There are many reasons to consider starting yoga including, but not limited to, mental health benefits and improved physical health and fitness. With regular yoga practice you’re sure to reduce stress, boost muscle mass, increase flexibility, and maybe even lose weight.
But which type of yoga is best for you? Not all yoga is created equally!
Some types are better for chilling out during downtime and some are better for vigorous exercise and weight loss. In this article I am exploring ashtanga yoga vs vinyasa yoga. We will be discussing the differences and similarities between these two forms of yoga.
Let’s get into it!
To understand Ashtanga yoga, we first have to understand the word itself. It’s made up of two Sanskrit words.
These words are ashta meaning the number eight and anga meaning body part. This refers to Ashtanga yoga’s ability to unite the eight limbs of yoga into one system.
These eight branches refer to:
- Yama (values)
- Asana (posture)
- Niyama (self-discipline)
- Pranayama (breath control)
- Dharana (concentration)
- Samadhi (being at one with yourself)
- Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
- Dhyana (meditation)
Ashtanga is a particularly vigorous and physically demanding style of yoga. It’s not always recommended for complete beginners or those with low levels of fitness and mobility. With that said, this dynamic and athletic form of yoga is especially great for those who are looking to use yoga as a way to improve their physical fitness or lose weight.
Ashtanga is made of six series – one primary, one intermediate, and four advanced. Each series has a fixed order of poses and the breath is central to this practice. Ashtanga yogis focus on breathwork while they move through poses.
Vinyasa yoga is also commonly known as vinyasa flow yoga or even just flow yoga. This gives us a big clue to the style of movement that’s involved in vinyasa yoga. Instead of just holding each pose for a few seconds before moving on to the next one, vinyasa involves working through the poses in a flow.
Vinyasa yoga is a quite vigorous form because it strings poses together in a flow. With vinyasa yoga one pose moves into the other, but it is not as vigorous as Ashtanga.
Just like Ashtanga, the movements of vinyasa yoga must be carried out with a corresponding breath. The aim is to create a mind, body, and soul connection throughout this yoga practice.
Vinyasa is accessible for various fitness levels. You may find that vinyasa instructors teach classes at different levels from beginners with minimal mobility to advanced yogis with excellent flexibility and fitness. You should look for a yoga instructor that works at a level you can keep up with.
Ashtanga and vinyasa are two types of yoga which at first glance seem very similar, but in fact, boast plenty of differences. To establish which of the two popular forms of yoga is right for you, let’s outline some of the key contrasts between the two styles.
Every Ashtanga class follows the same sequence of poses. Within Ashtanga there’s a set structure that the instructors follow. Vinyasa, on the other hand, follows some common patterns and includes certain poses, but it doesn’t follow the same structure every time.
You’ll find that because you practice the same poses and moves every time in Ashtanga, you’ll quickly find yourself improving. While the same might not always be said of vinyasa, vinyasa is better if you prefer more variety in your yoga workouts. Vinyasa is a free-style alternative for those who don’t like the structure of Ashtanga.
Both Ashtanga and vinyasa yoga are challenging in their own ways. Because you’re moving through poses, sometimes quickly, in vinyasa it’s easy to work up a sweat. It’s a good exercise for boosting physical fitness levels.
On the other hand, Ashtanga is considered slightly harder than vinyasa. It’s one of the most physically demanding types of yoga. Those with poor physical fitness might find it a particular challenge.
One aspect of Ashtanga that makes it feel more difficult is the emphasis on the Tristana method. The Tristana method combines breath, energy locks, and gazing points.
Focusing on multiple tasks at once can also make Ashtanga more mentally challenging. But, the mental concentration required for Ashtanga makes its great for reducing stress.
Both vinyasa and Ashtanga are able to be practiced outside of the yoga studio in the comfort of your own home. Arguably, though, it’s much easier to regularly practice Ashtanga without the guidance of your instructor. This is because Ashtanga follows a strict set of sequences that you’ll practice week in and week out.
Once you’ve got those down to a tee, Ashtanga lends itself to regularly being practiced at home or in another space without the live guidance of an instructor. This is because while you can easily commit the Ashtanga sequences to memory, vinyasa tends to be more freestyle and spontaneous.
Both Ashtanga and vinyasa focus on creating flow between movements. However, vinyasa does this even more so than Ashtanga. After all, it’s sometimes simply known as flow yoga!
Out of all the types of yoga practice vinyasa is the one that most focuses on the transitions between poses, rather than just moving rigidly from one pose to another.
Ashtanga & Vinyasa Flow Yoga Similarities
It’s first worth noting some key similarities that both Ashtanga and vinyasa yoga share. After all, Ashtanga and vinyasa really aren’t all that different.
