I wrote an article about the differences between Ashtanga Yoga and Vinyasa Flow Yoga in 2011. I've recieved a ton of great feedback about it, especially over the past few weeks. Recently I decided to go back and reread the article. After 2 more years of practicing and teaching yoga, a second teacher training, and an Ashtanga Yoga Confluence attendance under my belt, I have discovered some further differences that I feel are worth sharing. So while I still stand by my first article as a nice summary, my hope is that Part 2 offers a deeper insight to the yoga practitioner who is curious about Ashtanga yoga.
On the surface, the obvious differences between Ashtanga yoga and Vinyasa flow are as follows:
Vinyasa Flow doesn't follow a predetirmined sequence. Traditional Ashtanga always follows a set sequence, though some Ashtanga studios offer a non-traditional form of Ashtanga class often referred to as "Improv" or "Intro" that vary from the sequence.
Vinyasa Flow room temperatures are often above 85 degrees. Ashtanga rooms are usually at or below 80 degrees.
Vinyasa Flow classes are usually accompanied by music. Ashtanga classes are not.
Vinyasa Flow classes often vary the length of time you remain in a pose. Ashtanga poses are held for 5 breaths, except for some of the finishing poses which are held longer, but are still measured by a consistent number of breaths.
Vinyasa Flow classes usually vary in length from 60-75 minutes. Most Ashtanga classes are either 90 minutes or 2 hours.
Vinyasa Flow classes are usually taught using English interpretations of Sanskrit pose names. Ashtanga classes are taught in Sanskrit and traditionally include a beginning and ending mantra in Sanskrit.
I think that about covers the superficial differences fairly well. I considered adding that you're more likely to smell lavender oil in a Vinyasa Flow class, and tiger balm in an Ashtanga class, but that may just be splitting hairs. Now let's cover the sublter differences, the ones that really set these practices apart. The heart of the matter.
Have you ever stood in the cleaning aisle of the grocery store and wondered whether to buy the regular soap or the concentrated version? Well, the comparison between Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga yoga is a lot like that. Ashtanga yoga is a pure and potent practice. Vinyasa Flow results may vary.
I can hear cries of objection from the truly wonderful Vinyasa Yogis I know on the other side of this screen. Don't get me wrong. Vinyasa Flow yoga is a completely valid, absolutely worthy form of yoga. It offers many benefits. It even offers many of the very same benefits that Ashtanga offers. It is, after all, derived from Ashtanga yoga. But, and you knew there'd be a but... it is a diluted form of Ashtanga yoga.
And while I'm splitting hairs, a personal Mysore practice is a more powerful, potent teacher than led Ashtanga classes.
(see my Mysore posts for an explanation)
In case you'd like to see the original Ashtanga Vs Vinyasa post