instructor and take a few classes.

Starting a yoga practice is one of the best things you can do for your body and mind. If you're trying to decide between hatha and vinyasa yoga, check out a few classes in each style at your local yoga studio. Make sure to tell the instructor you're new to yoga so they can help you ease into the practice and answer any questions you might have.

What is the difference between hatha and vinyasa yoga?

Hatha yoga is a slower, more meditative practice where you hold poses longer. Vinyasa is more fast-paced and focused on matching breath with movement.

Is hatha yoga hard for beginners?

Hatha yoga is generally an easy practice for beginners to get into because it is done at a slower pace. But it really depends on the teacher and class you're taking. Most practices can easily be changed to suit beginners.

Which yoga is the most difficult?

Ashtanga vinyasa, Baptiste power yoga, and Bikram yoga are some of the most challenging styles of yoga. They are very active and fast-paced, and sequences often include balancing and backbending postures. Some classes may even include inversions such as handstands and headstands. Bikram yoga is done in a room heated to 105 F, which makes it much more challenging.

Is vinyasa good for beginners?

All levels of vinyasa classes can be good for beginners. It's important to let your instructor know that you're new so that they can make modifications to the poses that will match your fitness level. But you should always be your own guide and never do anything that forces you into discomfort. If you feel pain, always back off. Take a rest on your mat when you need to, and don't worry about what your classmates are doing. Yoga isn't a competition.