Hatha or Yin: Which is Right for Me?

When you’re getting started with yoga, it can be a little intimidating to figure out which class is right for you. In my own yoga journey, I worried about showing up to my first class and being surrounded by muscular, human rubber bands who could contort themselves into knots and balance their body weight on their pinkies. Thankfully, my fears were entirely unfounded. But perhaps you’ve had (or still have) the same fear, so I wanted to discuss the types of classes Your Yoga Louisville offers and let you in on what to expect.

Yoga is a tree with many branches

One of the beautiful things about having a yoga practice is that there are many different traditions within yoga, and you can try out different practices until you find the one that is right for you. Everyone is on a journey, and we all walk it differently. Yoga is like a tree with many branches, and each branch represents a different approach to practicing yoga. In the long-term, having these options and different styles of approaching yoga can help you grow and care for yourself in new and exciting ways. This is important to remember, especially if you’ve had an unpleasant experience with a different yoga practice in the past or if you feel overwhelmed by all the different options.

Hatha

At Your Yoga Louisville, most classes are rooted in the time-honored Hatha tradition. While virtually all yoga traditions are a form of exercise, Hatha aims to do more than simply be a workout. Hatha stimulates the muscles– improving strength, muscle control, and flexibility– but it also honors your entire being. Throughout a Hatha or Hatha Flow practice, you’ll move through a series of postures, or asanas, that help you to align your skin, muscles, and bones. By practicing these asanas in conjunction with breathing techniques, it also helps to cultivate a sense of mindfulness and reduce stress.

So, if strengthening your muscles and getting a workout is your main goal for practicing yoga, the Hatha and Hatha Flow classes are a great place to start. Just be ready to get more from the class than a rewarding workout! Throughout the practice, some poses may challenge you, but they should never be painful. The goal is to come into your fullest expression of an asana without over-exerting or injuring yourself. Over time, as you practice coming into your best expression of each pose, you’ll start to notice yourself getting stronger and more capable of coming into the full expression of each pose.

Hatha classes will be beneficial regardless of whether you’re completely new to yoga or have been practicing for decades. This is because it is a practice which includes a wide variety of asanas, and your instructor will be able to adjust the series of asanas depending upon the experience level of those in the practice. The poses can also be modified with props to account for any injuries or mobility limitations. That means that it can be a fit for everybody, regardless of age, size, gender, previous injuries, or fitness levels. Just be sure to discuss any concerns you have with the instructor beforehand so that she or he will be prepared to help you adjust and modify as necessary throughout the practice.

Yin

Yin is the counterpart to Hatha. While Hatha focuses on aligning the skin, muscles, and bones through engaging your muscles, Yin seeks to provide a deep stretch to your connective tissues and joints by holding postures for several minutes and releasing your muscles. If you’re going into a Yin class, don’t expect to get a muscle-toning workout. Practicing Yin will help your muscles in the long run by stretching them, improving flexibility, and strengthening your connective tissues, but the goal of a Yin class is not to engage the muscles like in a Hatha class.

Though Yin is not going to be a high-energy, calorie-burning workout, its benefits for your body are definitely still noticeable. Because Yin focuses on holding poses that offer a deep stretch for your connective tissues, it is an excellent practice for anyone who deals with stiffness, tight muscles, or achiness (so… basically everyone). It is a very meditative practice, and as you learn to relax into the poses and focus on your breath, Yin can dramatically lower stress and anxiety levels while stretching your joints.

Personally speaking, Yin is how I got started (and hooked) on my yoga journey. I started coming to Tuesday night Yin as a way to cope with cubicle-induced hip and back tightness and work stress, and my yoga journey blossomed from there.

As with Hatha, Yin can be practiced by anybody, regardless of age, size, experience, flexibility, mobility, or fitness levels. Once again, there is a wide variety of poses that can be performed in a Yin sequence, and each pose can be easily modified using props.

So where should you start?

Perhaps you have a specific goal that you’re hoping to achieve through yoga. If you’re wanting to tone up and strengthen your muscles, then perhaps you should start with a Hatha or Hatha Flow class. If you’re priority is dealing with stress and tight, achy muscles, perhaps you should start with Yin.

But, I would recommend giving both a shot, even if you’re more interested in one or the other. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word Yuj. Though yuj can have a variety of interpretations, it’s most often understood as “union” or “combined.” In other words, you can think of yoga as the union or combination of all parts of your being– mind, body, spirit; muscles, bones, joints, and brain. By practicing both Yin and Hatha, you’ll ensure that you’re caring for your entire body, your entire being.  You can get a taste of both in a single class with our new Yang/Yin Yoga class, which combines Hatha and Yin elements. Simply put, the Hatha and Yin practices go hand-in-hand, complementing and supplementing each other (and your life) beautifully.