Iyengar Yoga vs. Ashtanga Yoga - What's The Difference?

Many of us understand that the goal of yoga is to unite the body and the mind. However, there are several types of yoga and not all of them is for everybody. There are types of yoga that follow their ancient origins and are strict in the implementations of their principles, while there are types that are modified to cater the modern day’s demands. Two different types of yoga, Iyengar yoga and Ashtanga yoga follow different executions and give different benefits to the practitioner’s body.  

Iyengar yoga has 14 types of breathing control and more than 200 classical yoga poses. This type of yoga follows a certain system wherein the practitioner progresses as a beginner to advanced while giving due attention to the postures. Iyengar yoga is very specific in the implementation and execution of the poses and body alignment in order to achieve flexibility, mobility and strength. 

Furthermore, the founder of Iyengar yoga recognizes that people have different body strengths and weaknesses. Some people may find it hard to perform certain asanas or yoga poses. Still emphasizing correct body alignment, this type of yoga employs the aid of props so that the postures can be performed properly and safely. Props may come in yoga blocks, belts, blankets and chairs.



Another notable feature of Iyengar yoga from other types is that it does not depend on the Vinyasa flow, or the transition of one pose to the next while breathing. Rather, it focuses on perfecting a certain posture before a practitioner can proceed to the next. Therefore, Iyengar yoga is not rushed and allows a practitioner to learn one pose at a time.

Since the poses are held longer, experts believe that Iyengar yoga can help address body posture and alignment issues as well as body pains.

On the other hand, Ashtanga yoga is usually referred as the “eight-limbed yoga,” a collection of 8 different concepts that a practitioner follows in order to experience the benefits of Ashtanga yoga. Unlike Iyanger yoga, this type of yoga uses the Vinyasa flow. The asanas have their own assigned number of inhalations and exhalations, and breathing is a guide for the practitioner to move from one pose to the next. The Vinyasa plays an important role as it is believed to help in cleansing and detoxification. It purges the body of toxins through sweating and as a result improves blood flow. Through this, the practitioner is likely to feel light after the session.

Today, you may find Ashtanga yoga sessions are performed in heated classrooms similar to hot yoga. This is to heat up the body and encourage sweating in order to expel the toxins away.

Ashtanga yoga also tends to be repetitive. This is seen as an advantage by several practitioners since they can join any Ashtanga yoga in the world and not feel left behind. A practitioner of this yoga follows a certain standard sequence every time he is in a class or session.

The health benefits of Ashtanga yoga are numerous. It can help tone, flex and strengthen the muscles  and teaches a practitioner how to do rhythmic breathing, concentration and control.

If you are trying to decide which type of yoga is best for you, you must first assess where your body stands. If you are trying yoga for the first time, you could begin with Iyengar yoga since you are given ample amount of time to learn the poses before proceeding to the next. It also tends to be more interactive because a teacher might prescribe you a tool or props to help you execute and perfect a pose. It is also ideal for people who do not engage in physical activities regularly because it doesn’t speed up the heart rate while working on your stamina and strength.

Since Ashtanga is more demanding in nature, it is best for people who do regular workouts. It is ideal for people who’d like to further build up their physique and strength, as well as tone their muscles.

Whether Iyengar yoga or Ashtanga yoga is for you or not, you are on your way to improving your health, posture and mental well-being simply by choosing to engage in this form of discipline.

Uliana Ougleva

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