What Makes Ashtanga Yoga Different?

Ashtanga Yoga is a method of yoga that is taught in India by Sri K Pattabhi Jois. This style of yoga involves the synchronization of breathing with a progressive series of postures. Ashtanga yoga, also known as power yoga, is quickly gaining popularity among practitioners.

So what is Ashtanga yoga?

It is the form of yoga most used by athletes and those interested in quickly increasing strength and stamina. Because of that, Ashtanga yoga postures have a higher degree of difficulty than those in other styles. Additionally, they are done as part of series.

Ashtanga Yoga Background:

Ashtanga Yoga is a method of yoga that was recorded by Vamana Rishi in an ancient manuscript call the Yoga Koruna.

This article was said to contain lists of a variety of groupings of asanas and highly original teachings on the subjects of vinyasa, bandhas, drishti, mudras and philosophy. The text of this article was handed down to Sri T. Krishnamacharya by his teacher Rama Mohan Brahmachari in the early 1900s.

It later came into the possession of Pattabhi Jois when he studied with Krishnamacharya beginning in 1927.

Jois has been teaching this type of yoga since 1948 from his yoga shala.

The Yoga Koruna emphasizes vinyasa, or breath-synchronized movement, where one practices a posture with specific breathing patterns associated with it.

This breathing technique is called ujjayi pranayama, or the victorious breath,

It is a process that produces intense internal heat and a profuse sweat that purifies and detoxifies the muscles and organs.

This also releases beneficial hormones and nutrients, and is usually massaged back into the body.

The breath ensures efficient circulation of blood.

The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body and a calm mind.

There is a proper sequence to follow when practicing Ashtanga yoga.

One must graduate from one sequence of postures to move onto the next.

The Primary Series (Yoga Chikitsa) detoxifies and aligns the body, purifying it so that toxins do not block.

The Intermediate Series (Nadi Shodhana) purifies the nervous system by opening and clearing the energy channels, allowing energy to pass through easily.

The Advanced Series A, B, C, and D (Sthira Bhaga) integrate the grace and stamina of the practice, which calls for intense flexibility.

It is best to find a trained and knowledgeable teacher to assist you through this discipline.

It is an intense practice that is rigorous, six days a week. You are guaranteed to find inner peace and fulfillment with each breath you take.

Due to it’s theory containing eight different limbs, or components, it is also known as “Eight-Limb Yoga”.

It doesn’t imply that the practitioner has a double set of limbs, but master Pattabhi Jois showed that the optimum path of purification is made up of the eight spiritual practices.

The basic idea is that these limbs only can be kept in balance by the appropriate application of the Ashtanga Yoga method.

The first four limbs that symbolize Ashtanga Yoga, and are considered externally correctable are (original names within double quotes):

  • Moral codes or “Yama”
  • Self-purification or “niyama”
  • Posture or “asana”
  • Breath control or “pranayama”

Then there is the other set of limbs which are the internal practices:

K. Pattabhi Jois declared that practicing these Eight Limbs as well as its sub-limbs of the external practices which contain the niyama and yama is impossible.

In doing so, the body should be strong so that it can technically perform the methods well enough.

If the body is weak, and the sense organs are not functioning well, practicing will never be productive at all.

Ashtanga Poses:

As for the Ashtanga yoga poses, they range widely in terms of positioning.

You will find yourself moving from standing, back bend, inverted, balancing, seated, and even twisting poses.

In power yoga, the sun salutation sequence of poses is very popular as well.

So you will often use standing forward bend, upward dog, downward dog, and many other poses sprinkled in as well.

Though much of the focus in Ashtanga yoga poses is on the development of stamina and strength, you will also, as with any yoga, be focusing.

You will be asked to focus your eyes on a point as you move through the poses given out by your instructor.

In order to get the full effect and benefit of Ashtanga, you should make sure that your muscles and perhaps even the rooms are very warm.

This ensures maximum flexibility and minimal injury as you work through the demanding postures.

If you are into athletics, exercise, or just want a new physical challenge, perhaps you should consider giving Ashtanga yoga a try.

The clear choice of athletes and an increasingly popular form in general, it is perfect for those that are in decent shape and want to increase their strength, stamina, and flexibility.

Power yoga is a series of poses taken in a quick and free flowing sequence.

Even the classes move quickly with teachers adding more difficult sequences every time one is fairly well mastered.

So if you learn fast, like to work hard, and think you are up to the challenge of power yoga, then you may benefit greatly from Ashtanga yoga poses.

Vinyasa Tristhana are performed In Ashtanga Yoga:

The Vinyasa is a style that makes Ashtanga and its fundamental principles different from the others.

Vinyasa basically means the movement and breathing which is used effectively together in order to cleanse the body.

Each movement done is accompanied by only one breath.

Sweat is the most important product of Vinyasa.

When you produce sweat, it only indicates that you are successfully applying the method.

