Friday, October 29, 2010

3) Transition from Classical Hatha Style ( Sivananda ) to Flow Vinyasa Style (Ashtanga )Yoga

I have been fully involved in practicing and teaching the Sivananda System of Classical Hatha Yoga for more than 10 years and making a transition to the Ashtanga Flow Vinayasa Yoga style was a bit challenging one as they were much differed in the way the asanas were being done .
Sivananda System of Yoga represents the Classical Hatha Yoga style of doing the postures and Ashtanga Yoga represents the Vinyasa or flow yoga type of doing the postures and there are various differences in their approach and given below are some of the main differences .
1) Hatha Yoga is slow and gentle movement while Vinyasa /Flow Yoga is fast and vigorous movements based that also includes jumping .
2) Hatha Yoga involves holding the postures for a longer duration in a meditative way while in Vinyasa /Flow Yoga the postures are not being held for long and held for just 5 breaths ( except for inversions where they are held for long ) before moving on to the next posture .
3) In Hatha Yoga there is rest between the postures while in Vinyasa /Flow Yoga there is no rest at all between the postures and one needs to keep on moving till the end of the class as that is what  is required  to produce heat and detoxify the body .
4) In a Hatha Yoga class there is emphasis on gentle conscious breathing while holding the postures or while moving through one posture to another and in Vinyasa /Flow yoga the emphasis is on Ujjayai breathing .
5) In Hatha Yoga class there is no emphasis on holding the Bandhas while in Vinaysa /Flow Yoga there is continuous emphasis on holding the Bandhas and Drishtis ( Gazes ) and in fact Bandhas are key to jumps in Vinayasa Yoga .
6) You do not sweat much in a Hatha Yoga class while you sweat a lot in Vinyasa /Flow Yoga class .
7) The only sweating part of Hatha Yoga Class is the Surya Namaskar where the movements are vigorous and only in that respect  it resembles a Vinayasa /Flow Yoga type and it other respects it differs a lot .

So for me getting adjusted to this new style is quite a challenging one but that is exactly what I have kept as my sadhana for the next decade . The body &  mind  always finds comfort in doing what it likes but body & mind repels when it is pushed outside its comfort zone and my Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice is basically to push my body and mind away from its comfort zone and to explore how far I am successful in that .This is not a mad exercise in blindly pushing the body and mind to something unpleasant but a scientific approach to enhance the potential of body and mind in moving outside its comfort zones and master something new that is not familiar to me and by this process I enrich myself a lot and the benefits of the same will not only be felt by me but also by my students .

I consider both the styles i.e Classical Hatha Yoga ( Sivananda Style ) as well as the Dynamic Vinyasa Flow Yoga ( Ashtanga Style )  to be equally valid and it is futile to compare which is better .Both are better for people following the respective styles faithfully .My aim is not to take sides as to which is better  but to master both these styles so that I become a more complete Yoga practitioner / teacher .I consider Sivananda Style to represent the Yin style of doing Yoga and Ashtanga to represent the Yang style of doing Yoga and that an ideal Yogi is one who is comfortable practicing and teaching both the Yin and Yang style of Yogas .So I will continue to keep my sivananda style of practice / teaching alive along with my new exploration of Ashtanga Vinayasa Yoga and I see no conflict in the same .
When I say that I will keep both these styles of practice alive in my Yogic life I mean that I will keep them independently alive and would not mix them .The benefits of both these styles are experienced only when you practice them as they are intended to be  in isolation and not by mixing the styles .So in essence my goals is  when practicing  Sivananada ,practice Sivananda as it is supposed to be and when practicing Ashtanga ,practice Ashtanga as it is supposed to be and do not mix one into another .


  1. The blog is quite informative. Thanks for sharing your valuable experiences. Looking for more updates.

  2. Interesting that you follow both traditions!

  3. Nicely written; Your comparison is good. The differences between these two systems could potentially exist only at the asana level. There are no differences in other 7 limbs of yoga. I am happy to see incredible work in the West to de-mystify the asana component of Yoga. Unless & until we see the 8 limbs of Yoga holistically, we downgrade this beautiful system into a mere sport and will continue to face all the side-effects of any modern sport, esp injury, brute-force competition etc.,

  4. Ram, Claudia

    Thanks for ur comments .


    It is true that West has played a great role in giving shape to the Yoga tradition but as u said we need to focus on all the limbs of yoga and not just asanas and that is what I liked in the "Sivananda System" where an integrated approach to yoga was there .
    I will deal with the other issues that u have raised in my subsequent posts . Thanks for ur comments .

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