Ashtanga and vinyasa are two terms used to describe different types of yoga. Yoga is a meditation and movement practice of which there are many different types. The original yoga that was practiced was simply meditation. There were very few asanas (poses) seen in the practice.
To this day, one of the core attributes of yoga is the breath. All the different kinds of yoga stemmed from the same original practice in which the breath was crucial. In recent times, people still say that if you are breathing and being aware of your breath then you’re doing yoga.
What is ashtanga yoga?
The first known mention of ashtanga yoga is in the Yoga Sutras of Pantañjali. In this book, ashtanga yoga is mentioned as a form of practice to achieve Samadhi. This is the last stage of yoga, a kind of deep concentration. Having a deep concentration is vital in ashtanga yoga.
Ashtanga yoga contains a series of sequences. In total there are six series of yoga sequences in ashtanga. In all of them, connecting movement with the breath is vital to the practice. Originally, a person couldn’t move on to the next yoga sequence until the previous one was perfected.
In modern ashtanga classes, the primary series is what’s practiced the most. It’s a repetitive sequence that focuses on the breath and concentration. Another important element is Drishti, having a focal point. This conveys how ashtanga holds discipline for the practice in high regard.
Another interesting fact about ashtanga classes is that they’re rarely taught. The students are often asked to memorise the sequence and practice at their own pace in the class. A teacher stands by and moderates but rarely teaches the flow.
The pros and cons of ashtanga yoga
One of the pros and cons of ashtanga yoga is that it’s rigid. The practice is set and will never change no matter what class you go to or where you are practicing it. Some people enjoy the rhythm and familiarity of the practice, whilst others find it to be a con because it never changes and is always the same.
Another pro of ashtanga yoga is that it allows the person who’s practicing to improve. Doing the same practice continuously allows the body to get used to the movement and become better at it. Many enjoy seeing improvement and having the opportunity to get better at something.
A con of the practice is that teachers often fear straying away from the principles because it’s seen as an ancient practice. This means they’re not willing to let students modify poses too much or help them into alternative poses because it’s not the original practice. This can result in many people not wanting to practice it.
What is vinyasa yoga?
Vinyasa yoga is a kind of movement that is continuously flowing. Every vinyasa class that you do will likely be different from each other because it’s always changing. You move from one pose to another and use your breath to accompany the movements. It’s often referred to as movement meditation.
There are a set number of poses found in yoga and they will often be repeated in various vinyasa classes. Each pose will be taught differently, and the sequence of poses will be different. The way a vinyasa class is sequenced is up to the instructor, and they direct the class through the entire flow.
The inhalation in a vinyasa is tied to upwards movement and the exhalation is seen with downward movements. This is how a vinyasa class easily flows from one pose to another. Even this doesn’t stay the same, some teachers like to change it up and pair the movements differently with the breath.
The pros and cons of vinyasa yoga
One of the biggest pros of vinyasa yoga is that it’s adaptable. It isn’t set in its ways and the instructor will often tell you to move however you feel like. This kind of intuitive practice can be nice for someone trying to tune into how they feel because it helps them become more aware. It’s a feel-good practice that concentrates on allowing you to tune into your body and mind.
Vinyasa yoga being adaptable can also be a con of the practice. Many come into a yoga class and are looking to switch off in some ways and be told what to do. They need to be guided to enjoy the practice. If someone isn’t feeling creative, it can be difficult to move your body without a specific guide.
Another con of vinyasa yoga is that one person is instructing the whole class, and everyone must stay at the instructor’s pace. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for people to slow down or speed up if they want to. They must often tune their rhythm of breath to the instructors as well, which isn’t always possible.
What is the difference between ashtanga yoga and vinyasa yoga?
Both ashtanga and vinyasa yoga link movement to the breath. One of the differences is that ashtanga is stricter about linking the breath. Every single movement will be linked to the breath, whereas vinyasa yoga has some movements where any kind of breathing is okay.
Another difference is that vinyasa yoga changes from class to class and ashtanga yoga stays the exact same sequence in every class. In an ashtanga class, you must be familiar with the sequence and the practice. With a vinyasa class, you can be a beginner and have never practiced before.
Which kind of yoga would work best for you?
If you’re looking for a rigorous and repetitive practice, ashtanga yoga would work best for you. If you like routine and knowing what comes next, not having to worry about how fast or slow you’re going, then ashtanga is for you.
On the other hand, if you don’t enjoy routine and find yourself to be more creative and intuitive then vinyasa yoga may suit you best. If you like not knowing what comes next, or you would prefer to be guided then vinyasa will work perfectly for you.
Each type of yoga is unique and has its pros and cons. Some prefer ashtanga over vinyasa and others prefer it the other way. It depends on what works for them and what makes them happy. No matter what kind of movement you choose, the most important thing to remember is that it’s your practice and should be what you enjoy or what works best for you.