When you perform the Asanas, or postures, the body produces heat which causes your blood to “boil” and excrete the toxins outside of your body.

The contamination are found in your sweat. So the more sweat you produce, the more toxins are released.

This is the natural way for the body to get rid of unwanted substances.

The poses are used to fully develop the physical strength and health of the body.

It is the sequence of practices that make this possible.

There are three postures used in Ashtanga Yoga.

The Three Are Grouped On Different Levels:

The first is the Primary Series which aims on aligning the body and also detoxifying it.

The second is the Intermediate Series opening and cleansing the energy channels which comes to the process of purifying the Nervous System.

– The last series would be the Advanced Series from A to D. In this set, the grace and strength are assessed.

The Tristhana is another yoga principle which symbolizes the close union of the three places of action and attention.

First is the posture, second is the breathing technique ad last is the Dristhi of the Looking Place.

All these three should work altogether to perform a function.

The breathing is always controlled and synchronized with the movements, in such a way that each movement is accompanied by breath.

Ujjayi Breathing is the Yoga Breathing Technique used in the implementation of Ashtanga Yoga.

Applying this ancient technique is something that you should work on gradually in your daily practice.

What you need to master is holding your pose longer at the same time hold your breath.

This is an amazing breathing exercise that will intensify your internal fire and will toughen the Nervous System.

Both Ashtanga and Tristhana deal with the series of Dristhi.

The Dristhi is defined as the point on which you acquire your focus or concentration while doing the Asana.

This allows your mind to be purified and stabilized clearly.

Clearing your mind (that is sometimes compared to an over active monkey) and cleansing it is the ultimate goal in the Eight-Limb Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga.

Usually, students doing Ashtanga yoga postures will move quickly from one to the other to maintain that focus on strength.

That is in opposition to many other forms of yoga where the emphasis is on breathing, relaxation, and flexibility.

Who Should Practice Ashtanga Yoga?

Ashtanga yoga poses are for most anyone who is in decent shape.

If you are new to exercise, this is probably not the form of yoga with which you should start.

Even the very easiest of Ashtanga poses are very demanding on the body, especially since you will even start with a body warming routine that is designed to activate your muscles.

Overall, Ashtanga yoga can provide you with a build up of strength, stamina, and even some flexibility which explains its popularity with those involved in athletics.

If you decide to give Ashtanga a try, you should expect things to progress quickly.

You will likely start right off with a sequence of yoga poses.

Those will be practiced until the teacher feels you have mastered it fairly well and have complete understanding of its fundamentals.

Then, you will move on to another series and a higher level of difficulty. Overall, it is a very fast moving form of yoga.


This is a primary philosophy that K. Pattabhi Jois has applied, it is of prime importance for the Ashtanga practitioner to learn and understand this way of thinking.

This will make you confident in that the body will significantly improve and become stronger and healthier.

The result is a light and strong body, improved circulation and a calm mind.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this post or this site in general.

I will answer all the comments on my website personally so drop me a line below if you have any Yoga questions or comments.

I’m happy to help any way that I can.

copywrightNamaste Shane.

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietitian before starting any fitness program or making any changes to your diet

8 thoughts on “What Makes Ashtanga Yoga Different?”

  1. This sounds like a very in depth type of yoga that I would love to engage in and try and challenge my limits. The Ashtanga Yoga video for beginners looks doable if one is flexible and lightweight enough. I wonder if it is that doable in actual practice. A few of the Ashtanga poses look complicated too. I might be able to do just one or twoThat is some really interesting history on Ashtanga Yoga. I have heard of the 8 limbs and seen images of the same. Now I see its origin. Thanks for this great article.

    • Hello Carol, 

      Thank you for taking the time to read my article.

      Ashtanga yoga  can be quite a challenging type of yoga. 

      Take it easy and look after yourself.

      Kind Regards Shane.

  2. This is a beautifully put together website.  The material is very interesting as I was unfamiliar with this type of yoga.  I enjoyed the extensive amount of. Information and will be looking into this soon.  I am not sure where to go d such but will look in my area.  I am so happy about this style.  Thank you for the enlightenment on this subject.  

    • Hello Dorri, 

      Hope you are well. 

      Appreciate the postive feedback about my website.

      Good to see you have found some motivation to do yoga from my post.

      Regards Shane.

  3. Hi! Just peeking my nose into yoga and this is a question that has come to me quite a few times: What makes Ashtanga yoga different? And you have given ample answer here in this article. I like that it’s a fast moving form of yoga. It’s nice to learn about it’s background and distinguish it’s poses. Thank you very much!

  4. One of my favourite topics is yoga, I like spirituality topics too. It’s very good to know the information you shared here. It is great how yoga helps to keep fit and healthy. I think this is due to the fact that, as you said, Ashtanga yoga releases beneficial hormones and nutrients that are massaged back into the body through the synchronization of breathing.

    Thanks for sharing a detailed process.


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