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What is the difference between Ashtanga and Vinyasa Yoga?

Updated: Aug 15, 2022

When the Yoga students sign up for a Yoga Teacher Training Course at Samyak Yoga, they have three options, i.e. Haha Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga and Vinyasa Yoga. Often I am asked what the difference between Ashtanga and Vinyasa Yoga is. Aren’t they the same? 




What is Ashtanga Yoga?

There are two aspects that we refer to when we say Ashtanga Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga is an ‘Eight Limbs Yoga’ as explained by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. This consists of Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. 


This is a lifestyle that encompasses the entire yoga practice and philosophy. Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga system is life's journey from darkness to light, from mortality to immortality. 


What is Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga? 

Ashtanga Yoga is also used as a short form of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a system that consists of the primary series (Yoga Chikitsa), Intermediate Series (Nadi Shodhana), and Advanced Series A,B, C, D (Sthira Bhaga). Though this also needs a disciplined yogic lifestyle, you could say that it more relies on asanas. 

Read the complete details of What is Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga


Ashtanga Yoga uses Vinyasa

This could be confusing in the beginning. Vinyasa is a system that consists of asana, breathing and Drishti which combined is called Tristhana practice. These three layers make Vinyasa. Asanas in Ashtanga are practised based on Vinyasa. Therefore this method is called Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. 


Who should choose Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga? 

It is a traditional method of asana practice that is very demanding and can be overwhelming initially. The same set of asanas repeated daily makes the practice more accessible and rewarding. 


In every other method of asana practice (think of Vinyasa, Hatha, Iyengar etc.) you may not be repeating the same asana every day. However, Ashtanga is about repetition. This is a great advantage for faster growth in the asana practice. It is useful to build muscle memory faster than any other method.


If you are someone who likes to keep the practice as a ritual/sadhana, this method is for you. If you are disciplined enough to repeat the asanas, not worrying about every other posture you see on social media, just focusing on the practice, Ashtanga is for you. 

Read this beautiful article ‘Beginner’s Guide to Ashtanga Yoga


What is Vinyasa Yoga?

This concept of three aspects of asana-breathing-Drishti can be used in a different method inspired by Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Vinyasa Yoga is the method inspired by Ashtanga but is a more customised creative practice. 


Vinyasa has a lot of varieties. Every Yoga teacher will have every class different. It can be made very easy for a highly challenging class as it depends on the teacher's creativity. Starting from physical themes such as hip opening, backbends to emotional themes such as surrender, and humility to chakras, there are so many themes a skilled Vinyasa Yoga Teacher can use in his/her classes. 


Vinyasa Yoga is also a traditional Yoga practice. It is not a workout-based practice. Sri T Krishnamacharya was again behind the rejuvenation of Vinyasa Krama. 




Who should choose Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training? 

If you are into exploring new asanas, if you are into creativity and always looking forward to new ways of asana practices, then Vinyasa Yoga is for you. As a Yoga Teacher, you will have more varieties to teach a yoga class.


The flip side is that you are expected to be creative in every yoga class as it’s a Vinyasa Yoga style. If you are in a good Vinyasa Yoga Class, it is full of surprises for you. It is difficult to predict what will be the next movement or asana that your teacher is going to bring in. 



Summary: 

If you are still lost in choosing the right one, do not worry. What matters the most is ‘Abhyasa’ the regular practice. You might be practising with the best teacher in the world with the best tools and techniques. It makes no difference if you do not regularly show up on the mat. 


Therefore, take training with a good school. But then show up on the mat regularly to practice whatever you have learnt. It is the repetition, practice or abhyasa that makes you and brings out the potential from within. 


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