Yama Yoga Talks About Ashtanga vs. Vinyasa Flow

The terms Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga Yoga are sometimes used interchangeably. While there are varying opinions on this subject they really are two different genres with distinct differences in style and approach that I wouldn't take lightly. Both Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga Yoga are popular genres of Yoga taught at many studios throughout the West. You may see studio signs for Vinyasa Flow or Ashtanga specifically. Both Ashtanga and Vinyasa consists of a series of postures that are repeated, can be memorized, and then put into motion and are choreographed by an instructor.

"The word “Vinyasa” is derived from the Sanskrit term nyasa, which means “to place,” and the prefix Vi, “in a special way” as in the arrangement of notes in a raga, the steps along a path to the top of a mountain, or the linking of one asana to the next." (Yoga Journal, Consciousness-in-Motion). 


Vinyasa links the body movement with the breath. Vinyasa however may be practiced in reduced lighting or candlelight, with a more sensual flow and depending on your teacher may even be done with music. Each posture links to the next...So, bring on the more fluid movement with Vinyasa! Vinyasa Yoga is the beautiful “freestyle” version of Ashtanga. The Vinyasa teacher can use his/her creative license to promote posture sequences synced with the breath. This means the careful choreographed sequence of one posture on an inbreath moving to the next on an outbreath etc... Vinyasa, in theory, is less rigid and yet this certainly does not mean easy! This practice is a consistent flow of postures that will make you seriously sweat! Vinyasa is seemingly body focused but extremely transformative. Linking body with the breath just is and based on your instructors approach can be immediately moving to both body and soul.

Ashtanga is more precise in its practice. There is no music or candlelight - it is important in Ashtanga to hear your own breath, to go within. Ashtanga may be considered by some one of the more rigid versions of Asana practice in that it is organized around Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. The concentration is not on Asana as an exercise alone but is consumed on the true goal of Yoga which is to reach Samadhi. (A state of intense concentration achieved through meditation. In the Eight Limbs, this is the final stage where union with the divine is reached.) Ashtanga is largely focused on the transformation that extends beyond the mat. There is very little wiggle room in Ashtanga for creative license or change. I really enjoy Ashtanga as a practice and love the clean focus of the breath during my practice.
Many people looking to find a class either in Vinyasa or Ashtanga should simply ask themselves what they are looking for? Join a class of Ashtanga and then Vinyasa to experience the difference. Do both for great balance. What is the level and kind of of transformation you are looking for? 
In closing, Vinyasa Flow may appear differently based on your instructor so ask questions before joining. 

Also, I love this YouTube Video. It is a 40-minute free session of Vinyasa hosted by “Yoga with Adrienne.” This practice cultivates heat, trims, tones, builds strength and flexibility. Adriene works with a strong foundation and encourages you to integrate a long-lasting breath practice in your Vinyasa flow yoga. With full-body awareness and a strong focus on alignment, this practice is swift but offers variations for you to try as you build your practice. Open the hips, the shoulders and tap into your core strength. This vinyasa yoga practice tones the legs and the arms while offering a strong foundation to protect the joints. Be mindful and meet your edge! Return to this practice to experience your growth and deepen your practice. "The journey is the reward." Practice  (Adrienne)

To your good health!
Please let us know your experience with Vinyasa Flow or Ashtanga and post here in the comments.


Sat Nam ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ
Soorya Kirti Kaur


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