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Difference Between Hatha and Vinyasa Yoga

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 28, 2021

Yoga started centuries ago in India and slowly made its way to the Western world. It’s known for boosting relaxation, crafting lean muscles, and improving flexibility — all through mindful movement. 

‌Hatha and vinyasa are two popular types of yoga, but they have big differences in intensity.

There are benefits from both hatha and vinyasa yoga. Knowing the difference between them is key to choosing the type of yoga practice that is right for you. 

What Are Hatha and Vinyasa Yoga?

Hatha yoga is practiced at a slower pace, with focus on the breath, controlled movements, and stretching. 

Vinyasa yoga focuses on connecting the breath to your movements, which tend to be set at a faster pace. In a vinyasa practice, you can expect to stay in a constant flow of movements.  

The Benefits of Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga’s focus on mindfulness puts an emphasis on breath, posture, and meditation. It can help with raising a low mood. In fact, hatha yoga has been found to noticeably reduce anxiety and depression after just 12 sessions.  

Hatha yoga can also help you lower your stress levels. You’ll notice that regular practice will help you feel more relaxed, but even one 90-minute session can make a difference in reducing stress.

‌If you’re looking to become more flexible, hatha yoga can help, especially in the hamstrings and spine.  

Hatha yoga can also help boost abdominal strength and improve balance in less than a month of regular practice.

The Benefits of Vinyasa Yoga

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.

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

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. It can also improve your sensory systems.

Like most yoga styles, a vinyasa practice can lower anxiety and manage stress. It can even help you quit smoking.‌

Choosing the Right Yoga Style for You

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.

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

Hatha yoga has also been found to help with issues such as blood clotting, immune function, and blood pressure.

If you prefer to start your day with yoga, hatha yoga may be the right choice. A hatha practice can improve morning stiffness and stress levels. It may also set a relaxed tone for the rest of your day.

Is vinyasa yoga right for you? If you’re looking for a practice that will challenge you physically, vinyasa yoga is probably better. Vinyasa can improve your cardiovascular health and help with muscle tone, and it has been shown to improve mood, as well. 

Vinyasa yoga can also help people who have conditions related to the circulatory system. Just one session has been shown to improve blood circulation

For people trying to lower their non-HDL (bad) cholesterol, vinyasa yoga is a good choice. 

If you’re not an early bird, vinyasa’s heart-pumping effects can be a great way to get your energy levels up.

How to Choose Between Hatha and Vinyasa Yoga

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. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Advances in Mind-Body Medicine: “Effects of Isha Hatha Yoga on Core Stability and Standing Balance.”

Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine: “Hatha yoga and the treatment of illness.”

Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice: “The effect of prenatal Hatha yoga on affect, cortisol and depressive symptoms.”

Complementary Therapies in Medicine: “The acute effects of vinyasa flow yoga on vascular function, lipid and glucose concentrations, and mood.”

International Journal of Preventive Medicine: “The Effect of Yoga on Stress, Anxiety, and Depression in Women.”

The Journal of Nursing Research: “Effects of Hatha yoga on stress in middle-aged women.” 

Journal of Physical Therapy Science: “Effects of hatha yoga exercises on spine flexibility in women over 50 years old.”

Journal of Women’s Health: “Yoga as a Complementary Treatment for Smoking Cessation in Women.”=

Journal of Yoga and Physical Therapy: “Heart Rate Response to Vinyasa Yoga in Healthy Adults.‌"

Maturitas: “A pilot study of a hatha yoga treatment for menopausal symptoms.”

‌Mayo Clinic: “Yoga: Fight stress and find serenity.”

PLoS One: “Ashtanga-Based Yoga Therapy Increases the Sensory Contribution to Postural Stability in Visually-Impaired Persons at Risk for Falls as Measured by the Wii Balance Board: A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial.”

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