Do you remember when you were completely new to yoga? How overwhelming was it to see all the different styles available to you and then decide where to start?
No matter where you are in your yoga journey, it's possible that the sheer quantity of yoga styles still overwhelms you at times.
Don't worry - we've been there, too.
Still, understanding the various styles of yoga is vital to guiding your practice and having clarity on the type of knowledge and wisdom you hope to spread as a teacher someday.
Knowing the differences between Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga will help you decide which resonates the most with you and how you can incorporate them into your yoga practice.
Together we will explore these two popular yoga styles.
We'll be covering their origins and benefits to help you move forward with greater understanding and confidence in your decisions for both your current and future yoga journey.
Hatha Yoga is the most widely practiced form of yoga. It represents the style of yoga that comes to mind when most people think of the elements of a typical yoga class - breath, postures, and meditation.
Hatha is a general or umbrella term for all physical styles of yoga. The branch of yoga that is Hatha includes styles of yoga such as Ashtanga and Iyengar. Hatha style yoga practices are rooted in a physical focus, and it's often a style that many yoga practitioners begin with. Between its widespread availability to yogis along with its emphasis on the physical aspect, it's no surprise that Hatha Yoga is so prevalent in the Western world today.
You might wonder why Hatha Yoga is an ideal introductory style of yoga for students if there is such great emphasis on its physicality and postures. The answer is not that Hatha is necessarily limited to basic yoga poses. Instead, Hatha is a slow-paced and gentle approach to practicing yoga. The postures in a Hatha Yoga class will range in difficulty, and its slow pace provides more room for modifications and hands-on assists as students need them.
In Sanskrit, "Hatha" means "force." Its breathing techniques date back to Buddhist and Hindu texts from the 1st Century. However, it took another 1,000 years before discovering the postures to enhance one's vital energy, moving it upward through the body. The basic principle of this practice is derived from Tantric Yoga and founded on the belief that you can achieve spiritual enlightenment by connecting with your energy.
Swami Vivekananda brought Hatha Yoga to America in 1893, and in the 1920s, it evolved into more of a flow style of yoga. It wasn't until the 1960s that Hatha Yoga gained mainstream popularity in America.
Then, in the late 1980s, another practice rooted itself in the Western world - one that incorporated mantras and meditation as fundamental aspects of its practice. This style of yoga is known as Kundalini Yoga.
Kundalini Yoga is a practice that focuses on using the breath along with the physical movement to free energy in the lower body. This style of yoga consists of ancient techniques intended to awaken and ignite the mysterious power inherent in every human being to evoke change in mind, body, and spirit.
Yogi Bhajan first introduced Kundalini Yoga to the US in 1969. "Kundalini" means coiled up like a snake. The yogic tradition describes Kundalini as dormant cosmic energy that lies at the base of the spine in the form of a coiled serpent. When Kundalini is awakened, it travels via different channels, upward through the chakras (energy centers) to reach and merge with infinite consciousness.
In other words, the energetic movement throughout the body brings higher awareness of the Self.
Kundalini explores the effects of one's prana or energy through the breath in conjunction with postures. This practice consists of thousands of kriyas or exercises consisting of physical postures, meditation, and chants.
Its other main component is dynamic breath work, as it incorporates pranayama practices such as alternate nostril breathing and the breath of fire.
These two yoga styles are similar in their techniques but different in the way they are structured. Hatha and Kundalini yoga's guiding principle is based on the movement of energy upward through the body, but there are differences in how this is achieved.
A typical Hatha class will involve breath work while flowing through various yoga postures, sometimes including a mediation at the beginning of class. The meditative techniques help yogis calm their minds and turn their focus inward.
The main difference between Kundalini and Hatha Yoga is that Kundalini Yoga incorporates mantras and meditative or breathing techniques with the asanas.
Where the two styles often intersect is when Hatha Yoga classes incorporate kriya mediations or mantra chanting. And since Hatha represents the physical side of yoga, Kundalini Yoga gets its postures from Hatha Yoga.
There are numerous benefits to both practices. Hatha Yoga holds the space for practitioners to become more mobile through stretching and gentle strengthening over time. The generally slower pace of a Hatha Yoga class offers many benefits, including more time for yogis to learn and get into the correct yoga positions. Once there, they have more time to find proper alignment, improve balance, tune into their breath.
The long duration and less vigorous movements in Hatha classes are both energizing and restorative. The process of awakening and moving energy through the body is both energizing and peaceful for those who practice Kundalini Yoga.
Particularly for beginners, the various mantras in Kundalini help students focus and work through the silence of meditation. This style of yoga is ideal for anyone seeking a more spiritual experience through mediation and mantras.
Also, a kriya typically has a specific focus or goal, such as a physical or mental health benefit. For instance, a kriya may be internalized for eliminating anger from your life or following your intuition. Yogis also use Kriyas to aid digestion or ease back pain.
There is much value and exploration to gain through this transformative practice, as yogis learn to move and live more intuitively, finding awareness of the Ego and their self-imposed limitations.
If you are ready to transform and elevate your practice, our online 200-hour Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training courses will guide and support you as you move through various power-packed modules. These online courses are the perfect complement to your unique yoga journey, allowing you to move at your own pace.
Still not sure if Hatha Yoga or Kundalini Yoga is right for you? We're giving you the chance to decide for yourself via our online courses. We're granting you access to a few select free Hatha Yoga Teacher Training lessons and free Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training lessons.
Just tap the links for instant access.
These online yoga teacher training courses will dive deeper into their respective practices, techniques, asanas, philosophies, and structures. In learning how to incorporate either method into your own yoga journey, either course you choose will help you venture into the world of teaching with extensive knowledge and lifetime access to valuable resources you can return to at any time.
Interested in live yoga teacher trainings? We've got those too! Learn more about joining an upcoming in person training here.