Updated: Feb 1
What is the difference between Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga and why are those words also used in other contexts?
We thought we would share our answer to this question because many people are confused.
Ashtanga translates to an eight-limb path and is, for many, a way of life. It is the basis, or guidelines, to living a life of Yoga. The eight different limbs act more like spokes on a wheel, as opposed to steps of a ladder. The overarching idea is that one can find a state of inner peace through the practice of breath, yoga poses, contemplation, and meditation. Yet, Ashtanga is also a style of Yoga.
An Ashtanga class in a studio can be either led by an instructor or can be practiced on your own in the comfort of your own room. (when you know the sequence by heart) This style is also called Mysore or self-practice. In Ashtanga vinyasa yoga, a student experiences the same postures in the same sequence each time. You do the same postures again and again. This way you see progress and you know which pose is coming next. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga has 4 different series or levels: the primary, the intermediate series and 2 advanced series. Ideally, one doesn't progress to the next level (series) until finding mastery of some important postures of the prior series. Your Ashtanga teacher is the one to tell you if you can progress to the next series or not.
There is no music offered in Ashtanga classes, and (ideally) no props or modifications. The aim of this style falls into the categories of physical energy and mental focus, which leads to advanced practice and a clear mind. This class structure offers the student the ability to find the proper alignment of each pose and link their movement with breath. The goal being discipline, strength, and mastery.
Vinyasa is a more modern yoga style. In a Vinyasa class, a student will experience music and teacher-created sequences/flows. Though many poses are found within both practices, they are not sequenced in the same way. The beauty of this practice is the creativity and variety that is both shown by the instructor and felt by the student. Variety is the spice of life and is demonstrated in Vinyasa Yoga by not having to repeat the same poses, in the same fashion as in Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. No two Vinyasa classes are alike.
Vinyasa is also a term used to describe a three-pose transition, which is made of Chaturanga Dandasana, Upward-facing Dog and Downward-facing Dog. Probably many times you have heard your teacher saying: "Take your vinyasa".
The defining characteristic of both Vinyasa Yoga and Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga is the connection of the movement with the breath. And this is where the similarities end.
A quote from John Salisbury to explain the difference behind the styles, “Ashtanga is like school and Vinyasa is like recess.”
This being said, there are plenty of foundational lessons that come from applying the concepts of both practices to yoga teacher training. Proper alignment of the poses is integral to being a great teacher (that is where the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga comes in) while learning the arcs of sequencing is another valid skill. (that is where the Vinyasa Yoga comes in) We believe at Alpha Yoga School that a well-rounded yoga teacher offers the greatest chance at success within the Yoga industry, as well as within the personal practice of life. This is why we focus on the eight limbs as expansively as we can within 200 hours, and draw many lessons from both styles of yoga.
We hope this brings clarification on the two styles of yoga and let us know if you need any more info on this topic, we are happy to help. 💜
Do you wanna see how many other styes of yoga are out there?
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