First, both types of yoga focus on breath. With both Ashtanga and vinyasa flow you should use your breath to compliment the movements. This allows yogis to experience one of the biggest benefits of regular yoga practice – an excellent mind-body connection.
In both types of yoga modifications are given too. While Ashtanga in particular isn’t great for those with poor existing fitness levels, all yoga instructors will help you make modifications for lower levels of fitness or flexibility. If you’re struggling during a class let your teacher know and ask for easy adjustments.
Both vinyasa and Ashtanga classes will typically end in a relaxing Savasana. This pose helps you to chill out and rest your mind and body before getting back to your busy day.
Finally, both styles are dynamic and energetic. In both Ashtanga and vinyasa yoga, you’ll probably work up a sweat (although, admittedly, not as much as in hot yoga).
You will also improve your levels of physical fitness while you practice over time. There’s a focus in both Ashtanga and vinyasa on generating heat in the body and transitioning from pose to pose.
Some forms of yoga focus on the poses alone, without acknowledging the movements from one to the other. Both vinyasa flow and Ashtanga place emphasis on moving from pose to pose through flowing movements.
Here are some key benefits you’ll enjoy when you choose one of these popular yoga styles over the other. Ashtanga is more structured, so you’ll have a better idea of what to expect when you come to an Ashtanga class. This consistency also means Ashtanga can be better to practice at home.
Once you’ve attended a few Ashtanga yoga classes and gotten to know the sequences you’ll be practicing, you can do them in your own time. Additionally, this improves your abilities for your next class.
Just like vinyasa, Ashtanga is a vigorous form of yoga. So if you want to get your heart pumping, forehead sweating, and calories burning, grab your yoga mat and get to it! Just don’t forget appropriate yoga class apparel – you’ll need it for this dynamic yoga style.
Vinyasa is equally as energetic as Ashtanga. It is great for improving your general fitness levels and getting your blood pumping.
Vinyasa tends to follow a freestyle approach, so unlike Ashtanga, there aren’t set sequences. While this isn’t ideal for yogis who prefer consistency, for those who find consistency boring it’s ideal!
Vinyasa also benefits from an emphasis on the transitions between poses as well as the poses themselves. Practicing yoga with an emphasis on transitions can make your movements smoother and even make the practice more enjoyable for those who like to focus on flow, not just moving from one still pose or position to another one.
Like Ashtanga, vinyasa focuses on connecting the body and the breath, which boasts excellent mental health benefits.
Ultimately, neither vinyasa nor Ashtanga is better than the other. The type of yoga you prefer to do comes down to personal preferences.
You might find one easier or more challenging than the other. You should choose your yoga style based on how much you want to be challenged and how much you enjoy it.
If you like the sound of both vinyasa and Ashtanga, try both! With regular practice of both of these popular yoga styles, you’ll soon find yourself with improved fitness, better flexibility, and even better mental health. What’s not to love?
Both Ashtanga and vinyasa can be modified for beginners. If you’re just starting your yoga journey, you can choose from either of these popular yoga types. While Ashtanga can be slightly more challenging than vinyasa, both practices generate heat in the body.
If you’re new to fitness and worried about trying a challenging type of yoga, it’s possible that neither Ashtanga nor vinyasa are right for you. Instead, you should consider hatha which is a more relaxing type of yoga.
Before embarking on any type of yoga, check that it won’t negatively impact your health. And remember that even if you’re not super fit to begin with, your instructor will make modifications and adjustments for you if you ask. This will ensure you can join in with poses and flows.
Those who like the stability of practicing the same sequence every session will be more drawn to Ashtanga yoga, which focuses on set sequences. Vinyasa is freestyle and unpredictable, so you won’t know exactly what you’re doing before you enter your vinyasa yoga class.
In reality, anybody looking to improve their fitness with a style of yoga that challenges them and includes plenty of breathwork will benefit from starting either Ashtanga or vinyasa. The differences between them aren’t significant enough to make them suitable for completely different demographics.
For the most part, those who like Ashtanga will also like vinyasa. That means if you’re already attending Ashtanga classes, consider starting vinyasa too, or vice versa.
When looking at Ashtanga vs vinyasa yoga, you should now be able to decide which one is right for you!
If you still want to introduce either Ashtanga or vinyasa yoga into your routine, you should hopefully now know which one is right for you. Whichever of these two popular yoga types you choose, you’ll enjoy plenty of benefits, from increased flexibility to a reduction in stress and even better sleep.
Ashtanga yoga in particular is great for those trying to boost their physical fitness and challenge themselves. Vinyasa is perfect for those who like their vigorous exercise a little more laid-back, while still improving fitness and stamina. Choosing the right one for you can help you get the most out of your yoga practice.
Finally, before you go if you are ready to get started with a yoga practice sign up for my FREE 10-day yoga challenge by filling in the form below.