What's the difference between Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga?

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.

Vinyasa vs ashtanga Yoga
Inhale, arms up, press the palms.

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

  •  You don’t want to be demonstrating and leading a class at the same time

  •  You are interested in the inner work that yoga can offer you.

  •  You are fascinated by the traditions of yoga and its historical roots.

Would you like to try an accessible Ashtanga vinyasa class with Joanna?

Offering hands-on adjustments in an Ashtanga Yoga class
Adjustments are the best part in Mysore-style classes

Vinyasa vs Ashtanga

Vinyasa, on the other hand, is a more modern and “trendy” way of practicing yoga. It is

Ashtanga’s younger sister, if you like, since it takes some of the core principles of this

more traditional practice and mixes up different poses to create a more fluid and varied style. No two vinyasa classes are the same, since the teacher will create their own sequence of

poses to follow. 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.

Vinyasa classes usually last between 1 hour to 1hr 30 minutes and tend to have some music playing in the background to cultivate dynamic energy. You will receive less adjustments in a Vinyasa class than in Ashtanga self-practice class as the yoga instructor is focused on leading the class.

In both Vinyasa and Ashtanga yoga, teachers will instruct you to “take a vinyasa” between challenging poses, referring to a flow of movement, which is a three-pose transition made of Chaturanga Dandasana, Upward-facing Dog and Downward-facing Dog.

Bakasana pose
Bakasana (2nd series of Ashtanga Yoga) is often found in vinyasa classes as a fun arm balance pose

Vinyasa yoga is the right fit for you if:

  •  You are a beginner to yoga, but in good physical fitness

  •  You are looking for a more varied and fun sequence

  •  You want to build strength and flexibility but aren’t ready for the intensity of ashtanga

  •  You only have time for hour-long yoga classes.

You would be a good vinyasa teacher if:

  •  You are very creative and enjoy coming up with yoga sequences

  •  You like flowing to music

  •  You like to participate in the classes you are teaching

  •  You prefer focussing more on the external flow and experience of yoga, rather than the inner meditation

Whilst vinyasa yoga is less traditional, we hope that this article has helped you

understand the similarities and differences between these two disciplines.

In the words of John Salisbury, “Ashtanga is like school and Vinyasa is like recess.”

Would you like to try a Vinyasa class with Joanna? Or a Vinyasa Yoga class with Rachel, who is our teacher in the 300-hours yoga teacher training?

Ashtanga vs vinyasa Yoga
Practice, practice, practice

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 how to create your own classes is another valid skill (that is where the Vinyasa Yoga comes in). 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.

At Alpha Yoga School, we offer the opportunity to the students to practice both styles and ensure that all of our students leave as teachers with a deep understanding of these traditions and styles of yoga. In fact, our students tend to keep on practicing both, usually teaching vinyasa and keeping up their personal ashtanga practice.

Check out our 200-hour yoga teacher training which takes place in sunny Greece, Europe. It has both styles of yoga which we mentioned.

The 300-hour yoga teacher training is based on Vinyasa Yoga and you learn how to sequence and theme your Vinyasa classes, how to demonstrate asanas, how to adjust, how to teach yin, how to create your own workshops, pacing mechanisms, speech patterns, advanced workshops, and much more.💜

Do you want to read about the other styes of yoga?

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