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Differentiating Between Hatha Yoga, Flow Yoga and Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

Hatha yoga is also known in France and other countries as classical yoga. The poses are held for about two minutes. You are asked to hold the pose and eventually clear the mind and meditate in the pose. Stillness is essential. The next pose comes and there will be no transition poses in between.

Hatha yoga has a long and revered lineage dating as far back as the 15th century. The lineage fathers Matsyendranath and his student Gorakshanath attribute the teachings of hatha yoga they have received to the deity Shiva himself. The seat of hatha yoga to this day remains to be Rishikesh in India where you will find teachers today who are of the Nath lineage started by Matsyendranth and Gorakshanath.

Hatha yoga is disciplined and straight-forward.

Flow yoga is creative and liberating.

The flow class, in sanskrit “vinyasa”, focuses on smooth movements with the breath. Yoga poses are normally performed in creative sequences like dance choreography. Each inhale and each exhale is matched with a pose or movement. There are still places of pause in the flow class where the practitioner is asked to hold the pose for a few breaths. This could be anywhere from five to ten breaths but nothing like the two minutes in hatha yoga class or the four to eight minutes in a yin yoga class. The emphasis of the class is still on flow.

The father of flow yoga is said to be Tirumalai Krishnamacharya 1888-1989 who himself learned the art of yoga from the forest masters in Rishikesh.

Ashtanga yoga is a very particular type of yoga class with a set sequence. The set poses are held normally for five long breaths but sometimes longer.

It was created by Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) the most famous student of Krishnamacharya. A series of poses called “vinyasa” is used to transition between the set poses in the sequence. The beginning to the end of the movement is matched by the cycle of the breath either on the inhale or the exhale. The poses in the sequence and the specific breaths are exhale- chaturanga dandasana, inhale- upward facing dog, exhale-downward facing dog. The next pose in the sequence will then be initiated from downward facing dog.

The breath used is a special breath called “ujayyi” meaning “victorious. It is a sonorous deep breath accomplished by a skillful manipulation of the throat muscles, narrowing the air passage, allowing the breath to come in and out of the body in very long and controlled waves.

hatha-vinyasa flow yoga in France
hatha-vinyasa flow yoga in France

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