Understanding the difference between Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga and working out which one is the best fit for you can be tricky. Ultimately, the more benefits a practice gives you in the most effective and efficient way, that will be the best practice for you.
To clear up any confusion, we’re sharing a detailed explanation of how Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga differ! We hope this informs your journey into a deeper yoga practice and perhaps helps you decide between our yoga teacher training courses!
Ashtanga vs Vinyasa Yoga
Ashtanga is a rigorous, challenging and fast-paced yoga practice, first developed by Sri K
Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009) in 1932. Although it is a fairly recent discipline of yoga,
Pattabhi Jois based his teachings on an ancient and very famous yogic text, Patanjali’s
Yoga Sutras. Without going into the history in too much depth, it is important to
recognize that given its roots in ancient yogic scripture, Ashtanga yoga is much more
than just a physical practice.
While many people are drawn in by the high-intensity adrenaline it produces, ultimately Ashtanga is a spiritual practice and way of life. Aside from being the foundational practice of modern-day yoga (Power Yoga, Vinyasa Flow, Jivamukti, and Rocket are a few practices that stem from the Ashtanga Vinyasa and the lineage of Tirumulai Krishnamacharya), Ashtanga works with a set series of postures that open, align, strengthen and purify the body. The postures are linked together through flowing movements guided by the breath, rather than a teacher.
This is the amazing part about Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Since you memorize a set sequence of increasingly challenging postures, you always have something to work on without having to think about sequencing.
In Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, you experience 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. You don't have to think of the next pose or look around to see what pose the other people are doing.
There are two types of Ashtanga Vinyasa classes: a guided class led by an instructor, and the self-practice or so called ‘Mysore-style’, which more confident students can do in the comfort of their own homes once they have learnt the sequence by heart. This means that you don't need a teacher all the time and don't have to worry about being late to class. You can practice wherever you are.
Many yoga studios have Mysore-style classes on their schedule where you practice the set sequence in silence and receive delicious hands-on adjustments from your teacher. These studios have a window of half an hour or an hour where you can join the class and this way you don't have to worry about being late to class or keeping the same pace as everyone else.
This class structure offers you the ability to find the proper alignment of each pose and link the movement with the breath. With our breath. Your mind is able to relax and remain purely focused on the task at hand: moving through the moment.
Ashtanga's energetic practice keeps you in shape, both mentally and physically.
It is for these reasons that we use Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga as the groundwork for our 200-hours yoga instructor training.
Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga has 4 different series or levels: the primary, the intermediate and 2 advanced series. Ideally, one doesn't progress to the next level or series before gaining mastery over most, if not all of the 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 category of physical energy and mental focus, which leads to an advanced practice and a clear mind.
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 overarching idea is that one can find a state of inner peace through the practice of breath, yoga poses, contemplation, and meditation.
Not sure whether Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is the right fit for you? It most likely is if:
You love fitness and want to practice yoga in a more intense, vigorous way
You are looking for a practice that paves the way to a more spiritual and philosophical experience.
You are looking for a practice that takes you inward: in Mysore-style ashtanga you are guided by your own breath, meaning that there is no set pace, every student matches their movement to their individual breath.
You like practicing by yourself and at your own pace.
You want to be guided by your inner self and body rather than an external yoga teacher.
You turn to yoga to increase your capacity to focus mentally and meditate.
You find comfort in the routine of doing the same sequence
You like a challenge.
You don’t mind getting sweaty!
You are an early riser. Most ashtangis practice really early in the morning, before they’ve even had breakfast…
Have the time – completing the full sequence can take you between 90 minutes to 2 hours.
You would make a great Ashtanga yoga teacher if:
You practice Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga 😀
You love receiving hands-on adjustments and want to learn how to do them
You are very disciplined