Ashtanga Vs Vinyasa Vs Hatha – Are They Really All That Different?

When you first start to practice yoga, it doesn't take long to discover that there are MANY different styles of yoga. And Ashtanga is one you've undoubtedly seen on the studio timetable. But what is Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, and how does it differ from the other styles? That's what you're about to find out!

This article will give an easy-to-understand breakdown of what Ashtanga yoga is, how it compares to other styles, and what to expect from Ashtanga classes.

That way, you'll have all the knowledge you need to decide if Ashtanga is the right yoga style for you. 


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What makes Ashtanga, Vinyasa & Hatha different

Ashtanga, Vinyasa, and Hatha yoga are three distinct styles, each with its unique characteristics and benefits.

Ashtanga yoga follows a structured sequence of postures, performed in a specific order with a focus on building strength, flexibility, and stamina through a disciplined and rigorous practice.

Vinyasa yoga, on the other hand, emphasizes fluidity and movement, linking breath with dynamic transitions between poses, creating a continuous flow that can vary from class to class.

Hatha yoga, in contrast, is more deliberate and slower-paced, concentrating on individual postures and alignment, making it particularly accessible for beginners.

As both Ashtanga and Hatha come from the same source, both styles share many of the same poses. The critical difference Hatha and Ashtanga is the instruction style and the class's pace.

Ashtanga is often considered the hardest yoga style because of its dynamic and strenuous style. It also had a self-led style called Mysore. But in my opinion, Bikram yoga is more challenging. Bikram yoga is performed in a hot room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit and 40 percent humidity. Unless you cope just fine with intense heat, you'll likely struggle more with this style than Ashtanga!

Ashtanga yoga came about through ‘the grandfather of yoga,' Krishnamacharya‘s teachings. This is who K. Pattabhi Jois learned from before founding the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in 1948, establishing this interpretation of yoga.

Vinyasa and power yoga are more modern styles based on Ashtanga yoga. Vinyasa was created to be a more flexible and creative dynamic yoga style. It combines the standing poses into a flow (known as a Vinyasa flow), which makes it feel like a moving meditation. 

Hatha yoga is the oldest, most traditional style, believed to have originated from the legendary Hindu yogi Gorakhnath in the 11th century. Ashtanga yoga is derived from this tradition, from which many online yoga instructor courses draw their teachings.

So how does Ashtanga compare to the other common yoga styles, like Vinyasa & Hatha, Bikram or Iyengar?

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Hatha, Vinyasa, and Ashtanga yoga each have distinct differences in sequencing, pace, and teaching methods.

In Hatha yoga, the focus is on individual postures, with sequences designed to be slower and deliberate, allowing practitioners to concentrate on alignment and breath.

Vinyasa yoga, by contrast, features fluid sequences where poses are linked together in a continuous flow, synchronized with breath, creating a faster-paced and dynamic practice.

Ashtanga yoga, meanwhile, follows a strict and structured sequence of poses, performed in the same order each time, with a consistent pace that builds strength and stamina.

Teaching methods in Ashtanga often emphasize discipline and self-practice, with instructors guiding students through a predetermined series of movements. In contrast, Vinyasa teachers may incorporate more creativity and variation, while Hatha instructors focus on detailed instruction for each pose. These differences highlight how each style caters to different preferences and goals in a yoga practice.

3 key differences between the three styles of yoga are

  • Sequencing
  • Pace
  • Teaching methods

1. Sequencing

Ashtanga yoga follows a set sequence. It begins with five repetitions of Surya namaskar A and B (sun salutations) and a set sequence of standing poses. You'll then progress onto one of the six Ashtanga series' combining standing and seated poses.

In contrast, the only familiarity you will see between an Ashtanga class and a Vinyasa class is sun salutations – although even those are often modified. Sure, you'll do the classic postures like Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 in a Vinyasa or Hatha class, but you'll also do some lesser-known, newer poses.

A Hatha yoga class is the most creatively sequenced of the three styles because rather than repeating sequences that lead up to a peak pose like in Vinyasa or doing the same sequence over and over like in Ashtanga, a Hatha yoga class could include a lot more poses and in different orders.

2. Flow/pace

Ashtanga yoga and Vinyasa are dynamic styles, but the key difference is that the latter is more ‘flowy.' This is because Vinyasa poses are linked with transitions to create a seamless, dance-like flow.

Ashtanga yoga is very different as you enter each pose from Tadasana (Mountain Pose). For example, you might step back from Tadasana into Warrior 1, return to Tadasana, then step back into Warrior 2. 

So, Vinyasa yoga is more about the transitions between the postures, while Ashtanga focuses on the asana itself. 

Hatha, on the other hand, is not a flow-based style of yoga. It's not linking breath to movement. In a Hatha yoga class, you're simply changing from pose to pose.

3. Teaching methods

One of the other things I noticed about these three styles of yoga is the difference in teaching style.

Most Vinyasa yoga teachers (myself included) like to demonstrate the flows while teaching them.

However, an Ashtanga teacher spends much less time on their mat and mainly cues the poses verbally, without demonstrating. The primary role of an Ashtanga yoga teacher is to offer assists to help their students go deeper into the postures. 

Hatha yoga instructors are the wildcard here, as some like to demonstrate poses while others are more likely to be leading the class from their mat.

Takeaway

Ashtanga is a strong, dynamic asana practice where you practice the same set sequence and intend to master that series. Hatha yoga is the oldest, most traditional style of yoga while Vinyasa is a more modern adaptation of that and allows for more creativity than the other two. Which is your favorite?!

FAQ about yoga

Is Ashtanga the hardest yoga?

Ashtanga is considered to be the hardest style of yoga by many yogis because it is rigorous and intense. But a high-level Vinyasa class or a Power yoga class can be just as difficult as an ashtanga class.

What is the most relaxing type of yoga?

Restorative yoga is considered the most relaxing style of yoga because of its non-strenuous nature and use of props to support the body.

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Gemma
Gemma

Gemma is a Certified Yoga Teacher of over 5 years. Aside from being a CYT 200, Gemma is also certified in Yin and Yoga Nidra. Gemma is passionate about sharing her expertise of yoga and wellness through words, guiding others along the path of personal and spiritual development. She is in LOVE with everything related to personal-growth and psychology. Aside from helping others find more peace and stillness, Gemma runs a kitten rescue project in Thailand, where she is currently residing. Gemma can be reached at gemmac@theyogatique.com, or you can connect with Gemma on LinkedIn.

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