What exactly IS the difference between Ashtanga and Vinyasa yoga? It’s a commonly asked question. To answer this question, let’s start with what the word Vinyasa means in Sanskrit.
‘Vi’ is the prefix of the word ; it means an intensification. ‘Nyas’ is the root and translates as “to put” or “to place”. ‘Vinyasa’ then means “to place something in a special or ritualized way, or a set of actions done in a prescribed order”.
The concept of vinyasa extends well beyond the context of yoga. In India people circumambulate temples in a ritualized set of actions that may look random to an onlooker, but their prostrations are themselves a vinyasa.
In Ashtanga Yoga asanas are performed in a fixed sequence. Every movement, breath, and gaze is counted and prescribed. Every movement of the entire practice has a correlating inhale or exhale. There is a certain way to get into and out of each posture....
Transitions are without a doubt one of the most challenging parts of a yoga practice. They build heat in the body, which helps us to bend; more importantly, though, transitions build strength and discipline.
Transitions put our skills into action. The vinyasas of the Ashtanga yoga system keep us invested in every action that we do from start to finish, which keeps our minds focused throughout the duration of our practice – deliberate transitions maintain the thread of intentionality from one asana to the next.
For some students, transitions will be the most physically difficult part of a yoga practice – be skillful in your attempts, and remember: it's not about the endpoint, but the action.
Blocks are also a fantastic tool to develop strength for jump-backs and jump-throughs. Watch the video and give it a try!